What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?*

So the fiddler last night, Zoe Conway, was quite wonderful. She’s extremely pretty and about 23, from the looks of her. While she’s not as good as Martin Hayes, that’s sort of like saying Ghiradelli’s hot fudge sundaes aren’t as good as Hot Licks’ hot fudge sundaes (which is true, but you’re still just splitting hairs between one level of fantastic and another!).

There was a fair variety of musical styles, more than I expected. Lots of traditional (or traditional style) jigs and reels and a hornpipe or two, all of which made me want to actually learn to differentiate between those pieces. I mean, I can tell the difference if you play them back to back, but it doesn’t stay in my head long enough to say, “Ah, that’s a jig!” when I hear one on some random occasion. That, I expected, but the occasional foray into classical violin and songs was a delightful surprise. She did several of her own pieces, one of which, “The Horse’s Tail”, I liked *lots*, and told stories to go with many of the pieces, which made them even more enjoyable.

I was surprised at how quiet in general the audience was: there was some muted foot-stomping and a bit of yelping and plenty of head-bobbing, but no clapping or much in the way of vocal response to the music, although every piece ended to applause ranging from enthusiastic to thunderous. But then, it was a Thursday night, and Thursday audiences are often quiet. It’s about an 80-85 seat house, and it was full, which made me really happy (and made the woman running the Sirius Arts Centre even happier).

The acoustics in the room are *fantastic*. The building originally belonged to the Royal Cork Yacht Club and was purpose-built for it, but that room sounds like it was built to be a conservatory. It’s small, so you don’t really need audio amplification to begin with, but really just astonishingly clear vibrant sound in there. Zoe and John (the guitarist) are apparently trying to do this tour entirely acoustically (which, Zoe said, is evidently very In right now, but she couldn’t remember what it was called to do that. “House gig,” said John, “like we’re playing in your living room.” Right, except the living room hasn’t got acoustics like that!), and that’s been pretty successful for them. That’s cool. :)

She played a waltz that she said she’d learned it over a session from some fiddler fellow and that she saw him a week later and said, “Could we go over this again? There are some bits at the end I didn’t quite get,” and after listening to it, he said, “You didn’t get that from me. I’ve never heard that piece of music before. You got it from (this other fiddler fellow whose name I don’t remember).” So she started calling it (The Other Fiddler Fellow)’s Waltz when she played it.

But about a year later she met the other fiddler fellow, and said to him, “I’ve got this waltz of yours that I love to play!” and played it for him, and he said, “I never heard that piece of music before!” And neither has anyone else, though she’s played it all over the world. :) I forget what she’s calling it, though she said she was calling it whatever the new title was, “for now.” I couldn’t decide if it was “for now” because she was waiting to see if someone claimed the music, or if she was waiting for someone else to start calling it Zoe’s Waltz. :)

She did a fantastic ragtime piece which she and the guitarist learned off some CD, I forget whose. The greatest jazz violinist and guitarist ever, in their opinion. :) Anyway, it was *great* (that was one of the pieces they got absolutely thunderous applause for), and it’s the only jazz piece they know. She said they’d played it in Galway the night before and the audience went nuts calling for more, and she was like, “We don’t know any more! I’m sorry! We’ll learn more for the next tour!” I hope they do! :) And they did a bluegrass piece, too, which

They did 3 classical pieces, and when she announced they’d be doing one, I thought, “What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?” but in fact (unsurprisingly) she’s a fantastic violinist, too. The first piece they did was the one she’d first heard that made her want to learn classic violin, something where the fingering goes way up ‘high’, she said (it looked low to me, going all the way to the bridge instead of staying in the neck, but I figure she probably knows the right terms). She was 9 when she saw it played, and it made just desperate to take classic violin lessons, and after a year, she said, she was desperate to quit them, but her dad wouldn’t let her. :)

The second classical piece they did was–maybe a modern composition, can’t remember, and was either written by a Spaniard or was heavily influenced by Spanish music, so it had this flamenco twist to it that just made me want to shout. Great stuff. And the final one they did, as an encore, she said, “This one’s very famous, you’ll recognize it when we get to the famous bit. When it comes ’round. Eventually.” *laugh* And then when it *did* come around she looked out at the audience to make sure we knew this was the bit she was talking about, and then actually *said*, “That bit!” very hurriedly when she was done with it. It’s not easy to talk while fiddling!

She also sang a couple of songs in a very sweet soprano, and told a bunch more funny stories, including how she was thinking about the last time she’d had a gig in Cobh and how she’d seen the cathedral and the wildlife park (she was apparently thinking about this while fiddling, because as soon as she put down the fiddle she said this). She said she could *not* figure out how that had happened, because she was touring with a guitar duo, Rodrigo y Gabriella, and apparently one or the other or both of them were late for Ev. Er. Ee. Thing. She said they never once got to a show on time, and that in the time she toured with them they missed something like ten flights. *laugh* But then she remembered they’d had TWO nights playing in Cobh, and so they’d seen all those things on the day between the gigs. :) They also apparently went up near Mallow (this story accompanied the piece “The White Deer”) to see the white deer herd that’s on an estate Elizabeth I granted to somebody (her god-daughter, I think) along with a gift of two white deer. Although I believe you can, like, you know, pay and go in and see the grounds, evidently instead they scaled the very high wall and fell off (she has a scar from a bad cut from that day), but did eventually see the deer. *laugh*

There were other stories, but I can’t remember them right now. :) All in all, it was really worth going to, and furthermore, Ted reports that the photoshop class would have been a total waste of my time and that in his opinion going to see the fiddler was a far, far better use of my time. A win all around! And now I’m rather childishly excited about the prospect of going to more performances there, and really looking forward to the Cobh Maritime Song Festival in early June. Yay! :)

I also picked up a flyer for a drum circle class that’s starting on Wednesday nights here in Cobh. Drum circles are awesome. Maybe I’ll go!

Mom and Dad are coming down for the weekend and we’re going to brave the weather and go up to Cashel, so I probably won’t be around much.

*A fiddle is fun to listen to. :)

5 thoughts on “What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?*

  1. That the ragtime has to have been from a recording of Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt.

    The second piece, I’m guessing, would probably be the Danse Espagnole (Falla/Kreisler, an arrangement from La Vida Breve).

    Can’t venture a guess as to the first or third, but I’m curious.

    (Yes, “high” is the right word.)

  2. A comparison to Martin Hayes is high praise indeed!

    Drum circles are great! You should go!

  3. I knew you’d verify the ‘high’. :) Yes, I think those were the names. Does the guitarist of that duo only have two fingers? :)

    I’ll see if the arts centre has a copy of their set list and get the names for you, if possible. :)

  4. When I asked this question, after having stated that I liked fiddle music but violins bore me (may have to do with my being a bit tone-deaf), I was told:

    Fiddles have soul.

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