Old-time fiddle is toe-tapping music. I can’t resist and I was head bobbing along with everyone else at the Fiddle and Banjo contest in Lowell, Massachusetts. It’s a true contest, with prizes for the best fiddlers and banjo players. More than 50 contestants from all over New England took the stage.
The top fiddlers were hot and the banjo pickers were wild. But, the lovely part of this fiddle fest is that it involves musicians at all different levels. From what I could tell everyone was encouraged and supported, even those who were not so experienced.
Kudos to each musician brave enough to take part—from ages about 10 to about 70. Players wore everything from overalls, to Sunday bonnets, to dreadlocks and droopy pants. The action on stage was uneven, as each individual slowly mounted the stage and played their best pieces. But perhaps the most exciting part took place offstage, in a back hallway.
As fiddlers and banjo players waited to go onstage, they had a restless energy. With numbers taped to their arms, musicians began to play together, in a circle, right there in the back hallway. Group improv—that is where the energy of fiddle music comes from. By playing together a creative spark happens. It’s so lively the air fairly vibrates with the excitement of fiddles and banjos together.
This is the creative spark that music draws from both the participants and from those listening. Musicians definitely feel it. But also listeners get this creative energy, as well. But I think it is even more than that. The players, the listeners, the audience all come together, each essential, each bringing a greater energy to the mix.
Creativity is powerful. We all need to appreciate that creative spark. We get it ourselves when we are the talent, but we also get it vicariously when artists do their thing. It’s catching; it’s toe-tapping goodness.