The forgotten fiddle

After my first grandma died (read more about my complicated grandma situation here, I became the happy owner of two fiddles that my grandpa used to play. One of them was a cheap Chinese, the other one a nice one built by an unknown Swede. I love this fiddle, and love playing it, but have recently realised that it’s probably not my way of holding it that is wrong, it is the fiddle itself that is more chubby than other fiddles. When I use a shoulder rest it becomes too high, and I can’t use it without a shoulder rest because then it will squeeze against my clavicle. So until I find something else (I’m thinking a piece of memory foam, or something like that) to use instead of a shoulder rest, I’ll need to play another fiddle.

Lately not less than two people at work have talked to me about fiddles. One was a newly hired nurse who has a fiddle at home that her grandfather built, and that is hidden in her closet because she stopped playing when she was a child. The day after she took it to work, and I now have it in the basement in my locker. It looks very good, and she wants me to take it home and see how it is to play. So I’m going to do that, and I also said I might be interested if it turns out to be a good instrument, and if she wants to sell it.

When I talked to Daniel about it, he reminded me of a fiddle I had completely forgotten about. I bought it before I got grandpa’s fiddle, and it’s also built by a Swedish builder, Vesterlund is the name. It’s a good instrument and I can’t believe I totally forgot that this fiddle existed. How weird?

Now I’m going to play this Westerlund instrument and hopefully be able to play more relaxed when I’m able to actually REST the chin against the chin rest. At the last fiddle class session we learned some very nice tunes, and also, among the earlier tunes there are two polskas from Boda (the very best ones are from Boda!!) that I missed, and that I’m going to learn.

The Scandinavian Squeeze-In 2015

Last weekend was finally the 2015 edition of the Scandinavian Squeeze-In (SSI), an annual event for concertina enthusiasts from near and far. Most times people have come from Scandinavia, Germany (or other Northern European countries) and/or the UK, but I suppose someone from Greece or Australia would be welcome too as long as they are interested in concertinas. Actually we have two regulars from the US (of which one is the organiser) but both of them live in Denmark.

I’ve been there five times I think, and it’s always a very good and inspiring weekend, especially in recent years when I’ve actually been able to play the concertina a bit. In the very beginning (the first time I was there was in 2007) I wasn’t able to play much, I was a lover of the instrument but with no skills to play it (yet). I bought my first concertina in 2005, an old Wheatstone English, but some year later, the thumb strap screws broke, and I left it with Jim, who is the organiser of this event, to have it fixed. It took a long time, and during that time I forgot the little skills I had.. While we lived in Ireland I bought a cheap anglo instead, and started to learn to play it. I didn’t really get going with the playing until 2012, when I had a wrist injury and wasn’t able to play any other instruments.

My goal is to use the concertina for Irish music, but I also really like Irish and Scottish music, and I’ve learned some Morris tunes on it. Morris music is very catchy, and I like playing it either on the melodeon or on the concertina.

Since the event last year I haven’t played much concertina, mainly because we haven’t had our regular Irish sessions after the restaurant we played at closed down. Also, I’ve had some health problems and haven’t been able to focus much. Just recently I’ve taken up the concertina again, and as I wrote about earlier here, our Irish sessions are up and running again. I didn’t start again early enough to have any new tunes for the SSI, but at least I revived the tunes I used to play last year. I brought the guitar as well to be able to sing at the Sunday concert.

My husband couldn’t come with me this year so I travelled by train. I can only say that after that trip, I will practice hard until next time so that I won’t have to bring any other instruments than the concertina and maybe a small melodeon.

I arrived to Dalby some time after 17.00/5 pm, and met the other people. We had a nice soup before heading out to the scout house where the event takes place. There were mostly the same people as last year, but with a new couple from Germany. All of them very nice and friendly people. I was asked “what do you play?” and it’s obvious that I don’t spend enough time with concertina geeks, because I replied “concertina and guitar” but someone else filled in “she plays anglo”. Of course concertina people want to know what system of concertina you play!!! 😀

I often feel awkward at music events because I’m not very skilled on any instrument really, I have too little free time to practice, or, more correctly, I need to reorganise my priorities in life. I usually don’t feel that I fit in, because I either don’t know the tunes or I can only play them at slower speeds. Or, I don’t know what instrument I should play in a particular style, which is usually a problem at Swedish trad music events. This is one reason why I’m trying to take up the fiddle again.

However, at the SSI I’m definitely one of the less skilled players, but I still feel that I fit in. People are very nice, friendly, humble and down-to-earth. I like that. It all depends on who’s there, of course, but this has been my experience at least during the last three years that I’ve been there.
The tradition is to have general mingle and jam sessions on Friday, workshops on Saturday, a concert for ourselves on Saturday night, and after leaving the scout house we have a Sunday afternoon concert in some nearby location for the public. Anyone who wants to can play on the concert. I don’t think I’m good enough on the concertina to play alone, but we did some group arrangements where I took part.

As usual I went home with some new tunes and lots of new inspiration. I’m in the process of learning to play Chief O’Neill’s favourite, and I’ve learned to play Nutting girl, and I have a few other tunes I’m going to learn, other than the Irish tunes for our local session.

I took some photos, most of them with my phone.

Here’s Robbie and his electronic concertina, connected to an amplifier app on an iPad. We played some bluegrass together. I played chords on the guitar and he played the electronic concertina with the sound of a banjo… so cool. :)

He also had a mini concertina.

On the Saturday we celebrated the organiser’s 70th birthday. What would the perfect cake be other than…

Jim with his duet:

Two happy owners of the same model of Wheatstone English concertina:

And the start of the traditional group photo:

Because of my job, I can never know if I’ll be able to go next year, but I certainly hope so!!

April’s Irish music session

I’m preparing for the concertina event, and last night we also had our monthly Irish music session at a restaurant in town. Last month I was really tired and not at all in the mood, but this time went much better and it seemed I could play along with more tunes than I could a month ago. Definitely not because I’ve practiced, because I haven’t, but maybe because I was more alert and hmm, functional?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my music and how to focus. I always bring the mandolin to the Irish sessions because that’s the instrument I’m most familiar with. But really, mandolin is not the instrument I want to use for playing Irish music. My great love is the concertina, but since I’m only in some kind of early intermediate level, and unable to play most tunes up to speed on the concertina, I do need another instrument too. But the thing is that I’m not particularly good at playing Irish tunes on the mandolin either. I can play those tunes we used to play in Clonakilty, and a couple more, but it’s not that I can join in on whatever Irish tune. And I don’t plan to learn more Irish tunes on the mandolin, since the instrument I really want to use for Irish music is the concertina.

I want to start focusing on what I really want, with all music genres. I want to learn to play Irish tunes on the concertina. Ok, so focus on that. I also want to take up the bouzouki/octave mandolin again, to use at the sessions when I can’t play the concertina. I mainly play chords with it but since I keep it in GDAE tuning, I can play melody if I want to. So I’m going to practice those chords, and try to get that instrument back to its former shape (need to moisten it up play it more often). And for the guitar… I want to play bluegrass/oldtime stuff with a Carter family style. I want to use the mandolin for bluegrass, old-time and country stuff. I want to play tunes from Dalarna on the fiddle, and hopefully learn some old-time fiddle too.

Well, you get the point. I’m going to stop playing certain things on certain instruments just because it’s convenient, and start focusing on what I actually WANT to learn to play on those instruments. Now I’m looking forward to the concertina event, but since Daniel isn’t coming, I need to prepare something for the Sunday concert that I can do on my own, and I’m definitely going to practice some Irish and English tunes.

Concertina prep

It’s less than two weeks until the concertina weekend, people! On the 24th of April I, or hopefully we, head down south to Skåne and the Scandinavian Squeeze-In (SSI). It’s a weekend for concertina enthusiasts, and everyone interested in concertinas. There usually are quite a few melodeon players there too, and often the melodeon players and the concertina players are the same people.

I haven’t played the concertina for a long long time, so I’d better start working. I haven’t forgotten the tunes I used to play, but I had planned to learn some new stuff until this years SSI, which definitely hasn’t happened. I’ve worked on a reel, Sligo maid, and have played through some tunes but haven’t really learned anything.

So this week I’ve started looking at tunes and what tunes are realistic to get the hang of in a short time. Most of them aren’t if you want to play them in normal playing speed, but at least I want to practice some, and learn to get more familiar with the key of D, so that I can at least join in on tunes. I must say I’ve had a lot of fun, and have found that the *Merry Blacksmith* is a good tune for the concertina, and that *I buried my wife and danced on top of her* (well, Irish tunes do have some weird names at times..) isn’t as bad as I thought last year to learn on the concertina.

Last year I photographed the dots of some English tunes in order to remember them, but then changed to a new iPhone, and didn’t use the backup, so waved bye-bye to those photos.

Yesterday I downloaded and installed a new OS X update, which included the new photos app, that works just like the photos app in iOS, very nice. And you know what? When I tried to organise all the photos in there, I found those photos. I can’t say that all of those tunes make sense when I try to play through them, but I can always look them up on You Tube or something like that. I’d like to learn some more English tunes, because they play a lot of English tunes down there. I’ll see if I manage to learn any of those. I’ve saved some links to recordings of other tunes too.

I’m so looking forward to the weekend! I often feel awkward at music events, if I don’t know people, or if there aren’t many players around to jam with who are at the same or close to my level of playing, or who at least enjoy playing with less skilled players. But this event is one where I always feel really, really “at home” and that I fit in. It’s usually a small group of people, and although I’m not great at playing, I can join in on a lot of tunes, and people are nice and encouraging. It’s always very inspiring to be there.

Last year, the really warm weather arrived to the SSI, or even on the way down, I remember we stopped south of Göteborg, and it was 20 degrees C out. Down south it was truly lovely, and I remember having too warm clothes with me. This year I’ll bring some summerish clothes just in case.