Community invited to enjoy love of fiddling
January 24, 2012
By Teo Jion Chun
Fiddle music is filling the air in Issaquah and beyond. Two locally based bands aim to bring joy to the public through fiddle music.
Rovin’ Fiddlers was formed in the summer of 2008 and consists of six to eight regular members, ages ranging from 40s to 60s. Besides performing at senior centers, retirement homes and the farmers market in Issaquah, they also rove around the greater Seattle area.
“Our group was originally called the Firehouse Fiddlers … but we changed it because we move around the local area to perform,” said Ken Neville, the group’s coordinator, who has lived in Issaquah since 1972.
Other regular band members include Ken’s wife, Martha, Tami Curtis and David Edfeldt, all of Issaquah.
Neville went on to clarify that “Fiddlers” is a bit of a misnomer as many musicians in the group play other instruments, including guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, hammered dulcimer, autoharp, Irish whistle, bodrahn (Irish drum) and concertina.
The 68-year-old retiree said he loves the richness and diversity brought about by the genre.
“Playing fiddle music is more enjoyable than orchestra music, as it is freestyle and innovative,” he said. “It is interesting when everybody improvises and we have different versions of the same tune played by different players.”
If you go
One of their favorite tunes is “Squirrel Heads and Gravy.”
Neville said members of the group have a range of skill levels, from those who are just beginning or resuming after decades of not touching their instrument, to those who are quite advanced. Some have a classical violin background, but did not play for many years.
The group meets every Tuesday evening to practice, and schedules additional sessions when preparing for a performance.
Neville likes playing at the Issaquah Valley Senior Center.
“When we play a nice waltz, you will find that the seniors will get up and dance,” he said. “That’s really fun and we just keep playing until they finally get tired.”
However, there are times when Neville said he feels that more attention could be given to the group.
“There are some venues for instance, the farmers market and wedding receptions, where we find ourselves as background music,” he said. “It is more enjoyable when the audience is gathered in a group, listens to us and we hear the applause when we finish the tunes.”
Also, Neville said he is very thankful that his family members are understanding and supportive of his group.
“Sometimes, it is not the most pleasant thing to listen to somebody practicing the same thing over and over,” the grandfather of two said with a chuckle.
Looking forward, he said that the group’s members have to work with each other closely to overcome problems that performers usually face.
“The biggest challenge is synchronizing our music and various instruments that we play and deciding on the tempo that we all can feel comfortable with,” he said.
Celtic band seeks fiddler
The Celtic band Fire Inside, consisting of local professionals, is currently recruiting for a fiddler to boost the team of seven. Several members previously played with the Rovin’ Fiddlers.
Members of the band get together every Wednesday evening to play fiddle music and perform at least once a month in a public setting.
“We are expanding the repertoire this year where we introduce more tunes to perform for a two-hour show,” said Carol Whitaker, the band’s flute and penny whistle player.
A year ago, the 51-year-old project manager formed Fire Inside by asking some of her musician friends if they were interested in starting a Celtic band.
We all “wanted the challenge and we decided to give it a go,” said Whitaker, who lives in Fall City. There are currently seven members in the band; two of them — Curtis and Edfeldt — also play in the Rovin’ Fiddlers.
Other band members are Daniel Horn, of Redmond; Sue Lawrence, of Snoqualmie; and Michael Hurtenbach and Greg Stearns, of North Bend.
For performance opportunities, Whitaker said their clients hear about the band by word of mouth or hear them perform elsewhere and ask them to perform at their location.
“Each of the band members actively connects with the community to find out whether they enjoy our kind of music and (would like us to) take the opportunity to perform,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker is a classically trained flute player but self-taught on whistles.
“I love the Celtic genre and the style of music,” she said. “It is quite difficult to play it well. I am learning a lot.”
Her group is energized by reactions from the audience.
“When we perform in family style events, I (get) hysterical watching the kids react — and they are curious about the instruments that we play,” Whitaker said.
Teo Jion Chun is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.