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Fiddle Retreat offers concert, lessons, jam sessions, contra dance and more

By Staff | Jan 2, 2015

The Fiddle Summit concert might be just the thing to brighten up January. Each year, the Upper Potomac Music Weekends holds a retreat for fiddlers wishing to hone their skills on this first weekend of January and the showcase concert, called the Fiddle Summit, on Friday, Jan. 2, has some really special guests this year.

The concert showcases the weekend’s staff, with six different fiddlers in 6 different styles, as well as a few great accompanists to make the music richer. The weekend starts with the concert on Friday evening, at 8 p.m. at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, as each teacher plays a segment of the concert which showcases their style and each half is ended with a few pieces which combine several of the staff in creative ways for medleys of repertoire their styles share.

The fun continues after the concert, in a late night jam, where many of the weekend’s students join the staff in jam sessions where all play together in a variety of styles. Saturday students attend classes during the day, and in the evening, either play for the Shepherdstown monthly contra dance or in one of three different jam sessions.

Featured staff this year includes the following:

Andrea Hoag (Scandinavian, English Fiddle) is a passionate, lyrical player known for her range and versatility. Recognized internationally as a master of Swedish fiddling, she teaches and performs at camps, concerts and festivals both here and abroad. She performs with Cabaret Sauvignon, Dovetail Ensemble, Maggie Sansone, and the Scandinavian trio Hoag Kelley Pilzer, with whom she garnered a Grammy nomination. Her latest CD/DVD is “Old Doors/New Worlds”, a unique project focusing on the process of collaboration between traditions .

Elke Baker, 1995 U.S. National Scottish fiddle champion, plays Scottish, Celtic, and American music for concerts, festivals, and dances across America and abroad. She teaches Scottish music, music history and dance at numerous festivals and workshops, at the Washington Conservatory of Music and the Potomac Scottish Fiddle Club. She has five fine recordings, including her newest release, “Out of the Wood” with Ken Kolodner.

Fourth generation fiddler Graham DeZarn grew up surrounded by the contradance, Irish and Old-time music in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. First inspired by the music of his father Joe DeZarn, Graham studied with Andrea Hoag and Jesse Winch and many other great players and soon began performing with other Washington D.C./Baltimore youths as The Next Generation and with the fiddle band Childsplay. After taking an interest in old-time fiddle playing, Graham joined the Richmond-based stringband The Hot Seats, with whom he has toured from the Rocky Mountains to the Shetland Islands.

Joe Herrmann and his wife Sam founded Critton Hollow String Band in 1975. The group has toured internationally and recorded six albums and Joe has recently released a solo recording “Gather Round.” A favorite of many instructional weeks and festivals, Joe is known for his patient and generous teaching and his great command of Appalachian repertoire.

Alexander Mitchell For more than 25 years, Alex, an acoustic multi-instrumentalist and Berklee graduate has been cultivating such diverse styles as Appalachian, Bluegrass, Celtic, Klezmer, Ballroom, Hot Swing, and Jazz. He has toured with repertory theater companies, performed in movies, plays for numerous dances, and appeared in many local music venues. His first CD, Chameleon, was released to critical acclaim. Alexander continues to share his musical passion by teaching fiddle and mandolin at Boe’s Strings.

Danny Kniceley comes from a musical family steeped in a mountain music tradition for generations. Danny has won many awards for his mandolin, guitar, and fiddle expertise, including first place in the mandolin contest at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Danny is an avid music educator and has taught at some of the country’s leading music camps. As a sought after session musician, producer, and arranger, Danny appears on countless recordings and has the chameleon-like ability to blend into almost any musical situation. He has shared his music and collaborated with musicians in a dozen countries spanning four continents.

Ken Kolodner is known for his expressive and improvisational style and for his creative back-up playing on the hammered dulcimer. He has toured extensively solo and with the bands Helicon and Greenfire, and is a popular teacher at many festivals and workshops. He has numerous well-received recordings with both ensembles to his credit as well as new recordings with his son Bradley, and Elke Baker.

Paul Oorts a native of Belgium, is adept at musette accordion and many things with strings. His instrumental versatility and knowledge of many different styles of music have made Paul the accompanist of choice for many hammered dulcimer players and a valued member of several dance ensembles. He plays English and contra dance music with Goldcrest and Cabaret Sauvignon, and traditional French music with Ensemble Tympanon. As a member of the Rigatoni Brothers he researches and performs Italian-American mandolin in trio music.

Dave Wiesler has built a national reputation for his rhythmic and innovative piano playing. At home in a huge range of styles, Dave plays for concerts and dances of many sorts: contra, swing, vintage, couple dance, English and Scottish country dance, Viennese waltz. He has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Washington Folk-Life Festival, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and the Smithsonian Museum, and he has played at festivals and dance camps across the country as well as in Canada, Scotland, and England. Dave has played on over a dozen recordings, many featuring tunes and songs he wrote, and he is also a capable guitarist and singer. Some of his other bands include Laura and the Lava Lamps, Cabaret Sauvignon, The Avant Gardeners, The Gigmeisters, Green Light Karma, and Thistle House.

All of these folks together comprise a wealth of talent and expertise in a wide variety of music. The concert is just a fine start to a whole weekend of lessons, jam sessions, dances and other events to enrich local fiddle players, dancers and other musicians. It will concentrate on New England, Scandinavian and Irish traditions in the first half and then venture into Scottish, Cape Breton and Old Time traditions in the second half. The concert is the third of this year’s programs in the Shepherdstown Music and Dance International Concert Series and tickets and will be held at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church on the corner of King and Washington streets in Shepherdstown.

Admission is $18 adults, $15 seniors, $12 SMD members, $8 students, Free to Shepherd students with Rambler ID; tickets will be sold in advance at O’Hurley’s General Store as well as at the door. For more information call Joanie at (304) 263-2531 or email updf@earthlink.net, on the web at www.smad.us.