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Old Time Fiddlers show off pluck and skill

Twice a month, the musicians play the night away, just for the joy of it

  • Davie Beard plays during the Old Time Fiddlers Association circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Davie Beard plays during the Old Time Fiddlers Association circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

  • Victor Horky (right), 17, of Monroe tunes his mandolin while Larry Schwantes gets a bite to eat before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community H...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Victor Horky (right), 17, of Monroe tunes his mandolin while Larry Schwantes gets a bite to eat before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

  • Larry Schwantes plays his fiddle during the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Schwantes started playing at age 10...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Larry Schwantes plays his fiddle during the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Schwantes started playing at age 10. “When I found this venue it opened up new avenues and helped me learn to play more by ear.”

  • Dewayne Anderson, 91, plays his mandolin during the workshop and circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Dewayne, who l...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Dewayne Anderson, 91, plays his mandolin during the workshop and circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Dewayne, who lives in Everett, has been playing for over 35 years.

  • Davie Beard gets his fiddle ready before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Davie Beard gets his fiddle ready before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

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By Gale Fiege, Herald Writer
Published:
  • Davie Beard plays during the Old Time Fiddlers Association circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Davie Beard plays during the Old Time Fiddlers Association circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

  • Victor Horky (right), 17, of Monroe tunes his mandolin while Larry Schwantes gets a bite to eat before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community H...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Victor Horky (right), 17, of Monroe tunes his mandolin while Larry Schwantes gets a bite to eat before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

  • Larry Schwantes plays his fiddle during the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Schwantes started playing at age 10...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Larry Schwantes plays his fiddle during the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Schwantes started playing at age 10. “When I found this venue it opened up new avenues and helped me learn to play more by ear.”

  • Dewayne Anderson, 91, plays his mandolin during the workshop and circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Dewayne, who l...

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Dewayne Anderson, 91, plays his mandolin during the workshop and circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8. Dewayne, who lives in Everett, has been playing for over 35 years.

  • Davie Beard gets his fiddle ready before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

    Matthew Williams / The Herald

    Davie Beard gets his fiddle ready before the circle jam at the Sisco Heights Community Hall in Arlington on Jan. 8.

ARLINGTON — Guitarist Carl Baird had an idea: Sing the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of the Old West standard “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
After a few puzzled looks and some teasing from the other musicians in the jam-session circle, the group decided to give it a try. They struggled through the first verse while Baird belted out the words to the old hymn.
As the song got rolling, though, one could imagine Johnny Cash singing “how sweet the sound” to the cowboy tune.
Soon out of verses, Baird kicked up his foot to signal the end of the song. He smiled. The mash-up worked.
In an era when most people might spend their Friday evenings watching a game on TV, checking Facebook or maybe eating out before going to a movie, these musicians are happy to be in a social group that harks back to colonial days.
* * *
On a recent Friday at Sisco Heights Community Hall, members of Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association District 16 settled in for a long evening of strumming, sawing, singing and picking a variety of waltzes, jigs, polkas and rags.
About 20 people sat reading from music on portable stands. That's about half the usual crowd, but it's winter and some people don't get out much in the rain.
The hall is an intimate place with old fir floors and a mural-sized photograph of Mount Shuksan on the wall above the stage. Musicians have spread out treats to share on the kitchen counter.
Many in the group play more than one instrument. Cases for violins, a bass, a cello, guitars, bagpipes, mandolins, a concertina, recorders and whistles are strewn around the room.
* * *
Victor Horky, 17, of Monroe, plays more instruments than he brings to the circle jam.
A student at Everett Community College, Victor alternately plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo when he's with the fiddlers. He's from a family of musicians, and also performs on piano, clarinet and trumpet.
A fiddlers jam session might seem like an especially strange place for a teenager on a Friday evening. Nope, said Victor, who tucks his long hair under his cap.
“Music is my thing. It's a lot of fun,” he said. “I get here and I stay for hours and hours.”
Sarah Sorenson, 15, a sophomore at Cascade High School and member of the Everett Youth Symphony, shared that sentiment.
Sarah, a violinist, travels to the gathering with her grandpa, guitarist Hank Schilling of Mukilteo. Schilling, 84, raised his children to enjoy making music together, and he's thrilled that his granddaughter has joined in.
“The good news is she likes real music,” Schilling said.
Dewayne Anderson, 91, of Everett also hitches a ride twice monthly with Schilling.
Dressed in black boots, a plaid shirt and jeans held up with suspenders, he leans over his mandolin to play. Anderson figures he took up the instrument about 40 years ago. He grew up in Sedro-Woolley playing violin and now plays mostly by ear.
“This is a good group,” Anderson said. “Everybody's doing what they should be, and that's having fun.”
* * *
Ron Johnson, 53, of Everett, said the fiddlers jam is much more relaxed than any orchestra he's ever played in. Johnson plays cello and recorder and often just sings along.
Karen Nies drives up from Lynnwood, and Davie Beard travels down from Camano Island to play along. Nies and Beard each grew up playing violin, and both went through decades with their instruments sitting in closets.
Nies, 52, got the fiddle bug a couple years ago. As she played, her foot rested a plastic file box filled with the compilation music books and CDs the group has produced in the last few years.
Beard, 63, started playing again because his wife wanted to hear him play “Danny Boy.”
“Then I saw the Old Time Fiddlers jam notice in the newspaper,” he said. “Everybody is very encouraging.”
For the past 10 years, fiddler Lindella Frenzel has led the workshop portion of the evening, helping new fiddlers put their bows to the strings.
“Someone could fall on his face and everyone would cheer him on,” said Frenzel, 59, of Lake Stevens.
That doesn't mean that mediocrity reigns.
At the top of the talent are Old Time Fiddlers, musicians who can hold their own among any group of people playing old tunes from the British Isles, Scandinavia, Appalachia or the Old West.
Group chairwoman Noel Lareau calls the Old Time Fiddlers a community.
“The range of experience is huge, but as long as we are making music, everybody is happy,” she said.
* * *
Lois Klinger brought out her concertina to play “The Streets of Laredo.” Johnson joined in with his recorder and Lareau added her high soprano voice, and everybody played.
The concertina has buttons instead of an accordion's keys. Each button plays two notes, depending on the way the air is blowing, just like her other favorite instrument, the harmonica, said Kingler, 65, of Silvana.
“Swallow Tail Jig” was Sarah's choice to play as the jam circled around the room.
Her blond hair falling over one eye, she sat cross-legged, swinging her silver ballet flats in time to the music. Her lively fiddle tune filled the room and her grandpa smiled.
When the group had been through the jig a few times, Sarah raised her foot to signal the tune's end.
Later, a few more musicians arrived as Sarah packed up her violin to leave. She and her grandpa stepped into the rainy night followed by the tail end of yet another jig.
Want to play?
The Old Time Fiddlers group meets the second and fourth Friday evenings of each month at the Sisco Heights Community Hall, 13527 99th Ave. NE, Arlington. Celtic jam, 5 p.m; workshop, 6 p.m.; circle jam, 7 p.m.; stage show, 8 p.m. More info: 360-691-5907 or noelula@aol.com.




Story tags » Culture (general)Customs & TraditionsMusicArlington

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