Fiddling Around

I try not to brag on our son too much or I might sound like a broken record, but with Father’s day coming up, I can play the proud father for awhile. Aidan impresses us in all kinds of ways, but one way is with music. He’s played violin since he was four and is working his way through the Suzuki repertoire. Since he was 8, he’s taken fiddle lessons from Jim Brock, a local fiddler who played with Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and the Salzman Brothers, among others. They sit around and play music, which I get to record. Mr. Brock teaches Aidan old-time fiddle tunes, country songs, bluegrass, jazz, Western Swing, etc., and since he doesn’t read music, they do it all by ear. Mr. Brock has also introduced us to a number of great old fiddlers — Kenny Baker is one of Aidan’s favorites, as are Tommy Jackson, Benny Martin, Arthur Smith, and Charlie Stripling. So Aidan has developed a wide range of styles and a sizable repertoire. At one count, they were up to nearly 200 songs, though some aren’t full songs — just the fiddle licks to songs Mr. Brock plays with his band. Some are ones we learned and haven’t kept up on, but many are ones that Aidan has played at Pilgrimage or that he continues to play, and a few are ones he picked up off of a CD.

This year, we decided it was time to get Aidan to play in public. He’s done performances with the Suzuki groups and orchestra, of course, and he plays now and then with Mr. Brock, lately at the senior dance in New Hope, but then he’s not on his own, and he often just plays on a few songs with Mr. Brock. So we signed him up to play at the Columbus MS Hitching Lot Farmer’s Market. To prepare, we went through his extensive list and pulled out the songs he thought he could have ready. We came up with 6 sets of about 110 songs total. It was ambitious, but he was up for the task. For the past two weeks or more, he’s been practicing over an hour a day to get his sets ready to go.

This morning, he played his three hour gig, and did a marvelous job. In that time, he took a couple of longer breaks to refuel with a pastry from one of the vendors, and he only repeated a couple of songs near the very end. He played from 7:00 a.m. until about 9:45, when everyone was packing up their wares. And he hardly missed a beat, even when Mother Goose showed up and danced with kids to his songs. (If you’re not from Columbus, then you won’t know Edwina Williams, this Columbus institution — the town’s child librarian who has performed as MG for decades. Let’s just say she’s flamboyant, esp. in full costume with flowered hat and stuffed goose.) Here are links to three of the songs he played (If you look close, you can just see Mother Goose in the first one behind the tent pole): Methodist PreacherOrange Blossom Special, and Scotland.

All he had to work with was his set list with the titles and the note each song starts on. He had come up with this idea as a way to help him keep them all straight, though in the end, I don’t think he even needed it! This morning was a lovely morning. Lots of people stopped by to listen, and the weather was grand, actually fairly cool for June in Mississippi. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the weekend.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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