My past and ongoing musical activities:
September 15, 2011,
We received a glowing review from Celtic Beat magazine of our CD! The text of the review
Music For Both Hands
This is one family album I truly dig the most. The continuity of a family is a truly religious
thing and it is doubled when there is more than DNA. That's what makes this CD so great. I
have known Ryan Thomson since antediluvian times(back in the late 1970s I recollect) and
I have watched the path to this CD through the years with the coming of age of his son
Brennish. They truly make a great team and when you hear them live or hear this CD you
really get the notion of the root and the branch, of family tree, in the truest sense.
Now for the music that binds this father son team together. The music of the Thomsons is
that of a seisiun, of a dance that is fun and informal, inviting, like their recent
performances at the Nashua Public Library and the Downtown Stroll we were at. Particular
favorites here were cut 2 with "La Bastringue"/"Pays de Haut," And where Ryan, builds
upon his longtime affinity with Tex Mex and Cajun , in his own composition "Sean's
Squeezebox" and in"Bayou Two Step."
Another clear sign of the versatility of this duo is in the strident and powerful English
tune(reminding me of Breton works) "Nonesuch" from the 1600s. And the Hungarian
"Friss Czardas." Ryan Thomson performs with both ease and spirit and that he
has imparted also to his son, at an early age a musician to watch. Added to this
international and also very American repertoire are classics of Irish and Scots music, two
being "Connaughtman's"/"My Darling Asleep"/Morrison's" jigs and "The Mason's Apron"
respectively, just to name two.
I have to mention that in addition to great music inside, this CD's physical persona is a
great cover and a family album of the Fiddling Thomsons on the inside. What a true link of
the root and the branch.
AK, Celtic Beat
May 15, 2011
The Fiddling Thomsons performed live on the Folk Show, FM 91.3 WUNH in Durham, New
Hampshire, USA. We played several sets of music from various countries - french Canada,
USA bluegrass and old time, Ireland, and Scotland. The Hippo, an arts and entertainment
newspaper published in Manchester, NH, did a nice feature story on us this week.
May 14, 2011,
The Fiddling Thomsons along with several other performers donated a musical set to
benefit the Lebanon, Maine, school music program. More than $700 was collected from
the evening concert at the Lebanon Town Hall.
May 1, 2011,
The Fiddling Thomsons new CD is out, titled simply - "Fiddling Thomsons, Music for both
hands." We're excited about it since we're getting a lot of great feedback. Its available
both as a physical CD and also as a digital download from iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, etc.
January 12, 2009
I've posted many new videos on You Tube, including from Equest Family Farm Festival,
fiddling in the Anza Borrego desert, Balboa Park, and other places in California, from The
Fiddling Thomsons concert on New Years Eve at Portsmouth First Night, The Newmarket
Heritage Festival, and other performances.
August 17, 2009
On Friday the 16th Brennish and I performed for Gilmanton, New Hampshire, Old Home
Day. In between sets we had the "bean hole supper" with 6 different choices of home
made pie! Then it was off to a private party gig in Wells, Maine later that night. Last
night, the 16th, I called a barn dance in Vermont. It was great fun!
August 13, 2009
I received feedback from a Fiddling Thomsons performance at the Lawrence Farmer's
Market this past wednesday:
"Hi Ryan, - I would like to thank both you and your son for your performance at the
Farmers Market in Lawrence, MA yesterday. It was a lively and fun show. Everyone enjoyed
Sandra Frechette - Program Manager, Livelawrence.org
April 28, 2009
I enjoyed running my booth at the New England Folk Festival this past weekend. It was fun
to reconnect with many old friends and make many new ones as well. My latest project is
to post videos of my playing on You Tube. These include former bands that I have played
in, TV interviews, and many solo clips of me playing my favorite tunes on several different
instruments. These can be found in several ways - searching "ryan thomson fiddle," for
example, or going to my Youtube channel with the user name "4stringjoe." I expect to be
posting new material every week.
November 2, 2008
The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts has published the Fall 2008 Arts News which
includes an article about a artist entreprenurial grant that I received to study traditional
June 1, 2008
I've written an article on traditional fiddling. The journal - Music for the Love of It, has
accepted it for publication in an upcoming issue. The Lincoln Center for the Arts, in New
York city, will be including excerpts from my book - The Fiddlers Almanac, in an upcoming
educational program in traditional music.
April 29, 2008
The new web site is up and running. I spent the past weekend at the New England Folk
Festival manning the Captain Fiddle booth.
March 24, 2008
I'm gearing up to teach my fiddle classes at Kittery Adult Education. I'm editing lots of
video of past performances and am gradually including it into the Captain Fiddle web site.
Nov 14, 2007
I just received word from Rachel Cole that her new CD is close to completion. I was
invited to play zydeco fiddle and accordion on a song along with fellow Crawdad Wranglers
bandmate Paul Mangion who provided the rub board sound.
September 22, 2007
My son Brennish and I performed at the Newmarket Heritage Festival and did a workshop
on folk music. Someone in the audience videotaped a portion of it and placed it on
July 1, 2007
I'm attending the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington in
July. This trip is supported in part by by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on
the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
June 21, 2007
I've completed a new educational video entitled - Irish Fiddling, First Lesson, by Ryan
March 18, 2007
A nice article about my music making appeared in a local paper - Foster's Daily Democrat.
Click here to read it.
I've been busy performing, writing, teaching. My articles on music education have been
published in Quarter Notes, and The Utah Music Educator's Journal, among others.
June 10, 2006
I've made a video DVD demo of my week long residency for the Brookline Schools. A
sample copy is available by request by other schools who may be soliciting arts educators
for programs ranging from single day to longer residencies. I specialize in hands on
programs involving traditional music and dance.
Release of a Contra Dance CD by Smoke and Mirrors.
Release of a multi-instrumental folk roots CD by the Squeezebox Stompers. We have also
posted several short video clips of us playing in concert, and for cajun and zydeco
November 24, 2005
A friend called me today and said, "Hey, the 'Spotlight' column in the paper has done a
review of your web site! So I looked it up, and sure enough, there was an interesting
piece in the Portsmouth Herald. Out of a possible 5, my site got a 4 for "coolness," and a 5
for "content." The reviewer dodn't give me a high score for "web design," but then I design
my site to load very fast, and avoid all of the modern bells and whistles. Here's the
By John Shore
I learned something new today. The man who taught it to me was Captain Fiddle. Ryan
Thomson is his real name and he doesn't even know he taught me anything. See I'm a
musician in a rock band. I love rock music. I think other types of music are fine but never
really imagined myself listening to much of anything else. Well along came Captain Fiddle.
I came across his Web site and figured I'd give it a once-over. Little did I know I would
really like the music. There are Mp3 clips on the site that showcase the multi-
instrumental talents of Captain Fiddle, which include, fiddle, piano, accordion and flute.
Some of these tunes really rock. I now have a new appreciation for other types of music.
I have to say that this site probably won't win any design awards. The quality of the
photos used is not great and the link buttons made me dizzy with all the colors. There
really aren't any graphics to speak of but please don't let this discourage you. This site is
packed with info about Ryan, his teaching, recording, and his involvement in nearly 10
different bands and groups.
The site has a link called Ryan's Writings that is absolutely fabulous. He covers scads of
topics like how he got started playing, performing at interesting venues, sharing the stage
with famous artists, experiencing floods, poison ivy, auto accidents and the list goes on.
This guy has seen it all and does a terrific job writing about it.
There are CDs, books and DVDs for sale on the site that cover everything from learning to
play the fiddle to instructions on how to build a wash tub bass. Some Web sites have a
few testimonials. This site has 27 years worth of unsolicited letters singing the praises of
Captain Fiddle. Now that's a solid endorsement.
August, 22, 2005
I've released a new fiddling book - Captain Fiddle's Tunes and Variations. In it I've provided
transcriptions of several versions of each of 32 different tunes that I play on my "teach
yourself" Fiddle learning CDs.
July 1, 2005
The Heart of New Hampshire featured me in their on line publication today. I've released
a new CD of 72 waltzes designed to accompany my book - Waltzes for Folk Instruments
and Country dancing.
April 25, 2005
I've been busy doing educational programs in local public schools, hands-on instruction in
various folk instruments - clogging, bones, pennywhistle, and an introduction to other
various folk instruments such as fiddle, banjo, flute, etc. Schools this month include
Oyster River High School and Stratham Middle School in New Hampshire.
My DVD video instruction courses in pennywhistle and celtic flute are now being
distributed by Sweetheart Flute Company.
March 20, 2005
Captain Fiddle Publications is proud to announce two new Instructional DVDs: Celtic
Wooden Flute, and How to Make and Play the Wash Tub Bass, both instructed by Ryan
March 11, 2005
I enjoyed performing for an American Red Cross benefit for Tsunami victims in the North
Shore Community College gymnasium. I taught a cajun dance workshop and sat in with my
old band from the 80's - the Boogaloo Swamis.
February 20, 2005
I've produced a demonstration video DVD of a live concert performance of the "Captain
Fiddle Band" at the Lynn Coffeehouse. This video is available on request for presenters of
coffeehouses, festivals, and any public or private events. Last night I played with Dudley
Laufman for a contra dance in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Today, it off to Watertown to
play for an Irish ceili dance with Ceol Tradisiunta na h'Eireann.
February 17, 2005
I've produced a demonstration video DVD of a recent class I taught, in "How to play in a
contra dance band." This DVD is available on request to institutions interested in hiring
me for teaching workshops, classes, and residencies.
February 7, 2005
We (the Crawdad Wranglers) had a great fat tuesday mardigras performance at the Loon
Mountain ski resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire. During our cajun and zydeco concert/
dance the folks at Loon gave away an all expenses paid trip to New Orleans, plus a number
of other prizes. The event was sponsored by Loon Golden Ale, a fine product of the
Woodstock Inn Brewery. There were lots of people dancing to our music, including
transplants from Louisiana, and skiiers just off the slopes.
January 29, 2005
I enjoyed fiddling at our local St Andrews Society Burns Night Dinner. A beautiful Haggis
was piped in, and I fiddled along with my cohorts from the New Boston Fancy band. There
were solo step dancers, story tellers, and course we played lively tunes for group Scottish
dancing to "Strip the Willow." It was altogether a fine evening.
January 15, 2005
The new year brings a new instructional DVD - Fiddling For Beginners DVD, designed to
accompany my previous book of the same name. The previous audio CD which
accompanied the book was very good, but the new DVD video is a big step forward!
December 15, 2004
I've been busy with early winter performing jobs: playing jazz violin for a local public
dinner/event, playing fiddle, flute, piano for several contra dances, playing bluegrass at a
house party, entertaining at a wedding in Vermont, performing for the Nashua Downtown
Stroll, etc. I donated my services to perform for an association of disabled individuals. I've
also just published a new clawhammer banjo instructional DVD. Its available as a single
item, and also as part of a complete kit for learning old time banjo right from scratch!
Oct 27, 2004
I performed as official fiddler for the ground breaking of the new wood chip fired power
plant at Gosling Station, Newington, New Hampshire. In attendance was governor Benson,
state senator Sununu, the president of Public Service company of New Hampshire, and
various other dignitaries. A nice photo of me playing fiddle at the event was published in
the Portsmouth Herald. I also performed this month at a number of weddings, business
gatherings, and barn dances, including one where I played fiddle solo and called the dance
at the same time.
September 20, 2004
Ellen Carlson, a director of the Fiddle Heads music camp, wrote this comment about my
teaching at the camp, which goes on every year in September, "Ryan is a very versatile
musician -- offering instruction in fiddle, piano, accordion, banjo, clogging, cajun dancing,
and many other things. This brings a great variety to our camp. The most important thing
is that he is especially a great teacher -- particularly with beginners. He is clear, easy-to-
follow, and a lot of fun."
Sept 18, 2004
I enjoyed performing at the Newmarket Heritage Festival despite the heavy cool rain
through much of the day. I was outdoors under cover and I dressed warmly for the
occassion. My job was to entertain passersby with lively music on several instruments
including accordion, fiddle, banjo, flute, and pennywhistle. The local press found my
music entertaining and I was photographed by both the Manchester Union Leader(while
playing Irish pennywhistle tunes), and Fosters Daily Democrat(while playing polkas on
accordion). After a day of music making at the festival, I was off to Tuftonboro, New
Hampshire, to fiddle at an old fashioned barn dance in the evening.
Sept 1, 2004
I returned this week from Prince Edward Island and two weeks of teaching at the Spud
Blossom music camp. I had a blast, and had many enthusiastic kids and adult learners in
my classes and in private lessons. I've sold out of the first printing of "Playing Violin and
Fiddle Left Handed," and have ordered a second printing of this book.
July 7, 2004
I've just published a new book of interest to folk dancers. Its a reprint of an early 19th
century instruction manual for clogging, entitled - The Clog Dance Book.
June 28, 2004
I had a busy week. I fiddled for a scottish wedding reception at the 100 Club in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Guests danced to the lively strains of Dashing White
Sergeant, the Gay Gordons, Atholl Highlanders, Maiiri's Wedding, and other Scottish
Country Dances. I also finished up a new educational video - "Piano Accompaniment to
Fiddlers, First Lesson, with Ryan Thomson."
June, 20, 2004
After almost 20 years of playing my accordian in jam sessions from California to England I
decided to put together an instructional video on DVD entitled - Accordian, Jam Session
Style, First Lesson, with Ryan Thomson.
June 13 th, 2004
I enjoyed playing Irish piano with both the Ceol Traidisiunta na H'Eireann ceili band, and
also The Boston Comhaltas ceili band at the Irish Cultural Center Festival this weekend in
Canton, Massachusetts. The best part is watching the set dancers while we play.
June 2, 2004
I had a busy past couple of weeks. I played Irish fiddle at a wedding in Jackson, New
Hampshire, Irish piano for a wedding in Salem, Massachusetts, and various instruments at
the annual banquet of the McManus Clan in Boxborough, Massachussetts. I played french
music for a gathering of the Winchester- St Germain french/american twin city group. I
led the Crawdad Wranglers at a wedding reception at Calumet Resort, in Freedom, New
May 26, 2004
Seacoast New Hampshire.com, (seacoast.nh.com) has posted an article about me today.
May 20, 2004
I've just finished a new instructional video on DVD and VHS entitled - Banjo, Clawhammer
Style, First Lesson, with Ryan Thomson.
May 5, 2004
I had many public and private performances last month, and finished up my present
series of Contra Dance classes in Kittery, Maine. I've been very busy in the studio
recording some new projects. Two new instructional videos for beginners have been
completed, one on pennywhistle, and the other on playing fiddle left handed.
Feb 5, 2004
After numerous requests I've written a book for beginning fiddlers. The interesting twist
is that its
THE WORLD'S FIRST INSTRUCTION BOOK FOR PLAYING THE VIOLIN LEFT HANDED!
Its a "Teach Yourself" method similar to my other books, but focussing on the needs of
lefty musicians who prefer to use their left hand to bow the violin on a fiddle with
reversed strings. Lefthanded people have long been discriminated against for prefering to
use their left hand to hold a pencil, or to bow a violin with their left arm, so here's the
easy solution: Left Handed Fiddling for Beginners, which includes a video DVD and book.
July 9, 2003
I've returned from Port Townsend , Washington, from teaching fiddle at the Festival of
American Fiddle Tunes. It was a great trip. I enjoyed the teaching and meeting lots of fine
musicians from many areas of the country.
May 25, 2003
The Book Review Cafe has posted an author interview with me about my Playing the
Violin and Fiddle Left Handed book. This month I've been busy with recording: mixing two
new CDs of the Crawdad Wranglers, and recording a CD of my contra dance band, Smoke
and Mirrors. I've played for several Irish dances in the Boston area, and did a cajun
performance at Riverfest in Jaffrey.
April 2, 2003
A new book is announced by Captain Fiddle Publications:
Playing Violin and Fiddle Left Handed, by Ryan Thomson, which is a compendium of info
on left handed playing from the experiences of over 100 other lefty players.
December 8, 2002
Two new books are announced by Captain Fiddle Publications - Dobsons New System for
Banjo, a reprint of the original 1877 Ditson edition written by George C. Dobson, a
professional 5 string banjo player and composer, and Modern Quadrille Call Book and
Dancing Master, a reprint of the original 1902 edition written by dancing master A.C.
I enjoyed playing back to back contra dances this past weekend with the Smoke and
Mirrors band: at the Windham Town Hall, New Hampshire, Frank Woodard calling; and in
Medway, Massachusetts, at the Christ Episcopal Church, Linda Leslie calling.
November 20, 2002
My contra dance class at Kittery Adult Ed finished up with a bang. The student musicians:
fiddles, banjo, hammered dulcimer, piano, and tin whistles, graduated with honors by
playing for a contra dance in the school cafeteria . It was a pleasure for me to call the
dance with their solid playing keeping the dancers moving in a lively manner.
November 17, 2002
A new book is announced by Captain Fiddle Publications - The Practical History of the
Violin, originally published in 1911, which includes a list and biography of 1200 violin
makers and illustrations of 778 violin labels. I am also presently readying a reprint of a
vintage dance caller's manual, originally published in 1902, which includes detailed
descriptions of quadrilles, round dances, cotillions, lancers, and other popular dances.
November 1, 2002
I am putting the final touches on a new book to be published by Captain Fiddle
Publications, with an historical look at past violin makers. I've enjoyed doing several
private barn dance jobs with Dudley and Jacqueline Laufman this past month. I played for
two contra dances in the Kingston Town Hall. My "how to play in a contra dance class" is
going very well at Traip Academy, Kittery Adult Education. We have worked up up some
fine medleys of jigs, reels, waltzes, couple dances, and more.
Oct 22, 2002
I've had a busy summer and fall, playing for many dances: cajun, contra, Irish, and
Scottish. I played for a wedding where the entire wedding party rode an open chair ski lift
to the top of a mountain for the ceremony, high heels and all! My performance venues
have included: Pats Peak, Codman Farm, Hampton Seafood Festival, Mainewoods Folk
Dance Camp, and performing for the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce at the historic
July 9, 2002
I'm back from Seattle from the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. I had a great time with
lots of good jams with all sorts of fiddle music. The good news is that I've been asked to
be on staff as a Fiddle Tutor" for next year at the festival! It was fun to play fiddle in the
Seattle airport while waiting for my plane to fly out. Before long, several other musicians
Last Saturday I gave a clinic on folk fiddle bowing techniques to violinists and string
teachers sponsored by ASTA, the American String Teachers Association. Yesterday morning
I was up bright and early to play bluegrass and country fiddle tunes at 8 am in the marble
lobby of a downtown Boston financial building. It was a "Texas" and country music theme
event day for the various tenants of the building and I was greeted with many smiles as I
played tunes such the Yellow Rose of Texas, Sally Goodin, Sally Johnson, Midnight on the
Water, Bill Cheatum, etc.
June 18, 2002
Well, I'm a bit remiss in keeping up to date in this section, but I'll describe some recent
highlights. I played for 5 dances last week: with two different ceili bands, Saturday and
Sunday at The Stonehill College Irish Festival, a barn dance in Candia, New Hampshire with
"Two Fiddles," Dudley and Jackie Laufman, a 30 minute dance for every class of the
Kennsington Elementary school, and a private function square dance at 9:00 am in the
morning in the rain! Playing an outdoor dance in the rain is a first for me. I left the fiddle
indoors, borrowed a raincoat, and played my pennywhistle.
November 23, 2001
I've finished recording a new CD. The title is "Ryan Thomson, Tune Collector, Let's Jam!"
This is my first recording which includes most of the styles of music and different
instruments that I play, all in one place. It includes: fiddle (old time, cajun, celtic); banjo
(clawhammer); pennywhistle (Irish); piano(swing - jitterbug); accordian(cajun, tex-mex);
October 22, 2001 -
I wrote an arrangement of the New Hampshire Hornpipe for string quartet, and greatly
enjoyed hearing it performed by a chamber orchestra in Swampscott, Massachusettes.
October 7, 2001 -
Go to this link for information on some good sessions I've attended recently, and some
other topics of interest to me.
September 30, 2001 -
Steve Brown and I performed at the Antrim Celtic Festival as Shake, Rattle, and Bow. I
taught the beginning pennywhistle workshop earlier in the day. I got great satisfaction in
seeing people who had never previously played the whistle learn how to play a simple
tune during the course of the workshop!
September 11, 2001 - I've been pretty busy this past summer traveling to many music
events. I visited the Augusta Heritage Center, Ashokan Fiddle and Dance camp, the
Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, and the Fiddleheads
Stringband Camp where I on on staff teaching fiddle, music theory, celtic ornamentation,
August, 2001 - Strings Magazine published my article on playing left handed violin in their
August issue, and included a picture of me playing two violins at the same time.
July 13, 2001 - Here's an excerpt from the Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, New Hampshire,
July 13 issue:
Durham - Silver Squares enjoyed an outstanding program of chamber music presented by
the "For the Love of It" string quartet recently at the Community Church of Durham.
Guest artists included Loiuse Foreberg Kandle of Durham, first violin; Ryan Thomson of
Newmarket, second violin; Jean Alvord of Kittery, Maine; and Fred Greenberg of Durham,
cello. Selected movements were featured from quartets by Mozart, Haydn, and Dvorak.
The group received a standing ovation at the close of the performance."
June 8, 2001 - I received this note today: Congratulations! Captain Fiddle has been named
as the "Band of the Week" by NHTunes and HippoPress Manchester. Please checkout the
web posting (gig of the week) on NHTunes.com and the printed article in HippoPress
everywhere in Manchester)
May 4, 2001 - The new version of my Chord Encyclopedia for fiddle tunes and country
dance melodies is about to go to press. I've added 300 tunes to the collection for a total
of 1400. This new version comes in two sizes: the orginal compact sizeand alarge 8 1/2 by
11 inch format with easier to read large type. My session at Biddy Mulligan's pub is turning
into a lot of fun.
March 25, 2001 - I had the honor to be invited to play with the Comhaltas Ceili Band for a
filmed documentary on Celtic music, which is to be broadcast in France in May. The band
is led by Larry Reynolds, who organises the Boston Comhaltas chapter. We were filmed by
a french film crew in Boston, on Sunday, March 25th.
March 24, 2001 - The Crawdad Wranglers played their 12th or 13th annual cajun dinner/
dance at the Newmoon Coffee House! (We've lost count of the actual number of times
we've done the dance)
March 17, 2001 - St Patrick's day was low key for me this year. My band, TWA, played for a
contra dance at the Down East Dance festival in Lewiston, Maine, during the afternoon. I
purposely didn't do a gig that evening, though, so I'd have lots of energy for the
"Breakfast." in South Boston. It was fun. I got to meet the new Heavyweight champion of
the world who made a guest appearance. I sat next to Mayor Menino(of Boston) and acting
governor of Massachusetts, Jane Swift, who claimed she liked the band. I played a lot of
flute and accordian.
Its funny that with such a fancy gig, there is no provision to feed the band, so I ended up
eating much of Mayor Menino's untouched corned beef and cabbage after he left the hall!
Everybody made lots of jokes about Governor Celluci, but he seemed happy with his
appointment as ambassador to Canada. The Nobel peace prize winner from Ireland gave a
serious talk, but ended with a song. There was a lot of singing, including a Mass state
trooper in full dress uniform who sang all of the verses to Danny Boy. The various singers
kept the band scrambling, as we struggled to figure out what keys they were attempting
to sing in!
June 17, 2000 - I enjoyed the Celebrate New Hampshire festival. There were
approximately 30,000 people attending over its 5 day stretch. I played piano and banjo for
several barn dances as accompaniment for "Two Fiddles," Irish fiddle for ceili dancing,
Scottish fiddle for couple dancing, and helped host the scheduled open jam at the Picnic
Grove. In between, I had to periodically leave the New Hampshire state fairgrounds to
perform at other local events: a fiddling performance at the opening festivities for Market
Square Day, a performance on Market Square Day itself at the Ranger Foundation stage,
and to play piano at the Stonehill Irish Festival with the Ceol Tradisiúnta na hÉireann ceili
June 1, 2000 - I finished teaching my two 5 week fiddle classes at Kittery Adult Education.
I had 15 enthusuastic fiddle students!
April 18 , 2000 - The big news for me this month is that the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
has contacted me to take part as a musician in Hopkinton in June in the "Celebrate New
Hampshire" program. This past weekend I led my annual "Fiddling for Beginners" workshop
at the New England Folk Festival.
March 18, 2000 - Wow, I'm getting behind in keeping up to date! This year has started off
with a bang. The Crawdad Wranglers performed for the 4th time In Quincy, Mass for New
Years eve. I accepted a position teaching fiddle classes at the Kittery, Maine, Adult
Education school, starting in April. I'm working up tunes for a new CD, I'm writing a tune
book of all of my original music, I'm playing a lot of wooden flute lately, mostly Irish
Luckily our New England weather has been cooperating, and there has been very little
snow to shovel, giving me more music time! My book, The Fiddle and Violin Buyer's guide
has been consistantly in the top 10% of books sold through Amazon.com!
December 16, 1999 - Myself and fellow Crawdad Wrangler Brian traveled to Ipswich,
Massachusettes to do a musical program(see photos) for students at two elementary
schools. The kids were enthusiastic participants, clapping and singing along, and coming
up with great questions about how all of the folk instruments made music.
September 19, 1999 - Myself and two other members of the Crawdad Wranglers ran in a
local 4 mile road race. After a shower and change of clothes we headed over to the
Newmarket Heritage festival where we performed two sets of lively cajun and zydeco
September 18, 1999 - I won a local fiddle contest today, played an afternoon gig at the
historical Jackson House in Porstmouth, New Hampshire, and then played fiddle for a
contra dance in Concord, NH.
July 3, 1999 - I've finished a new book - Banjo Tab Book, which consists of transcriptions of
the old time clawhammer banjo tabs from my Great Bay Stomp CD. I've also just finished
recording a new CD album - Newmarket Duets, Ryan Thomson and friends. I play fiddle,
accordion, banjo, and flute, with friends playing guitar, hammered dulcimer, Irish harp,
jaw harp, bones, triangle, and guiro.
April 7, 1999 - I released my popular fiddle learning tapes in CD form. They are completely
indexed for finding tunes quickly and easily on the CD.
April 2, 1999 - I released a new CD of southern style squaredance tunes that I played solo
on the fiddle. Its entitled Flop Eared Mule.
Mar 14, 1999 - Saint Patrick's Day Breakfast with Senator Stephen F. Lynch - The same as
last year, the breakfast took place in the Iron Workers Hall in South Boston. I was again
asked to be part of the band to entertain for the festivities. We opened the celebration
with fiddle tunes and songs. There were numerous featured guests and speakers
including: Stephen Lynch, The Governor and Lt. Governor of Massachusettes, the major of
Boston, delagations from Ireland, and dignitaries from throughout New England.
Dec 31, 1998 - The Crawdad Wranglers performed for the second time for First Night
Quincy . It was a fun job again.
October 14th, 1998 - The Crawdad Wranglers performed for the "Governor's New American
Appreciation Awards," in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Governor of Massachusetts and
other important dignitaries attended and spoke. The highlight of the fancy dinner that
followed included some tasty raspberry tarts for desert.
October 10th, 1998 - I had 12 students at my cajun fiddle workshop in Kingston, NH. It was
a very rainy day, but we were cozy and dry in the "fiddler's loft" in the barn!
October 4, 1998 - I fiddled traditional fiddle tunes for the North Andover Historical Society
Festival at The Parson Barnard House. A photo.
September 18/19 - Fiddlehead camp was a rousing success! We had a good turnout of
fiddlers at all levels. We are now gearing up towards an expanded offering for next year. I
taught workshops in "music theory for fiddlers," "dance fiddling," did individual
instruction, and called some evening dances. The food was remarkable, and the camp site
on the sandy shores of Newfound Lake, in New Hampshire, was one of the best music
camp sites I've ever been to.
September 9, 1998 - The Crawdad Wrangler's live recording is finished! The Cajun Dance
Party CD contains on-stage recordings at dances and music festivals in New Hampshire and
August 21, 1998 - I've returned to New Hampshire and I'm back in the studio. I've finished
up my new album of original celtic tunes, and the New Hampshire Hornpipe album is now
available and in the Captain Fiddle catalog.! I'm now finishing up a CD project for my cajun
band, The Crawdad Wranglers. I've also issued a CD version of my Fiddling for Beginners
July 12 - July 18 - Augusta Heritage Center. This week's focus was swing and blues. I
worked on my blues and swing fiddling, and did a little jitterbug dancing on the side.
July 4- 11 - Augusta Heritage Center, Elkins, West Virginia. I drove from New Hampshire to
WV on the 4th July, with surprisingly little traffic, and the benefit of fireworks displays
along the highway at dusk. Augusta has a series of specialty music programs and this first
week focused on cajun and zydeco dance, music, and culture.
June 28, 1998 - La Kermesse French Festival in Biddeford, ME. The Crawdad Wranglers
performed cajun, zydeco, and French music onstage at this event.
June 27, 1998 - Wood Day, at the Shaker Village in Canterbury, NH - I played solo fiddle on
stage as part of a weekend event featuring music and wood working exhibits. I played
mostly selections from my new album project, "New Hampshire Hornpipe," which I've
finished recording at Fishtraks Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Final mixing will
take place when I return from the Augusta Heritage Center in August.
June 9, 1998 - Ryan's Rag, Wood Chopper's Reel, Barn Dance Tonight, CDs - I've taken many
of my old recordings which originally came out on cassette, and have remastered them to
CD format. In the process I've added a lot of tunes that I had never previously released,
and have also changed the selection order of the various tunes on the albums. These
three CD's are all solo fiddle recordings, with no accompaniment.
June 7, 1998 - Southbridge Concert, at the town common in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
The Crawdad Wranglers performed a cajun and zydeco concert under cover of a large
gazebo on several acres of green lawn. We were discouraged at first because of the rain,
but the common was situated in such a way that automobiles were able to line both sides
of the common to face the stage. A few brave souls were in front of the stage dancing in
the rain, but a count of approximately 250 people in their cars were also actively enjoying
the performance. We discovered this immediately after our first song when there was a
clamoring of car horns and flashing headlights! It was a different type of audience
applause than we were used to, and quite fun.
May 28, 1998 - Great Bay Stomp, solo banjo album - I finished my solo banjo album for CD
release today. It is essentially a re-release of my previous album on cassette, but with the
addition of another tune, a Kerry polka, which wouldn't fit on the cassette because of a
April 25, 1998 - New England Folk Festival, Natick, Massachusetts - I gave my 15th annual
"Fiddling for Beginners" workshop which was packed as usual. In fact, every event by many
talented performers and teachers was well attended by thousands of enthusuastic
dancers and music makers.
April 17, 1998 - Thistle Inn, Boothbay Harbor, Maine - I performed traditional celtic music
with my partner Rich on flute. This is the first non-smoking pub I've performed in. The
dinner specialties are supposedly very good here, but they ran out of food sometime
during our performance and offered us pizza instead, which was good. The owners have
done a nice job of restoring the historical site.
March 28, 1998 - Bob McQuillen's "50 years of playing piano for contra dances in the
Peterborough Town Hall party." I had the honor of playing fiddle with Bob for a lively
dance in New Hampshire. The hall was packed with dancers from several different states,
including the west coast, all in attendance to honor Bob. If you've read my some of my
other materials, you already know that I consider Bob my favorite dance piano player. I
also have the honor of being the recipient of one of Bob's original compositions, "Ryan's
Reel," which is in Bob's Tunebook #10.
Mar 15, 1998 - Saint Patrick's Day Breakfast with Senator Stephen F. Lynch and Vice
President Al Gore - The same as last year, the breakfast took place in the Iron Workers
Hall in South Boston. I was again asked to be part of the band to entertain for the
festivities. We opened the celebration with fiddle tunes and songs. There were numerous
featured guests and speakers including: Stephen Lynch, Senator Kerry, The mayor of
Boston, Ray Flynn, the US Olympic Women's Hockey Team, and many others. (Senator
Kerry told the best jokes, Stephen Lynch was the best singer, the hockey players were
the cutest, and Al Gore stole the show)
Highlights for me included: Al Gore coming up on stage and shaking my hand on national
television; watching the secret service dogs sniffing my fiddle and accordion cases
carefully, to be assured of their quality, I assume; playing some rousing sets of tunes for
the assembly; and finishing up Al Gore's cornbeef and cabbage after he left the building.
(He hardly touched his food, and I didn't want to see it go to waste)
Mar 4, 1998 - I've finished up my part of a locally done recording project. I was invited to
play claw hammer banjo on one track of the CD, and some sets of traditional Polish
mazurkas on fiddle on two other tracks. I had fun doing the recording. I'm also happy to
have added some Polish pieces to my "international" repertoire. I'm now planning to start
a recording project of my own!
Feb 11-15, 1998 - I attended the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, TN. This was a great
opportunity for networking with other professionals, and jamming with musicians from
around the world.
Dec 31, 1997 - The Crawdad Wranglers performed for First Night Quincy in the council
chambers of the Quincy City Hall. It was a fun job, with Boston's TV channel 4 news team
filming the event. Outside, in front of the building, loudspeakers played cajun and zydeco
music to fit the mood. President John Quincy Adams probably rolled over, and then did
the cajun two step, in his grave.
Nov 22, 1997- My cajun band, The Crawdad Wranglers, performed for a cajun dinner/dance
in Stow, Massachusetts. We had a packed house, a surprising number of kids, and
incredibly good food. I'm picky about my pecan pie, but it was the tops, and also the
pumpkin! I taught cajun dance steps and everyone had a fine time!
Nov 14,15,16 , 1997- I attended the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in Lake
Harmony, Pennsylvania. This event is dedicated to the "business" end of folk music:
getting hired, making recordings, etc. There are also lots of opportunities to jam and
network with other folk music professionals.
Nov 7,8,9, 1997 - I attended the Northeast Music and Dance Festival in Newtown,
Connecticut and enjoyed dancing, jamming, and leading the cajun session. This is a great
dance festival run by some really nice folks who are dedicated to promoting traditional
Oct 18-19, 1997 - I attended the Fall Festival in New Jersey, a weekend of music, song,
dance, and jams at a YMCA camp in the mountains. This fine event is sponsored by the
Folk Project. My review.
Sept 26-28, 1997 - I attended the Heritage Dance Festival in Philadelphia. I took classes in
many varieties of ethnic folk dancing and played fiddle for the English country dancing,
contra dancing, international dancing, and sessions in Klezmer and Irish music. My review.
Sept 21, 1997 - America's Stonehenge, Fall Equinox Celebration, Londonderry, New
Hampshire. This archeological site has been dated at over 4000 years old and includes
many stones set into astrological patterns. We performed celtic music on a stage in
alignment with the setting sun and ancient stone markers. We finished our performance
shortly before sundown and then joined audience members at the hilltop site to watch
the sun sink and see its rays line up with the huge granite boulders set into the earth.
Sept 5-7, 1997 - Wheatland Music Festival, Remus, Michigan. Can you imagine a festival
with 15,000 attendees that sells out of tickets two months before the event!? East
Coasters don't hear much about goings-on in Michigan, but I've got a new event to put
into my top ten USA festival list.
Sept 4, 1997 - I arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday night, just in time for the
local ceili dance. I had meant to come and dance but had brought my fiddle along as an
afterthought. My friend introduced me to the band, (all members named David, no
kidding!)who immediately invited me to join them and play. Afterward, we all went out
for a bite and a pint. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
Aug 23-25, 1997 - Northumbrian Piper's Convention, North Hero, Vermont. I've seen lots of
bagpipes before, but never so many different kinds all in one place: Polish, Spanish,
Greek, Scottish, Irish, and other varieties, some quiet, some loud, some even louder. I
heard a Northumbrian quartet perform a chamber music type piece in four parts. Piper
Alan Jones organizes this annual piping extravaganza. I had plenty of opportunity to play
fiddle, particularly with the Irish style pipers. Review of Piper's convention.
Aug 9 -16 ,1997- Summer Acoustic Music Week. This was my first year on the staff of this
week long music camp located on the beautiful shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New
Hampshire. I taught an enthusiastic beginning guitar class, organized the dance band
workshop, and called the evening dances throughout the week. SAMW web site.
Aug 2, 3, 1997 - I attended Clifftop (The Eighth Annual Appalachian String Band Music
Festival) I finally made it this year after hearing loads of good things about this festival,
located at Camp Washington-Carver in West Virginia. There was more old timey music
concentrated in one place than I could ever imagine. On Saturday night the high energy
old time dance ended at 2 am, I was in my sleeping bag by 3 am, and the campground jam
sessions continued in full force till 7 am when I awoke to one last tune to go to breakfast
with my camping partners. Review of Clifftop.
July 14 - Aug 2, 1997 - I attended Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia. I went 3 weeks
straight for a healthy dose of traditional folk music: Swing, Irish, French Canadian, and
lots of dancing. More about Augusta.
June 27 - July 7, 1997 - Traveling to Washington State. I stayed in Seattle for the first
couple of days, jamming with some friends. I visited the Dusty Strings music store. Harps
and hammered Dulcimers are a specialty, although they had a large selection of other
instruments, books, recordings and supplies. It is staffed by informed and friendly
persons. Be sure to visit them when you come to Seattle!
I also attended the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, learning lots of
new tunes and visiting with fiddling friends from around the country.
Wed, June 18 1997 - Performing old time fiddle and banjo music for a staff party at
Citizen's Bank in Mancester, New Hampshire. We posed between numbers and a
photographer sent me this picture.
Sat May 17, 1997 - Calling a barn dance for the New Hampshire Farm Museum. One of the
advantages of being a fiddler and barn dance caller living in New England is that I get to
actually call dances in real barns! In this case the dance was held in a large working barn
built in the mid 1800's with hayloft, cows, chickens, hogs, goats, and assorted field mice
present. When I got up the next morning I noticed that my clothes still retained a bit of
"barn" smell, an authentic touch for the previous night's festivities.
Fri, Sat, Sun, Apr25,26,27, 1997 - Attending the 53rd Annual New England Folk Festival. This
was my 21st year at the festival, and my 11th time hosting the "Captain Fiddle Booth." My
favorite part of the festival is visiting with my folk music friends from around the country.
I had to leave the festival for a while on Saturday since I had two back to back wedding
gigs, but was back in time to sample lots of good dancing, music, and tasty ethnic
The weather was sunny and warm which meant lots of outside dancing and music making.
There were lots of great jam sessions with ethnic music of all types. My fiddle workshop
on Sunday was well attended and I was impressed with the increasing interest in learning
traditional music by kids. They asked more questions than the adults!
Fri, Sat, Sun, Apr 11, 12, 13, 1997 - Attending the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann National
Convention in Danvers, Massachusetts - This year the Irish music and dance convention
was only a short drive for me and I was able to attend most of the activities and still play
at my regular sessions. There was continuous music and dancing from morning till
morning. I left an active Sat session at 4 am Sunday morning in order to get a little sleep
to be back later in the day. The highlight of this years convention for me was playing in an
impromptu ceili in the hotel lobby on Sunday night at 8:30 pm, long after the official
events had ended. A few musicians had gathered near the grand piano which I was playing
while giving my fiddle a rest. The group grew in size to about 15 fiddles, accordions,
flutes, banjos, and bodhrans and the musical energy rose in intensity. Before long,
dancers appeared on the scene and soon there were sets forming. At one point the band
was playing a medley of spirited reels with an accordion leading. A banjo player next to
me informed me of key changes coming up. The dancers in 3 sets danced 10 straight
figures of of 3 different set dances. I estimate that we played 15 to 20 reels in a row!
Sat, April 5, 1997 - Playing fiddle at the "Brain Trust" Birthday Party, at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology - The Brain Trust is an organization dedicated to providing
support, information, and online applications for people who are personally affected by
neurological disorders. It is a nonprofit organization founded by Samantha Jane
Scolamiero. I met Samantha(Brain Woman) at the New England Folk Festival in 1996. We
hit it off immediately since we were both interested in fiddling, and had both suffered
from neurological disorders. At the party/meeting, I played lots of fiddle tunes and met
some very interesting folks. I wish Samantha all the best, as her organization grows. For
more information on the brain trust, email: email@example.com
Tues, March 25, 1997 - Attending an Irish Session at The Blarney Stone in San Diego,
California- The only regular public Irish pub session in San Diego is at the Blarney Stone on
Balboa Avenue, Kearney Mesa, on every Tuesday evening at 7:30. I try to attend every
time that I'm in San Diego. By chance, a number of old friends that I played music with
while living in San Diego in the 70's also attended this particular evening. We had a good
bout of jigs, reels, and songs with about 15-20 musicians present.
Toward the end of the evening someone started singing a song in a tongue foreign to my
experience, and a group of women stood up and began dancing in a slow undulating
fashion. As I stared with my mouth wide open, the person seated next to me turned and
whispered in my ear that the singer (from Ireland)had married a Maori from New Zealand,
and that this was a traditional Maori song and dance.
Sun, March 16, 1997 - Saint Patrick's Day Breakfast with Senator Stephen F. Lynch - The
breakfast took place in the Iron Workers Hall in South Boston this year. I was hired as part
of the band to entertain for the festivities. We opened the celebration with traditional
fiddle tunes and songs. There were numerous featured speakers including: Stephen
Lynch, Governor Weld, Senator Kerry, The mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, and a live call in
conversation with the vice president - Al Gore.
Highlights included: backing up Stephen Lynch on some Irish songs, (He's a good singer),
backing up a duet between Governor Weld and John Kerry, (arms around each other
singing a parody of "Side by Side) and sampling the corned beef and cabbage meal after
we were done performing. Every time that there was a lull in the scheduled events some
one would point to the band, and we'd be off on a spirited version of Drowsy Maggie, or
the Mason's Apron.