Tune of the Month: Starry Nights & Candlelight
Starry Nights & Candlelight
I seem to have mentioned Vivian Williams a time or two in this column; great dance fiddler; national champion in several divisions; scholar/writer; in demand teacher at fiddle camps; cofounder, with her charming husband Phil and assorted other good folk, of the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association, Seattle Folklore Society, Northwest Folklife and Voyager Recordings. Now we can add that she has been inducted into the North American Old Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame. This honor is bestowed annually by the New York State Old Tyme Fiddlers Association (www.nysotfa.com) and it is quite well deserved. As of this writing, though, the information is not yet up on their website; so, stay tuned.
Vivian also has composed quite a few very fine tunes. Starry Nights and Candlelight is one of my favorites and I play it frequently, as do many others. It evokes a certain romantic imagery and moodiness - no? Sometimes a deeply moody tune arises from a deeply moody composer and an evocative title is evoked by the setting. Other times, such as this, a fiddler sets out to evoke a mood using tricks of the compositional trade. Note the full measure of lead-in notes culminating, not on a member of the I chord (tonic) but on the E note, which is the 3rd of the opening C chord, the IV, or subdominant. The next measure opens with Eb, in this context as blue a blue note as ever there was. Chromatic runs leading to 6ths layered over well-chosen chords imbue the compelling melody with charm and momentum. On the one hand, it's relatively easy to create a new tune based on familiar patterns, but a whole "nuther challenge to create a tune with real heart to it. Vivian does this here in spades. I hope you enjoy playing it.
By the way, Vivian's article on Charlie Kahana, a Lummi/Hawaiian fiddler born in 1865 (see May 2013 issue of the Evergreen Fiddler or go to Tune of the Month for May 2013) is out now in the latest issue of Fiddler Magazine, Fall 2013, Vol. 20, No. 3. Very intriguiing story.
Please contact me if you have questions or requests.
Stuart Williams, Music Editor
Updated November 10, 2013