Tune of the Month
"Ulen Waltz" from Alvin Sanderson
Ulen is a little town in western Minnesota chock full of Scandinavians. Minnesota fiddler Alvin Sanderson may well have passed through there on his journey out to the Pacific Northwest. He graced the Washington Old Time fiddlers Association stages for many years with some lovely Scandinavian/American old time fiddling. At one point he was a national champion at Weiser in the Seniors' division. Harry Johnson (see The Evergreen Fiddler Tunebooks: I & II) tells the story of wandering into Al's barbershop in Bothell where a jam session was in progress. Harry hadn't played much since he was a kid but had many tunes in mind he wanted to hear. After honoring a number of requests from Harry Alvin just handed him the fiddle and said, “You play it yourself!,” or something to that effect. And that was the beginning of Harry's return to fiddling, a moment for which we are eternally grateful. (And as I edit this I am sad to say that Harry passed away this past week).
Al Sanderson's playing on this waltz is very much in the Norwegian/North Dakotan vein. Listen to how he plays double stops throughout most of the tune, mostly against the open string below the melody or the first finger note on the next lower string. I've notated a few of the double stops to give you the idea. Notice also how he doesn't slide into the notes the way a Missouri or more southern fiddler would but lands on them with dead on accuracy. It's a cool effect and hard to master if, like me, you are used to taking a roundabout way up to your notes. One other thing common amongst these fiddlers are the two note slurs with the beat as I’ve indicated in measure 3. I hope you enjoy this lovely waltz and be sure and listen on line at the WOTFA website.
Please contact me if you have questions or requests.
Stuart Williams, Music Editor