Pipe and Tabor,
Not only with the fiddle, but also with
Pipe-and-Tabor, an ancient
combination, sometimes called whittle-n-dub. It was popular during
Elizabethan times. The pipe has only three holes so that it can be
played by the fingers of one hand, leaving the other hand free to
beat the drum.
Listen to a tune.
By using upper overtones of the pipe it is possible, with only the
three holes, to obtain a diatonic scale with a range of an octave
and a third.
In some places a large side drum is used, which is hung
from a baldrick or off the waist - also common is a smaller lightweight
drum which can be hung over the wrist or thumb.
Basque people also make use of this combination,
with a drum called the txixu,
and a three-hole pipe tuned to a minor scale.
Then and Now.
The Black Jokers have been known to dance in a variety of meteorological
conditions not suitable for the wood or gut strings of a violin -
such as a summer parade route over fresh blacktop pavement
when it was 102F in the
shade; drizzle, pouring rain, or snow; or in a howling wind well below
freezing in January.
In contrast, there are three hole pipes made of brass and plastics that
are unaffected by heat, cold, or wet, and the tabor in the illustration
above right ( a Remo PTS, with customization ) contains no natural ingredients.
Pipe & Tabor page
for more details.
When I have not a fiddle handy, and the tune does not fit well on
a three hole pipe (due to its
one octave range) or the flageolet,
(six-hole pipe, tin whistle, pennywhistle -- see the
Chiff & Fipple pages
for an introduction), I play recorder, either
sopranino, soprano, or tenor. These tend to be quieter instruments
which are marginal for street performance of
but work out well for Country Dancing
(some tunes available)
In 1961, at a young and tender age,
I started to study the violin. Over the years I played in a
number of school and community orchestras, with three summers at the
New England Music Camp to broaden my musical experience.
Then off to that famous music school,
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
where I managed to get a seat playing second violin
in the MIT Symphony. This brought travel opportunities with concert
tours to Montreal, Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Chicago, and Scarsdale New York (eh wot?).
After graduating from MIT and taking a real job I found it difficult to
maintain the 6+ hours per week plus travel time required for orchestra
rehearsals, so my social music participation languished until I was
introduced to fiddling, folk music of the British Isles, and dancing
(New England Squares and Contras plus English Country) in late 1976.
I began to fiddle for barn dances, as well as providing occasional
music for dances run by the
New England Folk Festival Association
Country Dance Society, Boston Centre.
That led to
Morris and life hasn't been the same since,
although these days I don't do quite enough dancing.
Listen to a morris dance tune played on fiddle.
Depending on the style of dance and the other musicians in the band,
(or solo for small, intimate barn dances) I play mostly fiddle, but
use flageolet, recorder or mandolin for a change.
Current repertoire includes tunes for New England Contradances,
English Country Dance (such as
and additional Revolutionary and Renaissance
While playing West Gallery music and trying to cover my vocal range (or is it
merely C-string envy) the range of the viola being a fifth lower fits very well.
I played Oboe, an agile double-reed instrument, for a number of years
starting in 1967. While I played in a number of bands and orchestras,
I never was able to qualify for District Band during my High School
years. Though my embouchure and technique have languished over the years,
I had become facile at the art of reedmaking and even taught oboe students
for a time. There is some potential for making use of this experience
if a shawm becomes available at an advantageous price! For now, most of my
double-reed performance is on crumhorn and the Bonnie Rogers memorial
tenor cornamuse (courtesy of the trustees of her estate).
My voice falls within the tenor range; these days I sing mostly
The Sacred Harp and other
shape-note music with
West Gallery style
Bruce Randall's West Gallery Quire
where I have the opportunity to sing or play viola -- or
West Gallery. It's like enriched uranium for the traditional musician.
Of late dabbling with multitrack recording,
here published is Thomas Morley's
Good Morrow Fair Ladies of the May in MP3 with a link
to the sheet music, and Bruce Randall's four-part setting of
To My Sister.
Ishmael the Fiddler playing tunes on a
WiplStix travel violin
in Newbury, Vermont, with Bill Holt, summer of 2004. Photo courtesy of R. Trial
You can see this instrument a bit closer in a video of
tunes on the wipLstix
Thanks to the Violin Making & Restoration Program
North Bennett Street School
we were able to try out their new duet instrument, a
designed and built to celebrate the program's twentieth anniversary and
their command of the craft. It has both violin and viola fingerboards on one body, with one bridge,
for two people to play; best for a compatible pair, as arms and bows cross.
Father and daughter playing the NBSS
violiola (hybrid violin/viola with two necks on one body) in the violin-making
workshop, November 2005.
Serpent and fiddle, recorder, viola and voice at Boston Public Library,
Unusual pairing of five-string fiddle and serpent, playing duets
at the Boston 2009
Walk for Hunger.
You played the happiest music we've had all day."-J. C. Jones, 2009.11.07
There really is more to it than just standing in front of
musicians and waving your arms.
The conductor must study and understand the music in order to discern
the composer's intent, then to convince the ensemble to support that
interpretation with unanimity, and to listen to the rendition so to fix
what might need more practice or refining.
While your leading style did not exhibit the wonderful flair
some of our friends have, you did a lot more than simply "keep time";
your direction was intelligible and sensitive and very helpful.
--R. D., 2009.03.27
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Original July, 1994.
Last modified: Jun 22 07:13 2010 /