The Fiddle: One Song at a Time

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February 16, 2014 by The Editor

Violinist Romeo Clement of Farley, Que. and Guillaume Riendeau on sticks, of Maniwaki, Quebec. March 1943.  Library and Archives of Canada,  MIKAN no. 3197688.

Violinist Romeo Clement of Farley, Que. and Guillaume Riendeau on sticks, of Maniwaki, Quebec. March 1943. Library and Archives of Canada, MIKAN no. 3197688.

A year and a half ago I started learning to play the fiddle. What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? One definition says it’s simply the “informal” word for the same thing. But there seems to something about playing the fiddle that is resolutely not about playing the violin.

But I don’t want to get hung up on that kind of semantics. I am learning the fiddle, plain and simple. And this new series of posts will showcase the songs I learn one by one. I promise not to post videos of myself playing. Not yet anyway.

My primary interest in playing the fiddle is taking up a French Canadian tradition and learning songs that my grandfather, who I never knew, might have played on his own fiddle. He was, I am told, the type who could play any instrument that he picked up, by ear. Why didn’t I get that talent?!

I do know one song that was part of his, and the family’s, repertoire: Prendre un petit coup. I’ve written a bit about this before. So, after enough lessons to get the basics down, I asked my teacher to teach me this song. Although widely accomplished as a teacher, songwriter, and performer, my teacher here in London, Pete Cooper, was largely unfamiliar with French Canadian fiddling and had not heard of this song.

But taking it up, he soon was teaching me the bowing and before I knew it, the song was embedded in my head. It is a song to toast the New Year or, as some put it, a drinking song… I know it as my grandmother taught me and a friend concurred – a song the family sings to toast the New Year.

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One thought on “The Fiddle: One Song at a Time

  1. Dave Bezotte says:

    I’m enjoying your posts on playing fiddle and on voyageur songs! I started learning fiddle as an adult, also motivated by the fact that my grandfather was a fiddler; he came from St-Cuthbert, Quebec. I was a year old when he died so don’t remember hearing him play, but my mother gave me one of his fiddles, so that provided added motivation. I haven’t become very good at it, but do play it occasionally as part of school presentations that I do on French-Canadian settlement locally; second graders are very forgiving! And by the way, “Prendre un petit coup” was also a favorite of my family in Chassell, Michigan. Thanks for all you do to share our heritage!

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