This Cat And Her FIDDLE.

On Sundays I start my day by pulling up an archived Shirley Donnelly column, transcribing it and then reading about the subject through sources outside of his column. Sometimes I use genealogy sites, sometimes Google books will offer me a local history book associated with the topic and sometimes I languish over YouTube videos, old photo archives from WVU or the Library of Congress (such is the case today).

On “this” Sunday morning, Shirley’s topic was a Stradivarius which had been found. A quick search revealed he wrote about the instrument multiple times. Those articles are below. Because my eyes are not being friendly this snowy Sunday, I will ask that you just enlarge the article on your device for easier reading and beg forgiveness of these old eyes.

My brain works in the style of a domino train (i.e. one falls, knocking another, knocking another, knocking another…), after reading the Yesterday and Today columns, I ended up on a trail of “What is the oldest reference to fiddle I can find?” And from those readings, I learned of the widespread use of the term fiddle in cultures other than our own sweet Appalachia and I was somewhat surprised by my finds. I was distracted away from finding the oldest reference and fell into a digital globe trotting experience.

And I offer you this for people who wish to compare a fiddle to a violin:

Add’l links on the subject of one versus the other by people smarter than I:

Strings Magazine: Learn the Difference Between Violin and Fiddle

Johnson String Instrument: Fiddle vs. Violin: Are Violins and Fiddles Different?

Classical MPR: Violin vs. fiddle: How to tell the difference?

Fly In Fiddler: Is it a Fiddle or Violin?

Masterclass: Music 101: What Is the Difference Between a Fiddle and a Violin?

I hope you enjoy this compendium on fiddles and the violin wisdom of Shirley Donnelly. Side note: my fiddle music of preference hails from Scotland and Ireland, however, I was raised on good old Appalachian bluegrass. There are ties between the two.

Title: Hardangar fiddle
Contributor: Cowell, Sidney Robertson, 1903-1995, collector
Created / Published: [between 1938 and 1939]

NOTE: this needs to be said because there is always that one person out there (professional historian) who feels the need to “educate” me in a manly, I mean harsh way (clears throat, ahem ahem) I am, by no means, an expert on fiddles, violins, Stradivarius, time dating instruments, Shirley Donnelly or, really, anything. I just like to read articles and combine information in a way that allows me to have a conversation with you, dear reader. Nothing more, nothing less. THis is not a professional music blog and is for entertainment purposes to enlighten you to some interesting facts and photos. Steps off soapbox and says: Now, I have a hankerin for some fiddlin’…

A fiddle with streamers and bow.
Title: One of the Fiddles Owned by the Hammons Family
Below: Edden Hammons Plays Fiddle

Doing a quick 1956, WV search of Stradivarius, I see what drew out all of Mr. Donnelly’s curiosity in the instrument. David Rubinoff performed at Woodrow Wilson High School some weeks before and it appears that several people were pulling their own fiddles (aka violins) outta storage to see if they could fetch the same shiny penny.

Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
07 Mar 1956, Wed  •  Page 3
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
14 Mar 1956, Wed  •  Page 1
The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
14 Mar 1956, Wed  •  Page 4
The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
15 Mar 1956, Thu  •  Page 25

I will insert that my love of all things fiddle must be woven into me through my gypsy ancestors. Hearing a fiddle makes me feel at home wherever I might be.

Location: Danny Kay Collection, Library of Congress
 Title: A pencil sketch of the ‘Cadenza from “Gypsy Number”‘ as heard in the music for “Happy Times” (The Inspector General) (General) – Accompanied by a note: Dear Aleen: Mr. Green is returning this to Mrs. Kaye. Bette (General)

Below are the columns from Shirley Donnelly on the Violin from April 1956.

Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
03 Apr 1956, Tue  •  Page 4
Beckley Post-Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
13 Apr 1956, Fri  •  Page 4
Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
21 Apr 1956, Sat  •  Page 4
Beckley Post-Herald The Raleigh Register
Beckley, West Virginia
28 Apr 1956, Sat  •  Page 4
Poland has several unique fiddles. One of these is the Suka; like the Gadulka this is played vertically, on the knee or hanging from a strap, and the strings are stopped at the side with the fingernails. The body of the instrument is very similar to the modern violin, but the neck is very wide, and the pegbox is crude. This is thought to be the “missing link” between the upside-down or “knee chordophone” instruments, and the modern violin. It died out, and was known only from drawings of a single specimen displayed at an exhibition in 1888. A century later the instrument was reconstructed by Andrzej Kuczkowski, and is today being popularised by string specialist  Maria Pomianowska.
fiddle from plock
She also plays another reconstructed Polish fiddle, the “Fiddle from Plock”; this is a more primitive, six stringed instrument, again without a fingerboard, and with a more box-shaped body. Maria gives concerts and workshops where she demonstrates these instruments, along with a host of other ethnic fiddles from around the world.
dle, the “Fiddle from Plock”; this is a more primitive, six stringed instrument, again witho

PBS: The Fiddle

The oldest and most basic instrument of roots music, however, is not the guitar but the fiddle. For years the fiddle was virtually the only instrument found on the frontier, and in the South is was used widely enough that as early as 1736 we find written accounts of fiddle contests. Though often thought of today as primarily a white instrument – and indeed many tunes and styles came over from Ireland and Scotland – there arose in the 19th century a strong fiddle tradition among blacks. Some of it started out as slave fiddling, in which talented slaves were sent to places like New Orleans to learn how to fiddle standard dance tunes. Blues composer W.C Handy remembered his own grandfather in northern Alabama playing fiddle tunes in the late 1800s, and a strong style of blues fiddle developed and persisted well into the 1930s. Native Americans and Mexican Americans also developed important fiddle styles in the Southwest.

Fiddling has been associated with classic American heroes. George Washington had his favorite fiddle tune (“Jaybird Sittin’ on a Hickory Limb”), as did Thomas Jefferson (“Grey Eagle”). Davy Crockett was a “ferocious” fiddler (the tune “Crockett’s Reel” is still played today), and Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British in the War of 1812 is still celebrated with the popular “Eighth of January.” A governor of Tennessee, fiddler Bob Taylor, liked to refer to the old fiddle classics in his speeches: “Every one of them breathes the spirit of liberty; every jig is an echo from flinklock rifles and shrill fifes of Bunker Hill.” In more modern times, Henry Ford started a series of fiddling contests in the 1920s to help preserve the old American values.

Though the fiddle was the main instrument in early country music in the 1920s, it was gradually replaced by the steel guitar and electric guitar. It re-emerged in popularity in the 1940s as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt developed bluegrass. Innovators like Chubby Wise, Scotty Stoneman, Kenny Baker, and Benny Martin turned the fiddle into a driving vehicle for improvisation.

Various Fiddle References Over The Centuries:

Title: [Boy playing fiddle]
[no date recorded on shelflist card]
Title: [Interior scene with family gathered around man playing fiddle]
Title: Fiddle Stick Polka
Created / Published: J. Sage and Sons, Buffalo, 1853, monographic.
Title: The ur-heen, or Chinese fiddle 
Date: 1851
TITLE: Signora Spaniela In The Favorite Air, “Tiddli Fiddle.”COLLECTION
Date Issued: 1857
Notes: [1868]
–  Illus. in: Riverside Magazine, v. 2, p. 97.
–  Reference copy may be in LOT 4442.
–  Caption card tracings: Nursery rhymes; RBD
Title: “The sharp tuning of a fiddle pricked the ears of those around.”
Date: 1873
Photo Credit: A. Frank Randall
Chasi, Bonito’s Son, an Apache musician playing the “Apache fiddle”
Date: 31 Dec 1885
TITLE Bob and his fiddle. [Man playing fiddle in front of cabin.]
NAMES: Havens, O. Pierre (1838-1912) (Photographer)
Four country musicians holding their instruments - guitars, upright bass, and violin (fiddle).
Title: Hanks Hillbillies at Wheeling Jamboree, Wheeling, W.Va.
Date: ca. 1925
Klezmer fiddlers at a wedding, Ukraine, ca. 1925
Photo By Unknown – YIVO ENCYCLOPEDIA, Public Domain
Appears to be WVU Agricultural Experiment Station building in background.
Title: Man Playing Fiddle
Collection Number: Kemper Collection
Description: Appears to be WVU Agricultural Experiment Station building in background.
One man is playing the fiddle and another holds onto a rifle.
Title: Family Stands Outside of Farmhouse
Date: Undated
Creator: Gibson, Scott
Description: One man is playing the fiddle and another holds onto a rifle.
Notes: Photograph caption: “A dance fiddler & 5-string banjo picker.”
–  Forms part of a group of field materials documenting John Selleck performing Anglo-American music on the fiddle on October 2, 1939
Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Camino, California.
Notes: Transcribed by Alan Jabbour, from a performance by Henry Reed. 1966

–  Meter: 4/4
–  Key: A
–  Strains: 2 (high-low, 2-2)
–  Compass: 10
–  Rendition: 1r-2r-1r-2r-1r-2r-1r-2r
–  Phrase Structure: AB QR (aba’c qrq’c)

–  Handwritten: Played 4 times thru.
(1st 1 1/2 meas. of 1st time missed).
2nd & 4th times tr. above. Note interesting vars.

–  “Cluck Old Hen” is a well-known tune and song through the Appalachian South, quite distinct from another barnyard evocation, “Cackling Hen,” which is played in G. The song “Cluck Old Hen” consists of a series of playful verses. As an instrumental tune, it is popular on both fiddle and banjo. On the fiddle, one of the tune’s special features is the “cluck” made by left-hand picking of the strings. In Henry Reed’s second performance (AFS 13703b26), the “cluck” is the open E-string, though other fiddlers use both the E and A-strings, or even the E, A, and D-strings. In this, his first performance, he does not do the left-hand picking, but the set shows interesting variation among the repetitions of the second strain. It seems clear here that the variation is a matter of conscious creative modification, not unconscious changes.
Note(1979): Index data: Film negative frame numbers, descriptions: Greek Dancing at Zorba’s Restaurant with George and Evanthia Koures: 0-4, group dance at the restaurant, the dancers are: leader, George Koures with the towel also held by his son Tony; next in line is Mrs. Evanthia Koures; fieldworker Paula Johnson, and a man who may be a relative of George Koures; 5-12, George and Evanthia Koures; 13-14, people in the restaurant; 15-18, George Koures doing a dance that involves lifting the wine glass up in his mouth; 19-23, Zorba restaurant exterior, broken sign on ground at far left reads “Zor[ba’s] Greek Cuisine Restaurant,” frame 22 includes fieldworker Mike Crummett; scenes near Polson MT: 25-31, near Poison, just south of Flathead Lake; Old-Time Fiddlers District #1 jamming at Bernie Rasmussen’s, Polson MT: 32-34, Bernie Rasmussen’s house; 35-37, jam session at Rasmussen’s.

According to wiki on fiddle:

fiddle is a bowed string musical instrument, most often a violin. It is a colloquial term for the violin, used by players in all genres including classical music. Although violins and fiddles are essentially synonymous, the style of the music played may determine specific construction differences between fiddles and classical violins. For example, fiddles may optionally be set up with a bridge with a flatter arch to reduce the range of bow-arm motion needed for techniques such as the double shuffle, a form of bariolage involving rapid alternation between pairs of adjacent strings. To produce a “brighter” tone, compared to the deeper tones of gut or synthetic core strings, fiddlers often use steel strings. The fiddle is part of many traditional (folk) styles, which are typically aural traditions—taught ‘by ear’ rather than via written music.

Fiddling is the act of playing the fiddle, and fiddlers are musicians that play it. Among musical styles, fiddling tends to produce rhythms that focus on dancing, with associated quick note changes, whereas classical music tends to contain more vibrato and sustained notes. Fiddling is also open to improvisation and embellishment with ornamentation at the player’s discretion—in contrast to orchestral performances, which adhere to the composer’s notes to reproduce a work faithfully. It is less common for a classically trained violinist to play folk music, but today, many fiddlers (e.g., Alasdair Fraser, Brittany Haas, Alison Krauss, etc.) have classical training.

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