Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fiddle Tunes 2008

Sunday afternoon I got back from a week at Fiddle Tunes up in Port Townsend. Oh god it was heaven! Fiddle Tunes is week of workshops in American traditional music styles, and it takes place in Fort Worden where participants and faculty live, learn, play music, and party for a week solid.

Photos are on my Flickr account.
Many many many videos are on my YouTube account.

I camped out in my huge cabin tent in a string of campsites filled with friends. This is luxury camping! We camp in the RV area, so we have electricity and water. We set up light decked canopies, dining tables, and a kitchen complete with electrical appliances.

Many people come to camp, jam, and go to the dances every evening, and these folks are usually up until 3 or 4 every morning. Participants going to all the workshops have to be ready to think by 9:30 am, though, so I tried to be in bed by 1am each night. It was hard!

This year I took banjo workshops with Kelley Breiding from Back-Step (that's them on the right) and Band Lab workshops with the band as a whole. Back-Step are from Mount Airy, NC and play Roundpeak style Old Time music. Nick McMillian plays fiddle, and his dad Chester McMillian plays guitar. What a nice bunch of folks! They were very patient with slow beginners such as myself, and they made sure we all "got it". I had my first experience of confidently playing up to speed with a band. It was exhilarating! In the Band Lab we learned Cotton-Eyed Joe, Fire On the Mountain, and Sail Away Ladies. In the banjo workshops Kelley also taught us Chilly Winds, John Henry, and Back Step Cindy. I can't begin to express how much fun I had even though it was also hard work! Kelley kept joking that we were going to"win" the Band Lab concert, so at the end of the concert we gave the band a trophy. I found a "golden" goblet at Goodwill for $1.99 and painted "#1 band Lab Fiddle Tunes 2008" on it along with their names inside the cup. I noticed on their MySpace page they have a photo of our Band Lab playing labeled "First Place Band Lab: Misstep!" You can also see the trophy on the floor in front of them in my YouTube clips of them playing their Saturday night concert. Here's a video of us playing Cotton-Eyed Joe for the Thursday night Band-Lab dance.

I also joined the World Choir led by Daniel Steinberg. I haven't sung in a choir since 6th grade, which wasn't such a good experience. But I did sing with Les Femmes d'Enfer and I also took voice lessons for two years, so I have much more confidence and skill than I did when I was 11 (at least I hope so). Anyway, I thought I'd give the World Choir a whirl, and boy am I glad I did! We sang a traditional South African song called Ipharadisi; it was a pretty simple but very cool song. Then we sang Tango Malena. Wow. I didn't even know you could sing a tango since I think I've only ever heard instrumental tangos. This tune has amazing lyrics, melodies, and harmonies. I didn't get a record of our final performance, but I do have a recording from rehearsal with Bertram Levy playing the accordion with us.

Aside from the fun banjo and vocal work, I had plenty of Fun fun, too! Every night after dinner there was a concert showcasing the faculty's and participant's talents. Every night after the concerts there were two simultaneous dance halls going with contras, squares, Cajun, honky-tonk, swing, Cumbia, you name it. But of course, the best part was our campsite's annual silly hat cocktail party. Laurie and I, being the clothing extroverts we are, had elaborate costumes and hats, but many people traditionally make hats from whatever junk they can find at or around their campsite. Some others are experts at raiding the local Goodwill for weird hat parts. Check out my Flickr account for the hats.

I feel like I could go on and on and never capture the joy! Come to Fiddle Tunes and find out for yourself. If you're a musician or want to be, come on and participate. If you just love to listen and dance, come and camp with us and party!

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