Entry #1 begins as I sit by the fire, listening passively as my host reads a story aloud to his son. The dogs are at our feet. I have just taken off my headphones after listening to my new obsession* approximately 10 times (*see Tune of the week, below).
I'm in Warrenton, Virginia. Warrenton is part of Fauquier County, and while there has clearly been new development around town, at its core it is 250 years old, and silently brimming with history . The trees* (*see photos below) are the largest I have seen outside of Cathedral Grove. The tree in front of this house is reportedly as old as the county itself. This house was built in 1899. I'm sleeping in an adorable separate section of the house, once used as “The Summer Kitchen”. It is its own small building, linked to the house by a small, and newly added hallway-the hallway was once the back porch, making the two buildings literally separate. There are 2 floors, each with just 1 small room (see the photos below). My host has explained this to me many times, and I'm going to do my best to relay what he just told me yet again: the summer kitchen was where they would cook during the warmer months of the year. Since the house is heated by wood stove, in the winter, they would cook in the main house, using the wood stove, and warming the house at the same time. In the summer months in Virginia, you might be able to imagine that cooking your food on a wood stove in the middle of your living room might be the most sadistic choice besides hopping in the pot of boiling water yourself. So cooking in this separate building kept the heat contained in the summer months. It also was a bit of an insurance system, says Rhys, in case your house caught fire from the fire in your stove- which was a rather common disaster. But at least if it happened in your summer kitchen, your main house MIGHT not be totally ruined.
My host and teacher for this leg of the journey is Rhys Jones. For many musicians, Rhys needs no introduction, but for my friends and readers who may not have their finger on the pulse of old time fiddle music, allow me to fill you in just a bit. I'll start with my own connection to Rhys because it's what brings me here in the first place. Long before I gave a rats ass about old time music, my dad got a CD with artwork from an old friend of ours, Ethan Miller, on the cover. That's about all I cared to retain about it before he put the CD into the van's player. I remember specifically sitting in the back seat of my parent's Dodge Caravan. I was on the right hand side. The CD is called Starry Crown, featuring Rhys Jones and Christina Wheeler on double fiddles (primarily) and when the music came out of those car speakers, it blew my opinion of old time fiddle music out of the water. It wasn't right away, but when I eventually did come around to playing fiddle myself, I b-lined it for that album and promptly set out to learn as much as I could with my little earbuds and “the amazing slow-downer” as my only companions.
When I met Rhys a couple of years ago, I had trouble expressing to friends just how significant this was for me. The first time I met him, here, this audio legend in real life, whom I had played along with secretly for years, graciously accepted that I should sit down and play with him- and become a friend. Yet again, the music I experienced that time, in real time, blew my mind, and inspired me to work towards new levels of fiddling.
So, I could tell you all kinds of things about his background and training and that stuff- but why else did they invent Google? This is MY blog, and in my story, what everyone should know is that right now, I am here studying the nitty gritty style points that are behind the man's fiddling that started my love affair with the fiddle.
It's not easy. Frankly I have felt like the crummiest player I know since I broke out my fiddle and started working here. But that's how it goes. The fiddle is an unforgiving little f****r, and it takes time, and it takes dedication. Thankfully that's what I've got for the next 8 weeks.
Tune of the week:
The Golden Ticket by Eric Merrill
Quote of the week:
“I wish I could go back in time and not eat so much food”- 8 yr old Juniper Jones.