Readers of Fiddler Magazine will be aware of the long history of playing music on bowed instruments—they go back through the millennia. As means for making music in all sorts of entertainment and ceremonial situations, they spread throughout the world and are present in virtually every culture. The “fiddle” family of instruments is diverse and global.
Given this fact, it is surprising to find that no specific day or occasion has ever been set to celebrate the contribution to music and world cultures that this family of instruments has made. In short, after undertaking a research project to establish its existence, it became clear to me that there is no World Fiddle Day.
In setting out to remedy this situation, I had to think about playing music on this range of instruments in a way I never had before. For example, what is the best day to do it, how do you do it, how do you even get the message out? What are the best logistics for a project which appears to never have been previously undertaken? I decided that it should take place on a Saturday, when most cultures have the time to allow them to celebrate. That’s fine, but what if you have it in the summer in the more populated Northern Hemisphere and it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere? Outdoor events in the snow might not be fun. So the spring/autumn combination was clearly the best for accommodating everyone. Thus the month of May seemed a good prospect. The next problem was the date. Antonio Stradivari’s birth date is unknown but we do know he died on the 19th day of the month of December. To honour his position in the story of the development of the instrument, the Saturday falling closest to May 19th each year was chosen. The first World Fiddle Day will therefore take place on Saturday, May 18th, 2013.
World Fiddle Day is a simple concept. It is about getting people who play on this family of instruments to celebrate the beauty which these instruments create by playing on that day, and also by allowing those who are attracted to the music as listeners or those learning the instruments to greater appreciate them. This can be done by providing some form of learning opportunity through an educational event such as a workshop—“try the instrument” session, etc. It is that simple. Even simpler, you might just play a few tunes on your porch. You might dedicate a piece from your concert as first violinist with the Philharmonic Orchestra in celebration of the day. You might offer a free workshop for your fellow musicians. It is as big and as small as you want to make it. It is as simple and as wildly creative as you want to make it. You can contribute to the celebration on your own or with others. But do something.
There are some simple principles that go with the day. First, it is an inclusive celebration. That is to say that, by definition, no one is left out. Second, it does not seek to promote hierarchies of instruments. For example, cellos are not more important than Hardanger fiddles and violas are not more important than violins, etc.
The challenges to having a great day on World Fiddle Day are many and certainly more than I can fully anticipate, but I see two as the main ones. One is overcoming the perceived gap between the “classical” and the “vernacular” forms of music. The day can only be a true success if players who have a kinship with the “violin” family do not conclude they are excluded because this is for “fiddlers.” We need everyone to celebrate. The other challenge is getting players of all forms of the instrument family, from the viola, cello, double bass, Hardanger, viola da gamba, octobasses etc., etc., to see that it is about them participating and celebrating as well.
Who and How?
Who should celebrate and how to celebrate is easy. It is simply up to you as an individual or with a group of your friends. Your celebration can be simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. Play a tune. Compose a tune. Teach someone. Have a fiddle flashmob! It is up to you, but celebrate the beauty of the music created by these instruments.
Progress to Date
A short-term challenge in this effort was always going to be getting the message out amongst musicians and listeners. Thankfully, by living in a world that rapidly communicates on a global scale, the IT media has played its part. An email sent to Mary Larsen, editor of Fiddler Magazine, provided an instant positive response and offer of help in promoting the idea. A Facebook page and Twitter account for World Fiddle Day have been established and are spreading the word. A webpage at www.worldfiddleday.com is also promoting the concept and participation. But in short, it will all come down to people doing their bits, both large and small, on the day.
Any Other Ideas and Help?
I would greatly appreciate any help which you might be able to offer. Ideas are greatly welcome and can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All sorts of things would help. For example, if someone could design a logo which could be submitted to Google to use on their search engine on May 18th, that would certainly help. We also welcome additional translations of the information on the website. It’s little things like that which will help enormously.
I have no doubt that World Fiddle Day will have a modest start. But I also believe, based simply on the beauty of the music of the family of instruments and with the good will which the world of musicians extend in sharing and promoting this music, that World Fiddle Day will continue to grow annually and can achieve wonderful things.
In the meantime, think globally and fiddle locally.
I am deeply indebted to Mary Larsen for her instant and on-going support for this project and to Alan Reid of Alan Reid Design, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, Ireland, for his IT and design support.