Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Starts and Stops

I have two fiddle practice cd’s at home produced by a distinguished Irish fiddler named Matt Cranitch. I don’t remember where I got them. I think some sympathetic friend or impatient session-mate gave them to me. I listen to them often, tunes played cleanly and deliberately, to internalize the rhythms and improve my technique.

I was just gobsmacked (been waiting a month to use that word) to discover that Matt, along with accordion player, Jackie Daly, was holding a workshop nearby for aspiring trad players. Sign me up!

Me and Matt
It was a great day with about a dozen musicians (some of them children) gathered in a cozy room of the pub where I play and sing on Friday nights. I sat right in Matt’s face but he seemed okay with that. Matt and Jackie like to play in the Sliabh Luachra tradition which I find exceptionally melodic with an emphasis on polkas and slides. It’s all about timing. 

When the workshop was over I realized, not for the first time, that I may be missing something when it comes to developing a distinctive style. I had a little chat with old Matt and he recommended his own fiddle course which is condensed in a book and cd package. He just happened to have a set in his car and sold it to me on the spot (signed, of course).

So as I walk along the River Suir today, I think about how unSuir I am of so many things. Life seems to be a series of starts and stops. I start learning a bowing pattern, then stop and reconsider because I still sound so choppy. I’m doing something wrong but I can’t figure it out.  And more serious things like, I begin a relationship but then, for various reasons, it stops and I’m once again sitting down at the debriefing conference table in my brain, having a heart to heart with…well, my heart. Explaining to it one more time that all is in order and we’re good to go. It sneers at me slightly before limping out the door.

Thistle be a great day!

Starts and stops. I have been informed of SIX deaths in the past week. Three were elderly but still seemed untimely. The other three were down right tragic and left me sneering at God and asking if I will EVER understand what He’s thinking in putting us through this. 

There was a time when I knew Him like a book (literally), when He was as logical and predictable as this lazy river. Then the waterfall…. and I almost got washed away. Don’t worry, I’m drying out nicely. But I have friends who are treading water at the moment and I just pray they can stay afloat a little while longer. Where the hell are the life rafts???

I admit it. I'm obsessed with swans.
Weekly session at the Monk's pub
I should mention there were also two births this month and two more due this summer. Starts and stops. Everything changes, is renewed, faith gets a second chance. When grace is illuminated it somehow radiates hope where there should be none, and the warmth of it is comforting.

I googled help for my schizophrenic bowing dilemma. I bounced around until I found a good chat board on a trad website that seemed relevant. A couple of guys were talking my language and as I read down the page, saw that the more accomplished musician was making a strong recommendation……The Art of Traditional Fiddling and CD by Matt Cranitch. Really? I’m ready to roll.


  1. I don't see how you can have a proper traditional Irish session with only 9 fiddles. But, you did have 2 banjos so I suppose they'd be some help making up the deficit . . .

    1. Relax, Joe. Sometimes the banjos outnumber the fiddles. We just have to endure it. (Is that what they mean by "the troubles"?)