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2021 Susquehanna Folk Festival Fiddle Traditions

Thursday, July 1, 2021 Live on Zoom at 7:30 pm Eastern

About This Event:

Join us to explore one of folk music’s most iconic instruments — the fiddle — with an all-star cast of players encompassing four varied traditions.

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Clockwise from top left: Ben Hunter, Brittany Haas, Olivier Demers and Bruce Molsky

Clockwise from top left: Ben Hunter, Brittany Haas, Olivier Demers and Bruce Molsky

Join us to explore one of folk music’s most iconic instruments — the fiddle — with an all-star cast of players encompassing four varied traditions.

We'll share conversation, and of course some tunes, with Brittany Haas (Bluegrass/Old-Time and Americana), Ben Hunter (Blues), Olivier Demers (Québécois), and Bruce Molsky (Old-Time) who will also serve as moderator.

The fiddle is an essential part of many roots music genres including Old-Time, Cajun, French Canadian, Country and Bluegrass. It traveled across North America with European immigrants, found its way into blues-infused juke joints, and was celebrated at fiddle contests held all over the country. Specific regions evolved their own distinctive styling and repertoire, from Cape Breton dance tunes to Texas Swing.

Many excellent fiddlers have passed down and preserved those traditions, and today's young players continue to put their own stamp on the instrument. A grand array of fiddle traditions can be enjoyed at festivals and concerts, in jam sessions and kitchen parties, at dances and other community gatherings, and of course on recordings.

Read more about the panelists below.

an all-star cast of fiddlers
an all-star cast of fiddlers
an all-star cast of fiddlers
an all-star cast of fiddlers

ABOUT BRUCE MOLSKY

Bruce Molsky is one of the most revered ambassadors for America’s old-time mountain music. For decades, he’s been a globetrotting performer and educator, a recording artist with an expansive discography including seven solo albums, well over a dozen collaborations and two Grammy-nominations. Molsky digs deep to transport audiences to another time and place, with his authentic feel for and the unearthing of almost-forgotten rarities from the Southern Appalachian songbook. From tiny folk taverns in the British Isles to huge festival stages to his ongoing workshops at the renowned Berklee College of Music, Molsky seduces audiences with a combination of rhythmic and melodic virtuosity and relaxed conversational wit — a uniquely humanistic, downhome approach that can make Carnegie Hall feel like a front porch or parlor jam session.

Molsky’s recording career has been plentiful since his debut session banjoist with Bob Carlin in 1990, with nearly two dozen releases available via Rounder and Compass Records and his own Tree Frog Music. Bruce’s live and recorded work has not only drawn raves from his fellow musicians but the media. No Depression calls Molsky “an absolute master,” while Mother Jones calls him “easily one of the nation’s most talented fiddlers... he transports you, geographically, historically and most of all emotionally. NPR says “his playing is mesmerizing, transporting and best experienced live.”

ABOUT BRITTANY HAAS

Brittany Haas is widely regarded as one of the most influential fiddlers of her generation. A prodigious youth, Haas began touring with Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings at the age of fourteen. Haas continued to tour while simultaneously earning a degree in Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. It was during her time at Princeton that Brittany was asked to join the seminal “chamber-grass” band Crooked Still, with whom she has made four recordings and toured the world. Haas has always been a much sought-after collaborator and session musician. She has performed on Late Night With David Letterman and Saturday Night Live as part of Steve Martin’s bluegrass band, and features on Martin’s Grammy-winning album “The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo.” She has performed with Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, Tony Trischka, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Waybacks, Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas (her cellist sister), and more.

Now residing in Nashville, TN, Brittany is currently involved in many exciting projects. In January of 2020, her quartet Hawktail released their follow-up album to 2018’s “Unless.” They continue to tour around the country with their original material. In 2015, Haas began touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine (featuring Gillian Welch) and can be found on their latest releases “Nashville Obsolete” and “Poor David's Almanack.” In the fall of 2016, Haas began performing as part of the house band for “Live From Here” (formerly known as “A Prairie Home Companion”) hosted by Chris Thile.

ABOUT BEN HUNTER

There was a time when the violin played a significant role in the early blues. Lonnie Chatmon, Lonnie Johnson, Henry Sims, Howard Armstrong and many others stand as a testament to the beauty and diversity of African American fiddle music. Then the violin faded out of favor, but today we are in the midst of a virtual 21st Century roots and blues fiddle renaissance with a new wave of fiddlers and multi-instrumentalists taking the helm. Among them is the dreadlocked songster, Ben Hunter, from Seattle in Washington State. Hunter is a versatile musician who plays blues and jazz fiddle, guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo. He plays regularly with bluesman Joe Seamons and together they developed their repertoire by adapting the arrangements of luminaries such as Blind Willie McTell to fiddle and banjo. Like many of their string-band predecessors of the 1920s and ’30s, the duo plays an amalgam of traditional and old-time music that encompasses a wide range of styles, including blues, jazz, folk, hillbilly and more.

Hunter recognizes the importance of string band ensemble music had in the early days: “The cool thing about the old music is that people shared it. They played together. I don’t think a lot of people really get the fact that this was social music too and that it was music that transcended the sorrow. It was about singing to feel better.”

Born in Lesotho, a mountainous country within South Africa, and primarily raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Hunter draws on a very broad musical background. Travelling through Africa, Europe, Central and North America with his mother as he was growing up, he was exposed to many musical environments. He says he eventually found himself drawn to folk, blues and world music, and just kept digging till he found the roots of what he was hearing. Hunter and Seamons have recorded together and in 2016 took first place in the International Blues Competition.

ABOUT OLIVIER DEMERS

Olivier Demers is a founding member and fiddler for in the award winning and highly acclaimed band Le Vent du Nord. Le Vent du Nord is a leading force in Quebec’s progressive francophone folk, or Québécois, movement and during the last two decades have played 2000 shows on four continents and have racked up several prestigious awards, including a Grand Prix du Disque Charles Cros, two Junos (Canada’s Grammys), a Félix at ADISQ, a Canadian Folk Music Award, and “Artist of the Year” at Folk Alliance Annual Gala.

Trained as a violinist and also a solid guitarist, Demers started out in chamber music and later moved on to jazz. His great versatility allowed him to work with a wide range of artists (La Bottine Souriante, Michel Faubert, The Bills, Dany Bédar, Boom Desjardins, Les Ours, Mario Pelchat, Ovo) as well as to compose music for the NFB and commercials. He now describes himself as a violoneux (fiddler), having devoted the past ten years of his life to traditional music. He has played with Montcorbier, was part of the duo Boulerice-Demers (two albums, among which Un peu d’ci, un peu d’ça, rewarded as Canada’s best traditional music album for 2006) and has been very active in promoting the tradition as co-founder of La Veillée de l’avant-veille, Roues et Archets record label and as co-organizer of the Chants de Vielles festival in Québec.

Traditionally the fiddle was used to animate dancers at the balls of Québec. These social dance events featured dances brought from Europe like the contredanse, the quadrille, the cotillon and in the late 19th century, the waltz and polka. Though the balls were based in high-society, people living in rural areas and/or lower economic classes adopted these dances as well. Québécois social dancing, inspired by European traditions, also drew from Celtic influences brought by early Scottish and Irish settlers. Like many of his fiddling counterparts Demers is also proficient at podorythmie, the French-Canadian tradition of tapping one's feet when playing dance music.

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Live on Zoom at 7:30 pm US Eastern Time

  • $20 suggested donation
  • $25 supporter donation
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A Folk Festival Event!

This event is part of the Endless Summer 2021 Susquehanna Folk Festival, coming to YOU this year with events all summer long.

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