Fiddlers Of All Ages Compete In The Northeast Kingdom

07/06/10 12:50PM By Charlotte Albright
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Photo: Herb Swanson
Contestant, Caleigh Cross

(Host) After a two-year hiatus, the Northeast Fiddlers Association brought its annual contest back to the Northeast Kingdom over the week-end.  Surrounded by food and crafts vendors in Lyndonville's bandstand park, about a dozen old timers and budding musicians filled the summertime air with jigs, waltzes, and reels. As VPR's Charlotte Albright reports, teen-agers walked off with most of the trophies.

Albright: If seasoned musicians have been worrying about whether New England's rich fiddling tradition is on the wane, they got a cheerful earful on Saturday. 

Sound of Jacob Dziubek playing:

Jake Dziubek (ZYOO-beck)  came all the way from Southington Conntetictu, via Maine, to the Vermont contest. He's only fourteen, and eager to learn by listening to older competitors.

Dziubeck: I get to hear people who are better than me and it boosts my self esteem; it makes me think I want to be just like them... it gives me more determination, makes me practice more and makes it more of a passion.

Photo: Herb Swanson
Contestant, Jacob Brillhart
Albright: And if he keeps practicing maybe he'll rack up as many prizes as some of the older teen-agers who wowed the crowd.  Jacob Brillhart, of Topsham Vermont,  is only seventeen, but he's been working hard to master the art of fiddling for six years. 

Sound of Brillhart playing

Albright: He's apparently inherited some talent.

Jacob Brillheart: When my grandfather died we were cleaning out the house and everything and I found his old violin that he hadn't played in years and years in the closet so we took it home and patched it up and decided it ought to be used.

Albright: Brillhart would like to find a college where he could major in fiddling, but says they're pretty rare.  Meanwhile, entering contests like this gives him a chance to hear more experienced players-like Roger Perrault, of Essex. 

Sound of Perrault playing

Albright: Unlike most of the younger contestants, Perrault didn't take fiddling lessons-he says he picked up tunes by listening to recordings of fiddlers from Cape Breton:

Roger Perrault: Just the music that I enjoyed, and you know the family gatherings and Christmastime and we used to have singing and telling jokes and stories and playing the fiddle and so forth.

Albright: Perrault admits that some of those musical traditions are fading in an age of  ipods and text messaging, so he's thrilled to see young fiddlers give their elders some fierce competition.  So is contest emcee and Northeast Fiddler Association president, Lee Deyette.

Sound of contest in progress:

Lee Deyette: And the old-time fiddlers sit there and marvel with tears coming down their eyes, saying, wish I could pay like that, so it's not a surprise to me because I've been around it enough.

Albright: In the Vermont Division, veteran fiddler Roger Perrault took third place to winner Jacob Brillhart. Sixteen-year-old Caleigh Cross, of Waterford, came in second.

Sound of Cross playing

Photo: Herb Swanson
Contestant, Jacob Dziubek
Albright: She says that showed her that she was better than she thought-and that she made the right move when she turned away from classical repertoire.

Caleigh Cross: Classical music is boring. There are too many rules. Like Vivaldi? It's ridiculous, like you have to play it super fast and all the fingerings have to be in the right place, where with fiddling, if you miss a fingering, that's the best part, that means you change the whole piece and you re-write it yourself while you're playing-it's more of a challenge.

Albright: Cross was up to the challenge when she and fellow champions Jacob Brillhart, Christine Hedden,  and Eileen  O'Grady played a rousing impromptu rendition of "Swallowtail Jig" it close out what organizers say was a successful reprise of the annual contest. Organizers, including Lyndon State College, hope to attract even more contestants next year.

For VPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright, in Lyndonville.

Click here for an audio slideshow from the contest.

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