American and Irish folk and fiddle tune ensemble

Bluegrass, trad, old-time, folk: these terms refer to an ill-defined blend of similar and overlapping genres which took root in Ireland and America and which many refer to simply as “fiddle music.” In this ensemble we will introduce music from all of these genres and recreate an informal jam session atmosphere.

The heart of fiddle music lies in its repertoire of thousands of unique tunes. Most of these tunes are diatonic (remain within one key for the whole song), and follow a very simple AABB form. Sometimes multiple tunes in the same tempo and feel can be strung together to form a longer set of music. In Irish music, most tunes fall into the categories of either jigs or reels. A jig has a very distinctive 6/8 time feel, while reels are in 4/4. The majority of American fiddle tunes are in 4/4, but unlike reels they often have a swing feel. The melodies of fiddle tunes are often played in unison with numerous instruments of different families (plucked, bowed, woodwind, percussion), resulting in a joyful and intoxicating energy which is well suited for accompanying dancers.

In this ensemble particular emphasis will be placed on learning and developing repertoire, idiomatic ornamentations and accompaniment techniques for each instrument, and general sensitivity and experience with ensemble playing. We will start with simple American tunes such as Whiskey Before Breakfast and Salt Creek, plus some basic Irish tunes such as Irish Washerwoman and Kesh (both jigs) and reels such as Maid Behind the Bar and Swinging on the Gate. Sheet music will be provided but it is always recommended to learn these songs by ear when possible. As we develop a larger and more sophisticated repertoire we will also be able to start constructing longer sets out of multiple tunes, and make space for improvising over the melodies.

Suitable for vocalists and players of any instrument (not just fiddle!) and any level from intermediate to advanced.

Matthew Adomeit

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