S t r a t h P o t o m a c F i d d l e r P a g e 4
Maine Fiddle Camp Review. By Julie G. (For more information on the camp see www.mainefiddlecamp.org)
Last year I applied for a grant to learn how to play Cape Breton piano. I found a camp that offered Cape Breton piano that was (slightly) closer than Cape Breton: Maine Fiddle Camp. With some skepticism, due to the lengthy drive through just about every trafficky large metropolitan area the East Coast has to offer, plus concerns about the vague information on how you get into the class you want, I packed my fiddle, accordion, and digital piano into the car and headed North. Two days later I was setting up my tent in a pine forest next to a lake in Maine. Other campers were nearby and cheerfully offered to help me, as if this was the most entertaining thing a person could possibly do. This is Maine Fiddle Camp in a nutshell: everyone is really happy all the time about everything.
First thing in the morning, just as the sun comes up, you start to hear other campers awake. Then they do what all cold tired people who have been sleeping on the ground and haven’t had their coffee yet do: they sing. Like the Who’s in Whoville, they sing sing sing sing! Then the early morning jam starts up. This came as a shock to me, since I usually go to Swannanoa where the best jams may not start until after midnight. Those early morning tunes seemed to become ear worms, a different worm for every day of the week. MFC operates on the principle that yes, it will all be fine and fun too. At Swannanoa there is some urgency about things–will I get into Liz Carroll’s class? (No.). Will there be a place to sit at lunch? (If you sit on my lap.) At MFC you just go to the class you want. Punning is also popular at MFC. The classes are all named after birds. The piano classes were called the Boom Chickadees, the blues guitar class was the Blues Jays.
The focus is New England and northeast styles like Cape Breton and French Canadian, but there were also classes in Cajun, Old-time, and Irish. Scottish was taught by Lissa Schneckenburger and others; I think there were three levels. Whistle and accordion were offered too, and there was even a large rowdy bass class. At this camp, you just take one class, which is in the morning and part of the afternoon. This was good for a person like me who wants to try everything–it really made me focus. There was plenty to do but the schedule did not seem as crammed as some camps. In the evening before dinner was the rehearsal of the Great Horned Ukestra, a band made up of (I am not making this up!) horns of various types, mostly saxes and trumpets, and ukes. A perfect combination. I thought it was fun even though I didn’t have a trumpet or a uke, so I played fiddle in that band. (I now own a sea green uke, and am ready to really be part of this group!) After dinner each evening there’s a family/barn/contra dance with an open band, and then a concert that often included a special guest, such as Frank Ferrel.
The food was excellent. The lines for the dining hall were sometimes long, but whoa, turns out this is fun too! Groups of campers just can’t help bursting into song. Even more fun, you could be waiting in line when it starts to rain heavily, and all of a sudden a sung rendition of Lucy Farr’s Barndance breaks out. It just does not get any better than that. The rain didn’t stop, to the apparent delight of everyone. Signs offering Ark Building workshops were posted. The kids waded into the ever-deepening puddles and cutely became extremely muddy. People got out their umbrellas or didn’t, but camp went on as usual. Bad weather is great fun! The next morning, after three inches of rain fell in one night, my tenting neighbor was hanging all his sopping things out to dry. I commiserated and he said, “Oh, it’s not so bad, it was just water. Just imagine if it had been honey! “The next night we stood outside in the dark and watched the Perseid meteor shower while listening to owls calling in the woods. Magical! In the end, I learned a lot and had a great time. The piano classes with Neil Pearlman and Rachel Aucoin were wonderful. I look forward to returning, to the land where everything is always great and fun, and perfect happiness is just a tune away.