June 2018 Fiddletter

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JunePresident’s Remarks

Contributed by Tom Bailey

Well last month we welcomed Spring, but that didn’t last long. I am not going to scare off summer by saying anything. Just hope you are enjoying the weather! Road construction is rampant and folks taking off to visit somewhere or someone… Oh well – rejoice the precipitation isn’t white.

I want to congratulate everyone who joined in the performances during the COPs gig season. Residents were telling us “sure hope you can come back soon…” as we were packing up. We figured they must have enjoyed FOG but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. We are being asked to comeback and play, with pay, to both Grand Vie (probably in September) and Ferris Hills (tentatively October 6).  For those of you wanting to mark your calendars, the Palmyra Canaltown Days gig is on Sunday the 16th of September. We had to cancel I-Square as many of the members will be out of town and Mike will be out of the country. So the next gig will be July 14th at the Macedon Library at 2:00. We always need help during the summer months, so…. A surprise to all of us, we have already received a request for FOG to play at Bristol Valley Theatre on the 21st of October. And don’t forget the Fiddlers’ Fair in August. Stayed tuned!

What do you think of this year’s Summer Set Lists? At the jams recently, the group has been playing thru the tunes. Everyone says the tunes are easy to play so we should be in great shape for the summer gigs. To help folks get thru any problem tunes, the Board has decided to try something new; starting the first 30 minutes of every jam as an “off-speed” session. This will give members a chance every week to work on tunes they are learning, rather than waiting to the “slow-jam” nights. So just let the jammers know what you are working on and the group will play at whatever speed works for you. You certainly aren’t the only person working on that tune.

How many of you have gone to a music event recently – or are planning an activity sometime soon? How about jotting down a note for the Fiddletter? I know some of you go camping at festivals and sit around and jam, meet new folks, learn new tunes, etc. And then some of you even go to week long workshops. What is that like, hard work or fun? Do you meet some great players and good teachers? Did it make your playing easier? Were you self-conscious and felt like an outcast? Or heaven forbid – you found a good repair person that brought your _ _ _ _ _ _ back to life. Who was this wonder person? Just share some of the experiences you have been through – can even have been something from last year.music teacher

We mentioned in the last newsletter that the Board wants to put together a list of music teachers as a reference for all members. Know someone who teaches fiddle or mandolin or guitar or bass, or, heaven forbid – the banjo? Just let a board member know who YOU are talking lessons from. Maybe if you could tell us if the teacher likes beginner, or intermediate students or….we could start a list.

As we start into summer, get together with others and enjoy this music but don’t forget – Play Nice

FOG Tune Lyrics: Whiskey Before Breakfast

Contributed by Ray Ettington & Mike Deniz

music notes

A widely known tune, often mistaken for a traditional old‑time tune (it was even listed on one album as “an Irish tune which has been popular in America for a number of years”). It has generally been credited to the mid‑twentieth century by Manitoba, Canada, fiddler and composer Andy de Jarlis (known for his fine waltzes). “Whiskey Before Breakfast” was included in de Jarlis’ book Canadian Fiddle Tunes from Red River Valley (1957), where he is credited for the arrangement only.  According to Paul Gifford, the tune’s popularity in the United States is fairly recent, probably stemming from its inclusion on a Voyager Records LP called “More Fiddle Favorites,” by Canadian fiddle champion Lloyd Sexsmith, who probably learned it from de Jarlis. It is often used as musical accompaniment for the quadrille ‘Reel of Eight’ in Canada. Gibbons (1982) notes that “Whiskey” is a favorite of Metis (native American) dance troupes in Western Canada, and in this connection Gifford suggests that de Jarlis learned the tune from Metis fiddler Teddy Boy Houle’s father (de Jarlis himself had Metis blood). It seems that de Jarlis and the elder Houle were up playing till dawn with the aid of libation before finally passing out.  On finally awaking, de Jarlis remembered the last tune they played and perhaps gave it the “Whiskey” name. Perlman (1979) identifies it as coming from Canada’s Maritime provinces where it is called “Spirits of the Morning.” It has been pointed out by several sources that the ‘A’ section is similar to the older melodies “Liverpool Hornpipe,” “Great Eastern,” “Bennett’s Favorite” and the Irish reels “Silver Spire” and “Greenfields of America,” however, the original source for all these tunes may be “Speed the Plow.” (1)

Whiskey Before Breakfast Lyrics(2)

Early one morning ‘fore the sun could shine
I was walkin’ down the street, not feelin’ so fine
I saw two old men with a bottle between ’em
And this is the song that I heard them singin’

whiskey before breakfastChorus
Lord protect us, Saints preserve us
We been drinkin’ whiskey ‘fore breakfast

I passed by the steps where they were a’ sittin’
I couldn’t believe how drunk they were gettin’
I said “Old men you been drinkn’ long?”
“Long enough to be singin’ this song”

They handed me a bottle, said, “Take a little sip”
And it felt so good, I just couldn’t quit
So I took a little more, next thing I knew
There were three of us sittin’ there singin’ this tune

One by one everybody in town
Heard our ruckus and they all came down
Pretty soon all the streets were a-ringin’
With the sound of the whole town laughin’ and singin’

(1) The Fiddler’s Companion © 1996-2009 Andrew Kuntz
(2) Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics, http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk

Return of the Soloist

Contributed by John Piper

In the movie, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ there was a scene where a lord is talking to his son.  ‘They said I was daft to build a castle in a swamp.  But I did it anyway.  It sank into the swamp.  So I built a second one.  It sank into the swamp.  The third one caught fire, fell over and then sank into the swamp but the fourth, the fourth stood up’.  It is a guy’s thinking like this that can only explain why I agreed to do a solo performance.  Again.  Even after the disasters of the third and the meltdown of the fourth previous performances.

But I had a plan.  The location was a major factor in the decision because it would be in Recitala church.  I envisioned an audience of grandmother type women all saying, bless his heart, no matter how poorly I played.  Secondly, I decided to play, ‘Amazing Grace’.  Not only a great church song but, a song contained in one octave.  Only two strings of the violin are used to play it.  And I memorized it.  The only (please note the simplistic thinking of the pre-performance view of the recital) challenge would be bow control making sure each note sounded clean.  Get up, play the song, bow and Bob’s your uncle.  It was a done deal.

Hard to believe but I didn’t even think about the recital during the day.  When work ended I had an hour or so before leaving to get in some last minute practice and since I have the keys to the electrical lab I also had a private place to play with some great acoustics.  After a few short strokes to get limbered up I played all three pieces I would be performing; one solo and two others with the group.  I managed to play as I expected.  Not as good as at home but for a strange place and just before the recital not bad.  I was ready to go.  I pulled into the church parking lot and it was packed.  There weren’t supposed to be hundreds of grandmother type people in the audience saying bless his heart, there were only supposed to be twenty of them.  Maybe ten.  Five if things were going my way.  Full blown panic set in.  Wait, wait, wait.  My mistake, we were in the church next door.  Who builds churches side by side?  I walked inside this church and there were maybe twenty people milling about.  I didn’t see the grandmothers yet.  I still hadn’t shaken that feeling of panic inside.  It should have been gone by now.  Deep breaths.  I just need to take a few deep breaths.  Envision a small church, bless his heart grandmothers, both of them.

I wander down the rows of pews until I found one way in the back to take out my violin.  I barely had time to take it out of the case when my teacher asked if she could tune it.  I’m in the remedial group where she still tunes my violin.  I think the only other violin she tunes is for the first grader.  Some people might consider this embarrassing whereas I look at it as a perk for her special students.  No time to think about it as she hustled us to the front for a group practice.  Here I am paired with the only other adult student which is good because he can actually count music so I just have to listen to him as we play and I will be good to go.  We rip off a rousing rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, which with all the different parts sounds surprisingly great in the church.  While I slipped up in a couple of places (I know, I know how could I mess up Twinkle) I felt pretty good.  We then played the second piece which is a fast pace fiddle song.  I kept up for the first half before realizing I just wasn’t going to make it.  No big deal because I had the option to skip out on this one, so one solo and one group piece to play.  At this point it was time for me to have a private practice session with our piano accompanist for my solo piece.  As we set up in a side chamber he asked what kind of intro did I want?  I said any kind as long as it was loud.  I not only came in at the right time of the intro but I wasn’t half bad.  In front of a stranger.  In the church.  I was shocked.  I might actually pull this off.  No, I meant this was going just like I expected.  No surprise there.  Now it is just a matter of time waiting for the show to begin.  I noticed my wife and son were sitting in the back so I went to join them.

The first performer was the little first grade girl, maybe three feet short.  If you were to Google the word ‘adorable’ the first thousand hits would be of her.  The next nine thousand would be of her with her teeny tiny violin.  My only amazing grace was I didn’t immediately follow her.  This was followed by other small children playing songs far more difficult than ‘Amazing Grace’ and doing amazing jobs.  One of the young ladies played a song almost completely of double stops.  A double stop means playing on two strings at the same time.  It is difficult and while I do that on occasion it is because I have slipped off the string I am supposed to be playing.

And now it was my turn.  I strode, literally strode to the front.  I expected to be more nervous but except for some pre-performance butterflies, the kind where you do projectile vomiting, I was doing a-okay.  As I reached the front I stepped confidently up the steps taking my place behind the music stand.  I tried to raise it but it wasn’t designed for someone of my height or anyone’s height over four feet.  No matter, I had the music memorized.  I raised my violin.  Set my bow.  Turned my head to the pianist and waited for the magic to begin.

amazing graceI nailed the intro.  I came in right where I was supposed to come in and who could screw up the first note?  It was an open string no fingering required.  The second note was a half note which all I had to do was keep the trembling out of the bow.  I managed to put the trembling in the bow.  On my next fingering I felt two strings.    In all humans, especially guys, there is something called the reptilian brain that is crucial for self-preservation.  Mine just went, “Uh oh”.  Uh oh?  I’m never, ever supposed to be on two strings in this song.  I snap my head around to look at the strings but my glasses are for distance not close up and my fingers are a blur.  Blur as in fuzzy not blur as in playing all sorts of fantastic notes at a rapid clip.  I look back to the sheet music but here’s a funny thing about panic.  Your body goes into this fight or flight mode and starts shutting down all sorts of unnecessary things like remembering memorized music, how to read music or even how to breathe.  My bow arm continued moving from muscle memory which would have been awesome if I was on the same strings my fingers were playing.  Well actually no, since my fingers were on the wrong strings.  I managed to play the entire piece to the refrain completely on wrong strings.

Amazing Grace – (not so much)
How sweet the sound – (not even close)
That saved a wretch like me – (well we got the wretch part right)
I once was lost but now I’m found – (nope, still lost)
Was blind but now I see – (no it’s all one big blurr)

The music repeats back to the beginning and it had to have been God who put my fingers back on the correct strings.  I actually managed to play the music correctly, well correctly for me, the second time through.  Lots of trembling and scratchy sounds but at least this time I was playing something that if you squinted and turned your head just right you might have recognize the tune.

I finished with a flourish four days after starting.  I bowed.  I turned to the pianist to acknowledge him.  I grabbed my music and headed to my seat.  I passed my teacher and she was giving me an emphatic thumb’s up.  The cynic in me was thinking she had to do that but then I realized she was giving me a thumb’s up for my deciding to sit down.

Now up pops a trio of little girls who played ‘The William Tell Overture’.  If I didn’t have such a pathetic performance I would have pointed out that the name was wrong and it really was the ‘Theme to the Lone Ranger’.  Hard to believe people trained in classical music could get that wrong.  Oh and to rub salt in the wound after they played the piece – perfectly.  They played it a second time at twice the speed.  And now we get to the meat of the line up as each performer is playing more and more complicated pieces.  This is capped with my teacher’s oldest daughter playing something that had to be fifty-seven pages long with the first measure having more notes than my entire song and it was outstanding.  I probably could have appreciated this more if I wasn’t in shock which meant I still had to go through denial, anger, depression before I accepted what happened.  There was a group play in there somewhere but I am fuzzy on the details.  On the way home I asked my son how I played.  He didn’t even think about it as he said, ‘You sucked’.  ‘You sucked big time’.  I’m glad he threw in the qualifier.  I mean you sucked is so undefined whereas you sucked big time leaves little doubt where you stood.

I know, I know.  You say I am exaggerating what happened.  Well that’s the wonderful thing about videos, they don’t lie.  The entire experience was ‘cringeworthy’.  That’s one word.  My own invention.  I am the son of an English teacher and I can do that and it captures the whole post-traumatic-stress-syndrome experience.  The easy solution would be to accept I am not cut out for public performances just as some people aren’t made for yoga stretch pants.  But I can fix this.  I’m a guy and we fix things.  I’m an engineer where we fix things that don’t need to be fixed.  I just made a few mistakes.  First thing – glasses.  I need to buy a pair of really cool glasses with a focal length of my violin neck.  The cool part will make me look like I belong up on stage.  The short focal length will not only allow me to see my fingering but make the audience fuzzy so I won’t know they’re there.  Next thing is to change the music.  What was I thinking in playing a slow piece with long controlled bow strokes?  I have no fine motor control.  I pick up rocks for a hobby.  Jazz.  I am going to play jazz.  It has short choppy strokes and the best, the best part is the music repeats itself at different scales, octaves or some musical term that I can’t remember.  So if hypothetically someone, not me but someone, were to get their fingers messed up on the strings it would appear they were changing keys in the music.  And if they did it randomly the performer would be improvising which is completely different than playing the wrong notes and they would be considered a gifted performer.  I am so not going to suck next time.  I’m going to have those bless his heart grandmothers dancing in their seats.

2018 Officers

BOD President: Tom Bailey
Vice-President: Kathy Schwar
Secretary: Jane Reetz
Treasurer: Greg Roat
Elaine Chandler
Mike Deniz
Ray Ettington
Pat Fink
Diana GreenNewsletter Editor: Mike Deniz (temp)Webmaster: Jack Metzger

FOG Contact Info

It’s EASY to Contact & Connect with FOG

Call the Fiddle Fone! (585) 234-3582

  • Hear the latest FOG announcements.
  • Leave voice mail messages.
  • Check for last-minute changes in jam locations or gig schedules
Surf the World Wide Web!

Visit the FOG website at www.fiddlersofthegenesee.org

  • See schedules & locations for jams & gigs.
  • Leave e-mail messages.
  • Current FOG members (password required) can download FOG music sheets, midi files and past issues of the FOG Fiddletter.
Mailing Address:

Yes! “Snail mail” still works reliably! It’s just a little slower than the internet….

Fiddlers of the Genesee
Post Office Box 631
Fairport, NY 14450-0631

Friday Night Jams (7-9 pm)

Perinton-Fairport VFW Hall – Rte 31F
(also known as the Macedon Ctr. Rd.)
  • June 8
  • June 15
  • June 22
  • June 29

Penfield American Legion Hall
1797 Old Penfield Road

  • June 1

musician-clipart-92018 Gig Schedule

**No gigs scheduled for June**

Reminder: Participation at all FOG Gigs is limited to current FOG members!!

You must sign up in the “FOG Gig Book” and attend at least one jam / rehearsal to perform at a FOG gig.

fiddlelgoAbout FOG

“Fiddlers of the Genesee” (FOG) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing together people for the purpose of stimulating, preserving and promoting the tradition of “Old-Time Fiddling” in the Genesee River area of New York State and to play a variety of Fiddle Music with emphasis on the following:

      1. Musical participation
      2. Encouragement of musical development
      3. Non-competitive fellowship
      4. Acoustic instrumentation
      5. Education of members and the public about old-time fiddling

For more information call the “Fiddle Fone” (585) 234-3582; write to us at P.O. Box 631, Fairport, NY 14450-0631; or visit our website at:


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