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Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contests

Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contests

Chris Goertzen
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contests
    Book Description:

    Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contestsexplores the phenomenon of American fiddle contests, which now have replaced dances as the main public event where American fiddlers get together. Chris Goertzen studies this change and what it means for audiences, musicians, traditions, and the future of southern fiddle music.

    Goertzen traces fiddling and fiddle contests from mid-eighteenth-century Scotland to the modern United States. He takes the reader on journeys to the important large contests, such as those in Hallettville, Texas; Galax, Virginia; Weiser, Idaho; and also to smaller ones, including his favorite in Athens, Alabama. He reveals what happens on stage and during such off-stage activities as camping, jamming, and socializing, which many fiddlers consider much more important than the competition.

    Through multiple interviews, Goertzen also reveals the fiddlers' lives as told in their own words. The reader learns how and in what environments these fiddlers started playing, where they perform today, how they teach, what they think of contests, and what values they believe fiddling supports.Southern Fiddlers and Fiddle Contestsshows how such contests have become living embodiments of American nostalgia.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-331-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE American Fiddling of the Past
    (pp. 3-25)

    Once a year, in the second-largest shopping mall in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, fiddlers and other musicians gather for a contest lasting from Friday evening through a long Saturday. There is a temporary stage set up at one end of McFarland Mall’s food court for the competition, and each of the half-dozen seating areas built into the corridors also fill with people wielding fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, basses, and even harmonicas. But the built-in benches don’t suffice, so the musicians shape additional stations with their own folding chairs. The jamming and socializing are at least as important as the contest itself.


  5. CHAPTER TWO Modern Fiddle Contests: The Competition Itself
    (pp. 26-46)

    These days, most active American fiddlers attend several fiddle contests every year. Since dances accompanied by live fiddling have become uncommon in most parts of the United States, and no major alternative opportunities for public performance have emerged, contests are the main public venue for fiddling. These events build social and musical alliances, inspire practice, and help shape repertoires and styles. But every fiddler has mixed feelings about each contest that he frequents and, indeed, about whether competition is good for him or healthy for fiddling in general. In fact, many fiddlers and other musicians who attend contests regularly never...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Fiddle Contests Away from the Stage
    (pp. 47-64)

    Every successful fiddle contest is a multifaceted festival in which the formal competition serves as the anchor, sometimes one barely tolerated (as in Galax) but sometimes quite important (as in Weiser and Hallettsville). Still, every fiddler values other parts of the event more.

    Most participants in fiddle contests agree that jamming and catching up with old friends and making new ones are the most important aspects of these events. And, after all, a given fiddler is only standing on the stage and competing for a few minutes. A contest is unlikely to flourish without comfortable camping arrangements and convenient motels...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Fiddlers across the South
    (pp. 65-91)

    This chapter offers a picture of the collective backgrounds, activities, and tastes of today’s fiddlers by synthesizing and excerpting interviews (four nearly complete interviews are transcribed in an appendix). I’ve been attending fiddle contests for most of my adult life but just started extensive formal interviewing for this book. The questions I regularly asked emerged from my broad but unsystematic past experience; the point of doing parallel interviews was to elicit and compare patterns of thought and behavior systematically. The main interview questions constitute the subheadings in this chapter. Thirty-one fiddlers interviewed are listed in tables 1 and 2. I...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Styles and Meanings in Southern Fiddling
    (pp. 92-120)

    I have discussed the historical context of modern fiddling, the official face of contests as competition, the festivals that surround the competitions and enrich their meaning, the fiddlers up on stage and down in the campground . . . What’s left? The tunes themselves, and paths of meaning from individual performance and individual fiddler through style and event to southern American fiddling as a whole. In this final chapter, I’ll start by looking at a few tunes in a moderately technical way. Then, following that tightest focus of the book, I’ll close with a last visit to a great fiddle...

  9. Appendix: Four Fiddlers Speak
    (pp. 121-152)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 153-156)
  11. Index
    (pp. 157-163)