Back in 1991 a few passionate string musicians got together at one of their homes to form an organization aimed at preserving, promoting, and stimulating the tradition of old time fiddling in the Genesee River area of NY State. Thirty years and literally thousands of performances and jam sessions later, the Fiddlers of the Genesee is still going strong. It is rare today to find any musical organization that has remained active for so many years. It is a testament to the dedication of our membership and leadership, both present and past.
The current Board of Directors organized a 30th Anniversary Celebration Party, which took place at the Pavilion Lodge in Ellison Park, Rochester. The catered event featured a massive, delicious anniversary cake. Attendance was great, with over 40 members and family coming out. The members jammed to their favorite tunes in front of the lodge’s massive fireplace all afternoon, while the rain came down in droves outside.
Below are some photographs taken during the event. Here’s to another 30 years!
A light drizzle had retreated by late morning on August 21st to afford attendees of the 2021 Genesee Country Village & Museum Fiddlers’ Fair dry passage between performance venues. This was the first Fiddlers’ Fair since the pandemic broke, which had canceled the event in 2020. Everyone was happy to be back.
Despite the sketchy weather that morning, brutally humid conditions, and sensible public COVID cautiousness, FOG was still blessed with a good-sized audience in the main exhibition barn on both days. In addition to some classic tunes like Pig Ankle Rag, South, and Ashokan Farewell, some new and different tunes made their first appearance in the set list, including New Five Cent, Dill Pickle Rag, and Sackett’s Harbor. Also featured was the playing of John Stinson #1, by a group of mountain dulcimer players.
FOG would like to thank the Genesee Country Village and Museum for providing this wonderful platform to promote the rich tradition of Old-Time Fiddle Music in Upstate NY.
Joe Obbie Farmers’ Market is where residents of the town of Webster NY can come on Saturdays to buy fresh produce, baked goods, and various crafts. On July 31st, 2021 it was also where they could see the Fiddlers of the Genesee play our famous brand of old-time fiddle music.
It was a beautiful summer day – bright, dry, and not too hot. From under two tents set up in the middle of the market, FOG played our summer set list for both shoppers and vendors. Most passers-by paused during their browsing to listen to a tune or two, such as New Five Cent, Sackett’s Harbor, and Dill Pickle Rag. FOG music CDs and flash drives were available for sale, and many customers were also kind enough to donate towards our not-for-profit organization.
FOG would like thank the Market’s vendors and patrons for their graciousness and hospitality. We hope to be back soon.
The Hinchey House is a grand old manor in Gates NY where on July 24, 2021 the Fiddlers of the Genesee held its first public performance since COVID restrictions were lifted earlier this year. At this event, sponsored by the Gates Historical Society, the public was invited to roam the grounds and learn about the history of this 19th century landmark while FOG provided a background of old-time music in keeping with the zeitgeist of the period.
The group was to play in an informal jam session format rather than a stage setup typical of a gig. So lacking a sound system and with rain in the forecast, the performers set up in a circle on the side lawn. Following some short speeches by local politicians and historical society members, FOG proceeded to play through their summer set list which included the tunes Pig Ankle Rag, South, and Blackberry Blossom. As it turned out, most in attendance preferred to just sit and enjoy the music rather than walking the Hinchey House grounds. The rains held off and a good time was had by all. Our thanks goes out to the wonderful people of the Town of Gates for inviting us to entertain them on this day.
This year the Genesee Country Village & Museum held their annual Yuletide Open House over three weekends in December, with full COVID precautions in place to ensure the safety of all in attendance. FOG was asked to play a series of 30-45 minute sets of traditional holiday music each weekend, consistent with the zeitgeist of the Village’s history. Musicians were limited to small groups, with either a trio or quartet playing at the Brooks Grove Church, and a duo playing at the Freight House Pub. Performers and audience were socially distanced and all required to wear masks. Despite the rules, the Open House was well attended and musicians and audience alike had a great time.
The volunteers musicians found the means and time to pull together set lists and rehearse over the Fall. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather in October and November to rehearse outdoors or in garages where social distancing could be practiced. Christmas music is not part of FOG’s normal repertoire, but as the songs of the 18th to early 20th century had their roots in hymns and folk tunes of the time, they dovetailed nicely with our organization’s creed.
Below is an audio playlist recorded of some of the performances for your listening pleasure. Thank you again to all that volunteered and contributed
Rosie Newton and Richie Stearns held workshops at the VFW pavilion on August 15, 2020, a great setting and a lot of fun with such prominent musicians who thrive on being able to present to folks in person. They drove from Ithaca to provide us with some much-needed musical fun, and we were able to do this in a safe manner: outdoors, wearing masks, with a limited number of people, socially distanced. As Rosie explained, musicians live off the interaction with other folks, getting feedback in one form or another.
Due to Covid, most musicians have not had the opportunity to be with people vs. performing/ teaching online. At the workshops, both musicians broke a tune into phrases and taught participants how to play the tunes and then how to add enhancements to make the tunes more like fiddle tunes. Rosie taught special approaches for bowing, while Ritchie explained how, by playing by ear, one can find the melody notes on the fingerboard and fill them in with embellishments.
Richie taught two tunes by ear, phrase-by-phrase, with repetition, John Brown’sDream and You Ain’t Seen No Trouble. Rosie in her workshop taught Lonesome Girl. Many think teaching and learning by ear is THE way to go, and we were so proud of those in attendance for not being afraid to try. Traditionally this is the way fiddle tunes were passed on to others.
We hope to have Rosie and Ritchie back in the future for more fun and educational workshops hosted by the Fiddlers of the Genesee.
FOG players have gotten together a handful of times over the last few weeks to hold outdoor jam sessions at various members’ homes. Individuals are at least 6 feet apart from each other and wearing masks as often as possible. Below are a couple of short clips of how we sound.
The COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing guidelines have been difficult on us musicians who rely on being able to play with others in order to improve and take delight in our craft. There has never been a stretch of time in the history of the Fiddlers of the Genesee where we have gone so long without the comradery of jam sessions or the pleasure of entertaining others at gigs.
One of FOG’s own, B.J. Cunningham, has helped to lighten our hearts during this time through her regular distributions to our members entitled “Thinking of You” with sayings, quotes, and jokes that she collects. These clever musings tie together the timeless inspiration of music with the zeitgeist of these times. Below is a sampling for your enjoyment.
🎻 A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. – Leopold Stokowski
🎻 Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two. – Frederic Chopin
🎻 After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. – Aldous Hu
🎻 Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. – Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name
🎻 Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. – Victor Hugo
🎻 One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. – Bob Marley
🎻 Without music life would be a mistake. – Friedrich Nietzsche
🎻 Music, a companion in pleasure, a remedy in sorrow. – Johannes Vermeer
🎻 The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers. – Roy Ayers
🎻 People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its own song. – Michael Jackson
~ Clever Quotes~
🎻 I love the way music inside a car makes you feel invisible; if you play the stereo at max volume, it’s almost like the other people can’t see into your vehicle. It tints your windows, somehow. – Chuck Klosterman
🎻 A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t. – Tom Waits
🎻 Only become a musician if there is absolutely no other way you can make a living. – Kirke Mechem
🎻 Practicing social distancing guidelines, minimum safe distance between street musicians and the public:
Violinist: 25 feet
Bad violinist: 50 feet
Tone deaf guitar player who knows three chords: 75 feet
15-year-old electric guitar player with Nirvana fixation: 100 feet
Bagpiper: 50 miles
🎻 What happens if you play country music backwards? Your wife returns to you, your dog comes back to life, and you get out of prison.
🎻 What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? No one minds if you spill beer on a fiddle.
🎻 How do you make a million dollars playing a hammered dulcimer? Start with two million.
🎻 And for the FOG banjo players:
What did the banjo player get on his SAT exam? Drool!
Why do some people have an instant aversion to banjo players? It saves time in the long run!
Female five string banjoist shouting at her boyfriend in a crowded shopping mall: “Don’t forget sweetheart, I need a new G string!”
🎻 Three violin manufacturers have all done business for years on the same block in the small town of Cremona, Italy. After years of a peaceful co-existence, the Amati shop decided to put a sign in the window saying, “We make the best violins in Italy.” The Guarneri shop soon followed suit, and put a sign in their window proclaiming, “We make the best violins in the world.” Finally, the Stradivarius family put a sign out at their shop saying, “We make the best violins on the block.”
🎻 And now, a little “play on notes”…
C, E flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors,” and E flat leaves. C and G have an open fifth between them and after a few drinks, G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, “Excuse me, I’ll just be a second.”
A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor and sends him out. Then the bartender notices a B flat hiding at the end of the bar and shouts, “Get out now! You’re the seventh minor I’ve found in this bar tonight.”
The next night, E flat, not easily deflated, comes into the bar in a three piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender, who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized, says, “You’re looking pretty sharp tonight. Come on in. This could be a major development.” And in fact, E flat takes off his suit and everything else and stands there au natural. Eventually, C, who had passed out under the bar the night before, begins to sober up and realizes in horror that he’s under a rest.
So, C goes to trial, is convicted of contributing to the diminution of a minor and sentenced to ten years of DS without Coda at an upscale correctional facility. The conviction is overturned on appeal, however, and C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and all accusations to the contrary are bassless.
The bartender decides, however, that since he’s only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest and closes the bar.
🎻 If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a 14 day quarantine you probably should’ve been seeing a doctor long before COVID-19.
🎻 I washed my hand so much due to COVID-19, that my exam notes from 1995 reappeared on my hands.
🎻 Our cleaning lady just called. She will be working from home and will send us instructions on what to do.
🎻 Home schooling going well. Two students suspended for fighting, one teacher fired for drinking on the job.
🎻 You thought dogs were hard to train? Look at all the humans that can’t sit and stay.
🎻 Dear Netflix, can you please turn off the, “are you still watching” feature? We are still watching, I don’t need this kind of judgment in this time of uncertainty. If you could please update it with a, “are you sure you want to eat that?” notice that would be much more helpful at this time. – boredpanda.com
🎻 Quarantine Diary
Day 1: I have stocked up on enough non-perishable food and supplies to last me for months, maybe years, so I can remain in isolation for as long as it takes to last out this pandemic.
Day 1 + 45 minutes: I am at the supermarket because I wanted a Twix.
Day 2 without sports: Found a young lady sitting on my couch yesterday. Apparently she’s my wife. She seems nice.
🎻 Song lyrics for quarantine:
“Don’t stand so close to me”…The Police
“You can’t touch this”…MC Hammer
“Dancin’ with myself”…Billy Idol
“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”…R.E.M.
“My loneliness is killing me”…Britney Spears
“Bored in the house and I’m in the house bored”…Curtis Roach
That was a quote from an attendee who came to hear the Fiddlers of the Genesee play at the Chili Public Library on this bright, crisp Saturday afternoon.
It was “SRO” as an audience of all ages bobbed in their chairs and even sang along to an old favorite, You are My Sunshine. Other set list tunes included Ragtime Anne, Temperance Reel, Westfalia Waltz, and Cold Frosty Morning, with emcee Bob Hyder’s color commentary furnishing the historical and humorous background that helps makes FOG performances memorable.
The musicians enjoy sticking around after the performances to chat with the attendees and answer questions about the more unusual instruments. Some parents of children taking music lessons told us their kids loved the fun and “approachableness” of the performance. Others were interested to learn more about the weekly jam sessions and events such as the GCV&M Fiddler’s Fair. And the topper was being told that the performance was one of the HIGHEST attended events they have had at the library.
Check out our Gig Schedule page to see when the Fiddlers of the Genesee are performing next, and listen to playlists of past performances.
Between September and November of each year, the annual Fall for the Arts series at Bristol Valley Theater in Naples, NY features several talented performers, including the Fiddlers of the Genesee.
In addition to some core tunes like South, Swedish Walking Tune, and Barnburner’s Reel, FOG also performed tunes that haven’t been in set lists for a while, like Garryowen, Jefferson & Liberty, and Arkansas Traveler. Many of the tunes featured breaks that highlighted the contribution of unique sounds from the wide variety of instruments represented that day. One of those seldom-employed but always available instruments was our own voices, which was lent in song – along with the audience’s – to a medley of Circle Unbroken and Amazing Grace.
The performance ran over by over 20 minutes, but no one seemed to mind. One gentleman approached emcee Bill Kenyon afterwards and said he was hard of hearing but he FELT it and really enjoyed the performance!
Click to Hear BVT Tunes: 1. Swallowtail Jig 2. Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine/Bonaparte’s Treat