Many Strings, Many Bows
By Susan Maxwell Skinner
The California State Old Time Fiddlers Association boasts many junior members. Pictured: District 5’s Fiddle Kids warm up with adult hero, Fair Oaks virtuoso Dave Bergan. Back left, instructor Eric Andersen elevates the group’s youngest musician, two -year-old son, Owen. Photo by Susan Skinner
Orangevale – A monthly “fiddlers’ jam” at the Orangevale Grange Hall brings violinists out of the fret work.
The second-Sunday meet is patronized by up to 200 amateur, professional and die-hard musicians of all ages. Some have beards whiter than the horse hair of their bows. Others are in grade school. The youngest, 2 year-old Owen Anderson, struggles to get a scaled down fiddle under his dimpled chin.
All members of the California State Old Time Fiddlers’ Association (District 5), they have one thing in common. They love that quintessential sound of Americana; fiddle melodies than can coax turkeys from the straw. Musicians and fans come from Oroville, Stockton, Sacramento and most Central Valley counties. A dollar donation buys an afternoon as American as a barn-raising. The meeting begins with association members cramming the stage to recite The Pledge and play “God Bless America.”
The core purpose of the association is to keep old time American music going.
Ensuring that goal, District 5’s 285 members include 29 children. “Beginners are welcome,” says the association membership chair Susie Brown. “We have players in their 70s who’ve just picked up fiddles. It’s good for them to be around others who are willing to help.” Meetings include free instruction sessions and the opportunity to perform before supportive audiences. As the afternoon progresses, violin cases are stacked in every Grange Hall corner. Owners spill from the antique venue to jam in the parking lot or under oaks in the surrounding park
“They never get enough of fiddle music,” says Brown. “It’s simple, yet complex. The sound is like birds singing. If you were blind, you’d still know it. When it starts, people’s countenances change. They know fiddle music comes from the soul.”
Anyone may attend Fiddlers’ Association meetings at Orangevale Grange Hall, 5807 Walnut Ave, Orangevale. For information, visit www.csotfa5.com.