Ever since its early days, the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association has published a tune in its newsletter centerfold. The monthly task of chosing and transcribing a tune falls to the association’s Music Editor. Warren Colebank filled that role for many years and was succeeded first by Pete Martin and most recently by Stuart Williams. But the newsletter doesn’t come with a sound-track, and learning tunes off the page can be both difficult and unsatisfactory.
When Stuart took over the baton from Pete in March 2001, he printed tunes that were available on recordings, so that interested fiddlers might have some chance of learning a tune from its source. But that still involves gathering together a number of recordings. The obvious solution is to collect the tunes on one recording, which is what has been done here.
These fiddlers and tunes represent the recent past of northwestern fiddling. They lived and played in this region, although many of them learned elsewhere and were already accomplished fiddlers when they arrived here as adults seeking work. Many are fiddlers with whom Stuart has played over the past thirty years. All were, or still are, stalwarts of the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association, or its sister organization in Oregon. All learned to play from family members or neighbors and enjoyed a certain stature in their communities as the man (or, less often, woman) who made dancing possible.
The predominant musical influences in the northwest come from the southern stylistics of the Midwest, the sweet Scandinavian tones of the Northern Plains, and the melodic European reels of Canada. Fiddlers who arrived here as adults would have come with a playing style already ingrained from their childhood playing. But as they met and played with each other in their new homes they swopped tunes with each other, incorporating the new tunes into their well-developed repertoire and playing style. The next generation of fiddlers would have the opportunity to learn from these masters and would often combine elements of each in their playing. So, while Joe Panzcerewski’s focus on clearly noting the melody of a tune reflects the strong Canadian influence on Northern Plains music, and Earl Willis’ driving shuffles proclaim his Missouri Ozark origins, both are combined in the rythmic, lyrical playing of native northwesterner, Jim Calvert.
This collection is a snapshot in time and space, a representation of the long history of fiddle music in the Northwest. The association was established to nuture this tradition and escort it into the future and this recording is intended to further that work. But nothing can take the place of playing with and learning from a fiddler at a jam session, dance or workshop. We hope that you will learn these tunes, then seize the next opportunity to play them with or for other musicians.