I’ve spent the past year putting together a new collection of Eastern European Fiddle Tunes. It’s a book of 80 traditional tunes from Poland, Ukraine, Klezmer tradition, Hungary, Romania and the Balkans, plus a short introduction, list of sources and accompanying CD. I finally handed the manuscript to the publisher on Midsummer’s Day, finished recording the tunes two weeks ago, and the book’s due to appear in Schott’s World Music series in October. Some of the tunes are easy, others definitely more challenging, especially for someone who’s mainly played first-position English, Irish and Scottish dance-tunes for years.
The book is unique in illustrating different styles, making a broad geographical sweep from Poland down through Transylvania and south-eastwards to Bulgaria. The grouping of the tunes - from a variety of ‘live’ and recorded sources - into five sections may help fiddlers new to the music get their bearings in a sea of unfamiliar rhythms, scales and dance forms. And this Autumn I’ll be teaching eastern European tunes at the London Fiddle School, on a new 12-week Wednesday night course from 19 September, so do come along - see Workshops for details.
My short instructional video ‘The Bow Hold’ has been up on You Tube for a while now. The next instalments are in preparation and will, I hope, be ready before too long. Meanwhile, also on You Tube, check out my dance-calling friend Nigel Hogg’s TV videos from 1994, ‘Barn Dancing on The Big Breakfast’, featuring the late Paula Yates, and with Chris Haigh on fiddle. Nigel Hogg and I still work together, calling and playing for dances - usually at weddings and parties - throughout the year, though summer is a particularly busy time. I have played at literally hundreds of weddings over the years, and sometimes wonder how many of those happy couples are still married...
The fact that the Sage Gateshead is a wonderful music venue is hardly news, I know. Norman Foster’s curvy glass and steel building opened in 2004, but I only made my first visit there for this year’s Fiddles on Fire festival - and was amazed, not only by the space (the two halls, the concourse, the basement teaching studios) but by the event itself. I led some workshops and met friends and fellow fiddlers from around the country, and also heard great performances by Elana James, Blazin’ Fiddles, Fiddlers’ Bid, the Methera Quartet, Northern Sinfonia, Bruce Molsky, Sean Keane, Eliza Carthy, Susanne Lundeng and Folkestra, all of them on great form. I think even James Hill, the immortal Tyneside fiddler who lived at Bottle Bank in the 1840s when it was still a slum quarter, would have been impressed. (Read more on James Hill in Notes on English Fiddle Tunes and Source Fiddlers in the Shop.)
Whitby Folk Week (18-24 August) is fast approaching, and I’ll be there with Rattle On The Stovepipe. It should be a lot of fun, especially if the weather improves. This will be a first Whitby appearance for our new guitarist and banjo-player Dan Stewart, who joined the band after Christmas. We’ve been gigging a fair amount, and recently recorded some tracks at Wild Goose. Like any band whose members live some distance apart, it’s a luxury to spend a week together in the same house, with time to jam and rehearse as well as perform. Ah Whitby! I hope the fish and chips are up to their usual standard this year.
See you later,
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