Back in March of this year, I started learning to play the fiddle after being inspired watching some traditional Irish fiddle music performed on YouTube. I make it a point to always refer to my inexpensive Halstatt violin as a fiddle because the kind of music I want to play on it is Irish fiddle music and not classical. Paganini impresses and amazes me, but fails to move me. With Irish traditional fiddle music, I find it both invigorating (reels and jigs) and moving (traditional Irish songs and airs).
I got a copy of Matt Cranitch’s The Irish Fiddle Book: The Art of Traditional Fiddle-Playing (Book & CD), which I highly recommend for those who either don’t have access to a teacher or can’t afford one (both true in my case), and have been slowly working my way through the book song by song starting with beginner’s tunes like Fáinne Geal an Lae (“The Dawning of the Day”), Níl sé ina Lá (“It is Not Day Yet”) and The Kerry Polka.
I also began playing the Irish tin whistle (a Feadóg) since many of the fiddle tunes can be played on the tin whistle. In my search for a tin whistle, I came across David A. Wilson’s charming travelogue: Ireland, a Bicycle and a Tin Whistle, whimsically illustrated by Justin Palmer. The author recounts his travels by bicycle around Ireland and his experiences on the road cycling and in the pubs drinking, listening and occasionally joining in the sessions with the local musicians.
This interest in traditional Irish fiddle music naturally led me to the singer, Cara Dillon, who hails from Dungiven, County Londonderry in North Ireland. I was fortunate to obtain a copy of her 1991 debut album, Cara Dillon, consisting of nine traditional Irish songs modernly arranged including Black is the Colour, Lark in the Clear Air, and I am a Youth Inclined to Ramble, along with two original songs. Her husband, Sam Lakeman, is the brother of singer/musician Seth Lakeman.
In these traditional Irish songs, I find a purity and clarity which I aim and strive to achieve in my own poems, and which I find lacking in so much of today’s obscure, angst-ridden, hyper-personalized poetry. After all, who doesn’t find a clear mountain stream more appealing than a murky, stagnant pool of water?THE FIDDLER They laugh and they dance at their weddings When I fiddle them a merry tune. They weep and they mourn at their funerals When I fiddle them a slow, sad dirge. They clap and they cheer at the county fair When I fiddle through the night till dawn. But come the day for my final rest, There’ll be no one to fiddle for me. I’m hopin’ I’ll hear some melody That’ll lead me to the open gates Where St, Peter will be a fid’lin’ To welcome my weary soul back home. (© Poeticmeditations 2010,. All rights reserved) A personally signed copy of this poem can be ordered at PoeticExpressions.