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JANE GRIFFITHS (ED) - Traditional Fiddle

JANE GRIFFITHS (ED) - Traditional Fiddle
Oxford University Press ISBN: 9780193392793

This book brings together the collected wisdom of some of the finest fiddlers from England (John Dipper, Nancy Kerr), Ireland (Liz Doherty, Kevin Burke), Scotland (Jenna Reid, Aidan O’Rourke, Patsy Reid) and Wales (Sian Phillips). Most fiddle books would deal with only one of these traditions, so to bring them all together is an ambitious undertaking.

Jane Griffiths’ main achievement with this book is to provide a logical and cohesive framework to what might otherwise have been a jumble of different approaches to folk fiddle playing. In her introduction, she also gives a useful introduction to the many elements of folk fiddling which would be unfamiliar to classical players; approaches to intonation, vibrato, dynamics and sets of tunes, for example.

Each chapter, written by a different fiddler, has three tunes, the first analysed in some detail with regard to bowing, ornamentation and other stylistic features, plus a little bit of background to the tradition in question. The chapters are arranged in order of difficulty, and each follows the same format.

The accompanying CD has each track played by the writer of that chapter, and the tracks are mostly played at a tempo considerably slower than normal performance speed. A nice feature is that we hear the voices of each fiddler describing individual features such as bowed trebles and grace notes, reinforcing the idea that we are getting a workshop rather than just a performance from each tutor.

The book is not without its faults. It seemed unnecessary to print the same paragraph twice (at the beginning of each of Liz Doherty’s chapters). It is also a shame to have six completely blank pages in a book where there is so much to be said. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book as an excellent introduction to the rich and fascinating range of fiddle styles found in Great Britain.

Chris Haigh

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.