On Saturday the 16th of April 2016, www.irishtradmusic.nl hosted two fiddle events in the small village of Sassenheim, near Leiden. During the morning and afternoon, an Irish traditional fiddle workshop was held for beginners while in the evening a masterclass was organised for experienced violin players. For both classes, fiddle teacher and performer Matt Cranitch prepared a class specifically catered towards the groups experience.
On Saturday morning, the fiddle and violin players started to drop in one-by-one as the doors opened at the Julianakerk in Sassenheim. With some coffee and tea in hand, people quickly introduced themselves to the others and it appeared that some people of the group had already seen each other at some point in their fiddle careers.
There were people from both, the locality (like Leiden and Katwijk), as well as further away like Heerhugowaard and Groningen. One participant came especially from Brussels to be in this class which was much appreciated.
A stand was prepared with books and articles relating to Irish traditional music and fiddle playing in particular. Books about fiddle players Ben Lennon and Connie O’Connell for example, as well as the classic O’Neills book and Breatnachs tune collections.
After Matt had introduced himself to the group, he asked the inevitable question to each participant: “Play a tune for us.”. One can imagine that a question like this creates anxiety for each participant but it is actually a very common question in workshops like these. All of the 12 participants mustered the courage to play a tune on their own. Due to the atmosphere of the group, everybody listened to each other attentively which was a great boon for all the players!
After this introduction, the lessons started whereby bowing technique was the center of attention. The bow and bowing technique have a huge importance in the Irish fiddle music as it is used to produce both tone and rhythm. Many different exercises were shown and practiced to improve bowing in waltzes, jigs, polkas and slides.
During the day, Matt showed many ways on how to improve bowing technique but also other aspects of fiddle playing like phrasing, ornamentation, etc.
Even the aspect of fiddle playing called ‘octave playing’ was discussed. Octave playing is very popular in Sliabh Luachra music, but also in Donegal music, where some instruments will play the tune an octave below the regular register. When 2 or 3 fiddles are playing the a tune, and one goes down an octave, this gives a completely new dimension to the music. It is also great fun to do when you are playing with your friends and it also very good exercise to find your way on your fiddle!
We like to thank all fiddle players for participating on this great day and we hope you found the workshop to contain some valuable information to get your fiddle playing going for couple of months to come!