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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated Feb 2, 2024

Festival of American Fiddle Tunes

Port Townsend, Washington, July 1 - July 8, 2001

by Ryan Thomson

The festival of American Fiddle Tunes has become so popular that a lottery system is in place in case of the number of applicants exceeding the camp capacity. The class format was similar to that described in a previous review. I felt right at home after arriving on Sunday night, having had attended the camp since 1977.


Rather than staying with a particular instructor, I sampled several different classes throughout the week, including Irish fiddle with Seamus Connolly, contra dance piano with Mary Cay Brass, Cape Breton piano with Doug McPhee, and tango orchestra with Bertram Levy. My goal this year was to do as much actual playing with other musicians as possible, so I purposely skipped most concerts, and attended just a few classes. This strategy paid off, as I was able to get many hours of playing in each day, and was usually able to locate other compulsive players to make music with, even when the majority of the camp was off to a concert in the auditorium. 


I do recommend in general, however, that most attendees should attend the exceptional concerts that the Fiddle Tunes staff produce, as these showcase some of the finest fiddlers in the world today. I'm a full time player myself, though, and most of the time I'd personally rather be making music, than sitting and watching other people make music. I made exceptions to hear the concertizing of virtuoso fiddler Juan Reynoso from Mexico, and Cookie Segelstein's great Klezmer fiddling.There's also some awesome participatory dancing at Fiddle Tunes, and so I managed to get in many hours of dancing to some of the famous fiddle players, and thus avoided being a passive seated listener!


Highlights of the week for me included: Irish sessions, old timey jams, Scottish sessions with the folks from Vancouver, Canada, late night contra and square dances, jogging on the beach, hiking through the woods, eating wild blackberries(my annual pilgrimage), and participating in the student concert. In summary: a very good week for me, and a hearty recommendation to others contemplating a week of fiddling and fiddling study. 


For more information visit the Centrum web site

Written by Ryan Thomson, 2001

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