Chicago is Fiddle World

Truly. What a few days we had at the beginning of June.

Rudi Pietsch from Vienna gave an intimate concert, joined by his friend Jürgen Schempp, from Swabia (that’s in Germany) on guitar. Your humble convener was quickly trained for second fiddle. For the proper Austrian style we lacked a kontra (chorded fiddle or viola) and a bowed bass. Here is a slow yodel followed by a fast dance tune.

Meraner Jodler-Ischler Schläunige


Two days later, the Mostly Mountain Boys and the Polka Chicks dropped in for two evenings at the Old Town School. On Tuesday night they did a workshop for several fiddle class and the Fiddle Club.

The Mostly Mountain Boys (Paul Brown-fiddle, Teri McMurray-banjo and John Schwab-guitar) hail from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Washington DC. They started out with a twisty but fine version of “Fisher’s Hornpipe” they learned from Esker Hutchins of Dobson, North Carolina.

Fisher’s Hornpipe


The Polka Chicks, from Helsinki (that’s in Suomi, aka Finland), are Kukka Lehto on fiddle and Tejia Niku on accordion. They started with song of poverty and sadness. The singer’s life is so sad that his parents don’t even care if he marries a girl in America.

unnamed song from northern Finland


Following this lovely introduction, Paul Brown taught us distinctive version of Sugar in the Gourd that he learned from Norman Edmonds of Hillsville, Virginia. And Kukka Lehto worked us through the haunting major and minor turns of Viktors Vals from Ostrobothnia, an area in western Finland with an especially rich fiddle tradition.

The following night, both the Mostly Mountain Boys and the Polka Chicks were on the stage in our concert hall for World Music Wednesday. A delightful performance.

Polka Chicks
Kukka Lehto & Teija Niku

One morsel more. One of the oldest folk dance tunes from Austria, a ländler that was written down in 1702. Rudi plays a setting that imitates the dudelsack (German for bagpipes). Here’s an example of a Czech dudelsack, and another view from Austria.

My father’s day gift to all who are the child of a dad.
Paul Tyler, convenver

Tunes from Paul Brown & Mostly Mountain Boys

Paul Brown

Paul Brown, from Washington DC, learned old-time fiddle directly from some of the great old masters of North Carolina and Virginia, such as Benton Flippen, Luther Davis, Kyle Creed, Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. Over the years he’s played fiddle with The Toast String Stretchers, The Bent Mountain Band (with Andy Cahan and Mike Seeger), and now The Mostly Mountain Boys.

Paul and the mostly boys will be part of the FIDDLEPALOOZA on Tuesday, June 8, 8pm at the Old Town School, along with the Polka Chicks. Here are a couple of tunes the Mostly Mountain Boys will help us through

Key of D. Can be performed with fiddle in standard tuning or with bass string tuned up to A. Inspired by Norman Edmonds of Hillsville, VA
Sugar in the Gourd

Sugar in the Gourd slow

Inspired by Luther Davis of Galax, Virginia
Shady Grove fiddle & guitar

Shady Grove slow

Click here for some tunes by the Polka Chicks.

Click here to register for Fiddlepalooza. (Steve Rosen’s Fiddle 3 and Paul Tyler’s Fiddle 4 students for this session are already registered.)

Fiddlepalooza – Tueday, June 8

Tuesday, June 8, 8pm at the Old Town School
Two bands from two traditions of old-time music – Finnish and American – the evening will be part workshop, part visit, and part jam session. Members of Steve Rosen’s Fiddle 3 and Paul Tyler’s Fiddle 4 will attend Fiddlepalooza in lieu of their regular class. All fiddlers, banjoists, mandolinists, guitarists, accordionists and friends of old-time music are welcome. Check back with this blog for some tunes to learn for the jam session.
Click here to register for Fiddlepalooza.
Polka Chicks
The Polka Chicks, from Helsinki, Suomi (Finland)
Their American tour features the duo of Kukka Lehto (fiddle & mandolin) and Teija Niku (accordions).

Polka Chicks, hear here . . .



Mostly Mountain Boys
The Mostly Mountain Boys, from Washington, DC (USA)
Paul Brown (you hear him on NPR newscasts) plays fiddle; Terri McMurray is on banjo; and John Schwab is the guitarist.

Hear Paul Brown at the U of Chicago folk festival, 2008

Battle of the Horseshoe

Lady of the Lake

Click one of the following links to listen to and learn some tunes from the Polka Chicks and from the Mostly Mountain Boys.

The Polka Chicks and the Mostly Mountain Boys will share the bill on June 9 at the Old Town School’s World Music Wednesdays. Click here for more info or to reserve tickets.