Arto Järvelä’s 2009 visit – reprise

Links to tunes he taught

— NEW! – –
All the tunes Arto taught in September 2009 gathered onto one page . . .

From the Flog [Fiddle student blog (now defunct)], here are links to all the tunes he taught in workshops and to classes during his residency at the Old Town School in September 2009.
Weeks 1 & 2
Weeks 3 & 4

From the Fiddle Club blog, here are the tunes he gave us in 2009.
Arto Järvelä tunes

Reels, Rants and Polkas

The next fiddle club meeting will be
Sunday, November 20 at 6:30p
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

We’ll play a few English ceilidh (pronounced ‘kaylee’) tunes, which will be posted soon. And we’ll try them out with a couple of easy dances. Invite your friends and family to come along and dance. No admission fee. No registration required.

The story thus far. Long ago in a galaxy far away I started playing the fiddle and calling square dances, because I thought that was the most fun a group of people could have.

Al Smitley & Paul Tyler
Al Smitley & Paul Tyler re-enacting frontier life in 1836 Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement, Noblesville, Indiana – 1981

Way back then, I had the glimmer of notion that the American square dance was just one type of set dance among many. Even then I knew the fiddle was the universal instrument. But over the next thirty years, I concentrated on playing for and calling American square dances, in part, because they were easy for folks to learn, and required only a walking step. No aspiring dancer had to learn to do anything special with his or her feet.

But in the meantime, in merry old England, a set dance revival was growing that attracted thousands of people young and old, and several dozen high energy dance bands to a scene called Barn Dancing. In the last ten years it’s also become known as Ceilidh dancing, borrowing a term for similar explosion of old time dancing in Scotland. The dances are for sets of 4 to 6 couples, or for lines for “as many as will,” or for circles made up of couples or groups of 3. The dances are all easy to learn and great fun to do.

And part of what makes English Ceilidhs such big fun, is that the dancers use a few special steps that bring them to a closer connection with the music. These steps are the setting step (for reels), the rant step, and the polka. We’re going to try them out at the next meeting.

Here’s some tunes. My current favorite reel is Beatrice Hill’s 3-Hand Reel. Click the title for a slow version I posted on the Old Town School’s Flog, and click this link for the notes. If you want to get inspired, listen to this live version from the Old Swan Band, the top-of-the-heap band for English ceilidh.


Another great, and easy, English reel that has been played in Old Town fiddle classes is Albert Farmer’s Bonfire Tune. And for the right feel for an English reel, take a look at this video of the Old Swan Band playing “Speed the Plough”. For the last figure each time through, the dancers do a simple polka step (and-a|1 & 2 and-a|1 & 2).

Another step from the old-time polka (also known as a schottische), is the step-hop, step
-hop (1 & 2 &|1 & 2 &). At an English Ceilidh, reels and polkas dance alike, as seen in this video of the Old Swan Band playing a couple of well-known polkas learned from Walter Bulwer of East Anglia.

Check back in a day or two for part 2 of this post. I’ll provide some sounds and video for the reel setting step and the rant step.

Paul Tyler, convener

Fiddle fun

Hey Y’all,
Next fiddle club meeting will be
Sunday, November 20 at 6:30p
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

We’ll play a few English ceilidh (pronounced ‘kaylee’) tunes, which will be posted soon. And we’ll try them out with a couple of easy dances. Invite your friends and family to come along and dance. No admission fee. No registration required.

And here’s some cool stuff I found that I wanted to share.

First off, is my snapshot of a photograph from the 1920s taken by Frank Hohenberger, a native of Indianapolis who opened a photo studio in Nashville, the county seat of bucolic Brown County, Indiana. Hohenberger is famous for his portraits of the people, homesteads and landscapes of Brown County. This photo, title “The Old Fiddler” may have been taken in Indiana, or perhaps on one of Hohenberger’s trips to Kentucky. The identity of the fiddler is unknown.

The Old Fiddler

This print is in a display of Hohenberger portraits hanging on the walls of the Indiana Memorial Union at Indiana University in Bloomington. I used to see it nearly every day as I cut through the Union on my way to the library. Several books of Hohenberger’s photos have been published by Indiana University Press. Most notable is the book compiled by my friend Dillon Bustin, a dance caller and banjoist now living in Massachusetts, with the great title If You Don’t Out Die Me.

And from a neighboring continent, the haunting sounds of a three string fiddle–rabeca de tres cordas–played by the makerLeonildo Pereira from the southern coast of Brazil.

Here are some photos of Sr. Pereira and his instrument.

For more information and a fabulous map, check out

And come back in a few days for some fun English tunes to learn.

Paul Tyler, convener


Arto Järvelä’s visit to Chicago: nearing the final week

Don’t miss hearing Arto play. It is sublime.

Check out this tune he made up while sitting on our couch: Kostner Avenue Waltz

This Saturday, he’ll be doing 2 workshops and a concert at Little Prairie Farm (aka Dot & Chirps place) near Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin. Here’s the information on a flier

Don’t forget his appearance at the Fiddle Club of the World on Friday, Sept. 25 and the workshop on new Finnish folk fiddling on Saturday, Sept. 26, his last day here.

Here are some more artistic selections for you to enjoy.

A tune on nyckelharpa (aka keyed-fiddle)
Hellstrand 1990 (composed by Arto Järvelä)

and one on fiddle
Jarvelan Antin polska

Arto Jarvela with nyckelharpa
Arto Järvelä with nyckelharpa

— NEW! – –
All the tunes Arto taught in September 2009 gathered onto one page . . .

Folk & Roots 2009 is a Fiddle Fest!

You’ve been there. You know that the Chicago Folk & Roots Festival is always a wealth of great music from all around the world. (If you haven’t yet been, we’ve missed you. Come on down to Welles Park the weekend of July 11-12.) So many great fiddlers will be there this year we could rename it the Folk & Roots Fiddle Fest.

It’s coming up next weekend: July 11 & 12. Here’s the basic info and a full schedule. What follows are some of the highlights of special interest to fiddlers and friends. There’s a lot of stuff here. I’m sure you’ll find something that moves you . . .

First up, on Thursday July 9, is a preview of Folk & Roots in Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square. For the past 6 years this has been the invitational round of the Midwest Fiddle Championship, with the finals scheduled for the Festival’s main stage. This year the preview will feature music from the dance tent: polkas, waltzes and square dancing. Everyone is invited to dance. All the dances are easy.  There will be instruction for the square dances. Music starts at 7 pm. The last waltz is at 9:30.

Dr Hojkas Medicine Show
Dr. Hojka’s Medicine Show
Fantastic Toe Trippers Orchestra
Fantastic Toe Trippers Orchestra
(click for another view)

Don’t miss this! Two special workshops are scheduled for 7 pm Friday evening, July 10 with Dan and Rayna Gellert. Dan was a guest at a Fiddle Club of the World meeting last March. He’ll be doing a workshop on old-time banjo (clawhammer). The workshop is titled “Drum on a Stick.” Register for it here.

Here’s Dan playing Lonesome John on a low-strung, gut-string banjo.


Or you could do “Old-Time Fiddle with Rayna” (she’s Dan’s daughter). Register here.

Here’s Rayna playing Winder Slide, a favorite with the Old Time Ensemble classes a few years back. You’ll want to get all the tunes on her wonderful first CD, The Ways of the World”


Saturday (July 11) is the big day. It all starts with the 7th annual Midwest Fiddle Championship at 12:55 on the main stage. This year’s contest, presented by the Fiddle Club of the World (Chicago Chapter), is an invitational for five bands. Each band will be led by one or more fiddlers, and each band must also bring along one or more dancers. The bands will compete for $1,200 in prize money.

The full list of competing fiddlers is on the home page of the Folk & Roots website.

Los Pichardos with Juan Rivera
Los Pichardos with Juan Rivera
(click for another view)
The Hatfield Sisters
(click for another view)

There’s more. Here are the fiddle-istic highlights for the Main Stage and Dance Tent.

Main Stage
Saturday, July 11th
• 2:45 Dan & Rayna Gellert [old-time banjo and fiddle]
• 4:00 Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole [Cajun]
• 5:25 Caleb Klauder Country Band [with fiddler Sammy Lind from Foghorn]

Dance Tent
Saturday, July 11th
• 6:30p | Square Dance! Open Band
Sunday, July 12th
• 1:00p | Waltz Across Chicago!

For the Square Dance!, Walter Hoijka will lead a mass open band, with Paul Tyler and Lynn Garren sharing the calling. Some special guests will join the open band.

Waltz Across Chicago will feature instruction for the waltz, polka, and hora. Music will be provide by three bands: The Fantastic Toe Trippers Orchestra, an American/Mexican/Baltic polka band, The Alte Schteibeles (The Old Schoolers), the School’s Klezmer Ensemble led by Jon Spiegel and Stu Rosenberg; and Simbolo Norteño, a neighborhood conjunto. Have a listen to a couple of the bands in rehearsal:

The Toe Trippers the Venezuelan classic Sombra en Los Medanos.


Simbolo Norteño plays a polka.


There’s still more! More fiddles and fiddle-friendly music can be heard on the Staff Stage and in the open jam sessions in the Welles Park Gazebo. Highlights include, but are not limited to, the following . . .

Staff Stage
Saturday, July 11th
• 4:00 WAZO County Warblers (Paul Tyler)
Sunday, July 12th
• 2:30 Lanialoha
• 3:00 Light, Sweet & Crude (Bau Graves)
• 3:30 Rosenpalooza (Steve Rosen)
• 4:30 The Barehand Jug Band (Jonas Friddle)

Welles Park Gazebo
Saturday, July 11th
• 12:00 Old Time Jam with Dan & Rayna Gellert
• 4:00 Fandango with Raul Fernandez – Nuestra Música
Sunday, July 12th
• 12:00 Family String Jam with Maria McCullough
• 1:00 Woody Guthrie Folk Jam with Mark Dvorak
• 2:00 Bluegrass Jam with Colby Maddox

Wow! What a fiddle-packed weekend to look forward to. Plus there’s lots of other great music as well. Don’t forget to check out the Nuestra Música stage and the Kids Tent

Let us know what you what you liked the most. Any surprises? Any tunes you heard you want to learn? See you there.

Paul Tyler, Convener
Fiddle Club of the World, Chicago Chapter

A Midwestern Violin Maker

Besides being a good fiddler, Geoffrey Seitz is an excellent builder of fine violins. His shop in south St. Louis was recently featured in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch spread by photographer Erik Lunsford. Here, with permission from Mr. Lunsford, is a link to a slide-show about Seitz Violins.

Seitz Violin Shop slide show

Or maybe you’d like to hear Geoff Seitz play the fiddle. Here’s a couple of tracks from his 1995 CD, The Good Old Days Are Here.

Louisiana Hornpipe

Learned from the great French fiddler, Joe Politte, of Old Mines, Missouri. The Louisiana of the title refers to a town in the Show Me State.

Chicago Fiddlin’

A tune made up by Geoff and named after his music buddies from the Windy City, especially Chirps Smith, who was featured at a Fiddle Club meeting April 2008.

Geoff Seitz

It would be a good thing if Geoff could come to Chicago someday and be a featured guest artist at a meeting of the Fiddle Club of the World. I’ll work on it.

Paul Tyler, convener

I’ve been thinking about Lotus Dickey.

I just found this old photo of the Sugar Hill Serenaders, a band formed in the 1980s around Lotus Dickey to perform at school assemblies for Young Audiences of Indiana.

Sugar Hill Serenaders thumb
Lotus Dickey, Paul Tyler, John Bealle, Teri Klassen
(click to enlarge)

Lotus’ tunes are always good to play. Here’s a couple.

White River Bottoms

Missouri Waltz

Back Side of Albany

Besides Lotus, the only Sugar Hill Serenader heard on these recordings is your humble correspondent, who is trying to follow on guitar on the first two. On the third piece, Lotus is accompanied by Linda Handelsman and Dillon Buston at the 1981 Indiana Fiddlers Gathering in Battle Ground. This trio appeared on an earlier post to this blog with a rendition of Oyster River Hornpipe.

If you want to know more about Lotus, check out the Lotus Dickey Music website maintained by Grey Larson. Lotus was a very fine fiddler. But he also made his mark as a songwriter. I remember him mostly as a sage elder, a keen eye on the world, and a good friend.


Paul Tyler, convener

In the Field: Bluff Country Gathering

Each year BobnGail (aka Bob Bovee & Gail Heil) put on one of the friendliest and funnest old-time music events anywhere–the Bluff Country Gathering–in one of the prettiest and welcomingest small towns you’ll find: Lanesboro, Minnesota. Held the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, the Gathering is four days of workshops, concerts, jamming parties, great food, easy laughter, enduring friendships and an old-time square dance. Once you’ve been, you’ll want to come back every year, so keep these links ready to register for the 2009 Gathering once it’s announced next winter.

The 2008 Gathering boasted a stellar lineup of fiddlers, banjoists and other old-time musicianers. Because I canoed the Root River from Lanesboro to Whalan with my kids and our friend, bowmaker Lee Guthrie, I missed a highlight of this years gathering. Fortunately, Lynn Garren had a recorder going for the fiddle showcase on Saturday afternoon. It featured six of the finest exponents of traditional American fiddling from my generation and the next. Tom Sauber, Brad Leftwich and Alice Gerrard (of Tom, Brad & Alice), Mac Traynham, Chirps Smith and Stephanie Coleman. All have respectfully studied with elder (more or less) masters, and all have found their own comfortable places within the deep streams of tradition.

Tom, Brad & Alice (six tunes)

Mac, Chirps & Stephanie (six more tunes posted on

Lynn generously shared sound files of the showcase with the Fiddle Club (read Lynn’s take), recorded on a Zoom H2 from the audience in the rustic Sons of Norway Lodge on May 17, 2008.

All the tunes posted here are used with the gracious permission of the artists. Please download responsibly.

The artists have CDs and other product available. Follow the links on the tune pages for more information.

Paul Tyler, convener

Ten Strike strikes again!

When Chirps Smith visited the Fiddle Club of the World, he played a tune called “Ten Strike” that, well, struck a chord. A Club member requested that the tune be posted to this blog. It already has, on the report of the April 20th meeting. It’s still worth taking a closer look at “Ten Strike.” (Here it is again.)

Ten Strike by Chirps Smith

Chirps learned the tune from the playing of Les Raber (1911-2000), a lifelong resident of Michigan. We both heard Les play the tune on numerous occasions. On this example, I am seconding on guitar and Paul Gifford is on hammered dulcimer. It’s February 1998, and we’re getting Les prepared to perform that summer at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington. The scene is the cozy living room of Les and Rosemary’s farmhouse outside of Hastings in rural Barry County.

Ten Strike by Les Raber

Properly speaking, the tune is for the 4th figure or change of the Ten Strike quadrille, as printed in Gems of the Ballroom, compiled circa 1890 by Geo. B. McCosh of Dekalb, Illinois. Les also played the tunes for both the 1st and 3rd changes. (In fact you can hear both on this CD: Come Dance With Me . . . Again.)

Ten Strike Quadrille in Gems of the Ballroom
(click to enlarge)

When I first met Les in 1981, Paul Gifford had, at my behest, brought him along from Michigan to Battle Ground to perform at the Indiana Fiddlers Gathering. Les had just acquired a copy of the first violin edition of Gems of the Ballroom, had polished up his music-reading skills, and was working his way through book while sitting under the shade of a tall oak that had witnessed the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, a full century before his birth.

Here’s how, over ten years ago, I wrote down what Les played.

Notation of Les

There is some debate whether Geo. B. McCosh’s “Ten Strike, No. 4” is the source for “Oklahoma Rooster,” a tune associated with old-time fiddler Uncle Dick Hutchison. You can judge for yourself.

Oklahoma Rooster

Paul Tyler, convener
May 14, 2008

What in the World? A Fiddle Club for Chicago.

The fiddle is the world’s greatest musical instrument. Because it is uniquely suited for dance music, and because dancing is a favorite activity of humans the world around, the fiddle is at home in all corners of the globe.

Chicago is a city of the world. People came here from all over to find work and a home, to have families and build communities, to live, love and dance! The fiddle came along with many of these peoples. It crossed oceans and traveled over the plains to this teeming metropolis where masses eagerly awaited the end of each work week when they could enjoy the warm intensity of the dance hall or kitchen hop.

The fiddle belongs to Chicago. One early player was John Kinzie, a Canadian-born Scotsman who dealt his hand-wrought silver jewelry to the region’s Indians in exchange for furs. Frenchman Mark Beaubien, a native of Detroit, played the fiddle in his Sauganash hotel while his young son step-danced on the table in a command performance for Potawatomi Chief Shabbona.

Nelson Perry, a musician who advertised his services as a “man of color,” available for parties and assemblies, played fiddle in a multi-racial orchestra for a New Year’s ball in newly-incorporated Chicago in 1834. The Horenberger brothers, of German stock, played their fiddles so the young people of 19th century Deerfield could dance in the large home of the Carolan family, immigrants from Ireland.

Mark Beaubien.jpg
Mark Beaubien
Edward Cronin.jpg
Edward Cronin

At the end of the century, when Francis O’Neill (superintendent of the Chicago police force) was gathering instrumental melodies for his landmark collection, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, his sources included Timothy Dillon, a Chicago policeman who had been born in 1846 in County Limerick, and a secretive fiddler named O’Malley, who played “like a house on fire,” despite missing a finger on his left hand. Another favorite source of tunes was Edward Cronin, a weaver from Tipperary who, when he came to Chicago, worked a grinding wheel at the Deering Harvester Works.

The fiddle, though long associated with ancient sounds and old village ways, continued to thrive in Chicago as the city marched through the 20th century in lock-step with the forces of industrialization and modernization. Fiddlers in Chicago adopted new technologies and adapted to changing tastes in popular culture. Chicago became truly the second city for America’s burgeoning record industry.

Among the thousand of musicians who came here to etch their artistry in shellac were such giants as Russell “Chubby” Wise, who set the paradigm for bluegrass fiddling with Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, and pioneering western swing fiddler Jesse Ashlock with Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. Local recording artists who were notable in their own communities included Irish fiddlers like Patrick Stack and Johnny McGreevy (who also was described as playing like “a house afire”), and Karol Stoch, a recent immigrant from the Tatra Mountains in Poland. At the same time, Eddie South was establishing a benchmark for jazz violin while leading such groups as Jimmy Wade’s Syncopators and his own Alabamians.

Karol Stoch.jpg
Karol Stoch’s Orchestra

Other fiddlers who recorded here have faded into obscurity, though they left behind tantalizing traces of their artistic endeavors. B.E. Scott cut four sides here for Paramount in 1925. Only recently have we learned that he was Benjamin Scott, a railroad worker from Mattoon, Illinois. But we don’t know the name of the fiddler in the Ukrainian Orchestra Apolskoho who recorded in Chicago for Victor in 1929. And from whence came Mexicano fiddler José Menéndez, who that same year recorded here for Vocalion? Was he a Tejano or from south of the border? Did he make his home here in Chicago?

Tommy Dandurand.jpg

Chicago was also an important center for the development of radio broadcasting. One of the jewels in the city’s crown was the successful endeavor by WLS to target programs for farmers and rural Americans. The station’s long running National Barn Dance kicked off in 1924 with the sounds of an anonymous fiddler. Within the show’s first half year, at least twenty old-time fiddlers from the Midwest had performed on the WLS airwaves, including Kankakee native Tommy Dandurand, William McCormack from Marseilles and Frank Hart from Aurora. They were followed by such luminous country music stars as Clayton McMichen, a fiddler with the Atlanta-based Skillet Lickers who started his own Georgia Wildcats, David “Tex” Atchison of the Prairie Ramblers, and Curt “Dott” Massey of the Westerners.

WLS Old-Time Fiddlers.jpg
James Priest – Frank Hart – William McCormack
1926 contest promo.jpg

In the years just before Chicago celebrated it’s Century of Progress with the 1933-34 World’s Fair, the city was caught up in a wave of nostalgia for the fiddle tunes and country dances of yesteryear. Fiddling contests sprang up all over North America to celebrate what was thought to be a vanishing art form that had flourished in more bucolic times. One of the largest contests during this 1926 frenzy was sponsored by the Chicago Herald and Examiner. Thousands of spectators flocked to the Midway Dancing Gardens in Hyde Park to watch 120 fiddlers–all over the age of 50–vie for the “Midwest Old Time Fiddlers’ Championship.”

First place went to French-Canadian Leizime Brusoe, a resident of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. His prize included a trophy, $100, a recording contract with Okeh Brusoe & Tronson.jpg Records (apparently never executed), and a six-week vaudeville tour on the Orpheum Circuit. In the next two decades, Brusoe performed with Rube Tronson’s Texas Cowboys (a house band for the National Barn Dance), led his own orchestra back home in Rhinelander, and recorded several dozen tunes for folk music archives at the University of Wisconsin and the Library of Congress.

Leizime Brusoe – Rube Tronson

Reports of the imminent demise of old-time fiddling in Chicago and elsewhere were premature. The end of the twentieth century saw another great revival of interest in old-time fiddling. Senior fiddlers, like Howard Armstrong and Johnny McGreevy, made comebacks that took them to folk festivals and brought them before new audiences all around the Midwest. Armstrong, who had recorded in the 1930s as part of the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, made three albums in the 1970s with Martin, Bogan and Armstrong (the last two were for the Chicago-based label, Flying Fish Records). Johnny McGreevy recorded LPs with local uillean piper Joe Shannon and flutist Seamus Cooley.

Howard Armstrong.jpg John McGreevy.jpg
John McGreevy – Seamus Cooley

There were plenty of young disciples eager to follow in the footsteps of their elders, part of a grand generation of masters who have since left us, may they rest in peace. Besides scores of new fans and players, numerous clubs and organizations have rendered aid for the passing on of the cultural treasures of traditional fiddling. A partial list includes the Chicago Barn Dance Company, the University of Chicago Folk Festival, the Irish Musicians Association of Chicago, the Polish Highlanders Lodge, the Chicago Spelsmanlag (Swedish), and the mariachi program at Benito Juaréz High School in Pilsen.

Lotus Dickey.jpgAs for myself, I have played the fiddle for over thirty years. In the beginning, I was self taught. But within a few years I received valuable mentoring from senior fiddlers in my home state of Indiana. I am grateful to Edgar Hursey of Ligonier, Clay “Pete” Smith of Star City, and Ken Smelser of Paoli. There are no words of gratitude sufficient for the wealth of music and wisdom I gained from my long associations with Lotus Dickey of Paoli, Francis Geels of Decatur, and Les Raber of Hastings, Michigan.

Lotus Dickey

Since 1990, I have been teaching fiddle at the Old Town School of Folk Music, along with, over time, a dozen other fiddle teachers. We’ve done our part, and as a result, there may be more fiddlers per capita in Chicago than anywhere else in the country. Well, maybe not. But there are a bunch of you out there fiddling for your own enjoyment, playing for dancers, or finding community and friendship in one of the many jam sessions that have sprung up. Some of you have earned financial rewards (don’t quit your day job), while many more of you are amply satisfied with the social and aesthetic payoffs of making music.

This Fiddle Club of the World is for you. Learn some tunes. Come sit up close and listen to a modern day master. Stretch your horizons. Cross a few boundaries. Order a beer. Let’s have a tune.

Paul Tyler, Convener
Fiddle Club of the World (Chicago Chapter)
February 27, 2008

Les Raber.jpg
Paul Tyler – Les Raber – Paul Goelz