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

By Staff | Jan 8, 2016

Fans of the fiddle (and who isn’t?), 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. 8, has some really special guests this year.

The concert showcases the weekend’s staff, with six different fiddlers in six 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.

The featured staff this year include:

Emerald Rae, a U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion and a graduate of Berklee College of Music. She performs with the traditional folk group Annalivia and has also toured with the Cathie Ryan Band and The Outside Track. Emerald is also a talented step-dancer and has danced for such fiddling giants as Natalie MacMaster and Alasdair Fraser. In 2013 she will release a solo recording, “If Only I Could Fly” featuring her talents on fiddle, guitar and crwth (ancient Welsh fiddle)..

David Kaynor began playing fiddle in 1974, and started calling local contra dances in Western Massacussetts around 1980 and has become increasingly involved as both fiddler and caller in the New England and national contra dance scenes. He has been on staff at Northern Week at Ashokan, John C. Campbell Folk School, Pinewoods, Buffalo Gap, Mendocino, and a myriad of other camps, workshops and music events around the country. He is also involved in playing and teaching Swedish fiddle-music and folk-dancing.

Jake Krack grew up in Nicut, West Virginia and started playing the fiddle at the age of six. Now from Marlinton, West Virginia, at age 31, he has spent 26 years studying and apprenticing with West Virginia master old-time fiddlers Melvin Wine, Lester McCumbers, and Bobby Taylor. He has performed and taught many workshops and has won numerous fiddle contests at throughout the Appalachian region. He currently has over thirty fiddle students of all ages and levels.

Pascal Gemme has a degree from St-Laurent College (Montreal) in arranging and classical/jazz guitar, but he has since been searching for seldom-heard songs and melodies, interpreting them in his unique and unmistakable style. Originally inspired by his fiddling grandfather, he has played with (and learned from), most of today’s great Quebecois fiddlers and singers. A fantastic performer and an enthusiastic teacher, he tours internationally with the French Canadian group, Genticorum and teaches at many festivals and camps throughout Canada and the US.

Mary Lea has performed with the English country dance band Bare Necessities since 1978 and over the years with such bands as Yankee Ingenuity, Childsplay, BLT and Wild Asparagus. A fluid and versatile fiddler, her skills range from English and American dances to Venezuelan waltzes, from stately dance tunes to ragtime and blues.

Peter Barnes plays flute, piano and assorted other instruments for traditional dances in a wide variety of bands. He performs with numerous dance bands as well as traditional Irish and Scottish musicians in a variety of settings. He has published “English Dance Tunes” (vol. 1 & 2), “A Little Couple Dancemusik,” as well as “Interview with a Vamper,” a book of piano techniques.

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 expensive and improvisational style and creative backup playing on the hammered dulcimer. He has toured extensively with Chris Norman & Robin Bullock in Helicon, Laura Risk, Elke Baker and his son Brad. Ken has taught at Swannanoa, Meadowlark, John Campbell, Augusta, Common Ground and music camps and festivals around the U.S.

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 trio music.

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 our local fiddle players, dancers and other musicians. It will concentrate on English, Scottish, Cape Breton and French Canadian traditions in the first half and then venture into New England, Bluegrass 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, WV. Admission is $20 adults, $18 seniors, $15 SMD members, $10 students; tickets will be sold at the door. For more information call Joanie at (304) 263-2531 or email updf@earthlink.net, on the web at www.smad.us .

For more information on the weekend http://upperpotomacmusic.info/fiddleretreat/’ on the concert: smad.us.