Fiddle Hell Massachusetts 2016 will be on Nov. 4-6, 2016 in Westford, MA.
Fiddle Hell Massachusetts is a yearly gathering of fiddlers to meet, jam, learn, and have fun. It's both friendly and diverse, crossing all ages and including many traditional fiddle styles. Typically, there are about 1/4 beginners, 1/2 intermediates, and 1/4 advanced players, with many workshop and jam session choices at each level. Roughly 1/5 of the attendees are kids, and there are some sessions just for them.
The invention of the late, great fiddler Dale Hopkins from Missouri, Fiddle Hell occurs periodically in fun locations worldwide. Prior Fiddle Hells have occurred in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany. Dale used the term "Fiddle Hell" to refer to the unique sound of many fiddlers playing a tune together. While Dale's two Fiddle Hell gatherings involved performances for the public as well as some informal sharing of tunes and techniques, Dave Reiner extended the concept to make Fiddle Hell Massachusetts more of a fiddle camp for all ages, with scheduled workshops and jam sessions led by a wonderful group of experienced and supportive instructors.
Last year (2015), we had 350+ musicians, mostly fiddlers, at the eleventh Massachusetts Fiddle Hell. They came from as far away as Edinburgh (Scotland), Nottingham (England), Québec City (Canada), California, Alabama, and Florida, and from as near as Westford itself.
This amazing gathering starts at noon on Friday and goes until 6PM on Sunday (Nov. 4-6, 2016). There will be 270 instructor-led workshops and jam sessions. As well, there will be lots of informal jam sessions, where the 52 original and 52 new Fiddle Hell common tunes will often show up. The Saturday night concert and contra dance afterwards are legendary!
Fiddle Hell 2016 will held for the third year at the Westford Regency Inn, 219 Littleton Road, Westford, Massachusetts. There's lots of workshop and jamming space, loads of free parking, nice rooms if you wish to stay there (and a swimming pool!), and good food both onsite and nearby. Sessions, workshops, the concert and dance, and late night jams will all be under one roof! Click on Overall Logistics 2016 on the left for information on booking rooms for $99+tax with the Fiddle Hell discount.
To look at the 2016 schedule, click here and then click on Friday Schedule, Saturday Schedule, or Sunday Schedule on the left.
You can order an instructional 2-CD set of all 52 of the original Fiddle Hell common tunes, played both up-to-tempo and slowly by the Reiner Family Band. This is just $15 postpaid (within the US) in our Store. Now there is a new set of 52 common tunes in addition, based on your suggestions on the FH surveys.
There will again be a discount for prepayment of the weekend attendance fees, and discounts for kids (17 or under), young adults (18-25), seniors (65 or over), and non-players. Kids must be accompanied by a registered adult or young adult who is responsible for supervising their participation in Fiddle Hell. Click here to see all 2016 fees. A number of scholarships are available to those who can't afford the fees. Only those who prepay for the weekend will be entered into the drawing for the $100 gift certificate from Johnson Strings / Carriage House Violins.
If you attended Fiddle Hell 2015, click here to take a quick 10-question survey and help us improve Fiddle Hell! We read every response, and really appreciate your feedback.
Fiddle Hell is loosely sponsored online by the Fiddle and Alternative Strings Forum and the Fiddle Hangout. At these websites, you'll find discussions, event listings, and other resources; you can join for free and read about past and future Fiddle Hell meetings.
For many years, Fiddle Hell has been sponsored by CodaBow (maker of great carbon fiber bows) and by D'Addario (maker of responsive, fine-sounding strings). During the 2016 Fiddle Hell weekend, we'll give away many sets of D'Addario Helicore and Zyex strings, and also a couple of dozen sets of D'Addario EXP74 mandolin strings. Right after Fiddle Hell, there will be a drawing on the CodaBow website for a new Luma bow valued at $600-$700 (fiddle, viola, or cello bow to match your instrument). You'll have until Nov 9th to sign up for the giveaway on the CodaBow website, using a code we'll give out at Fiddle Hell. Just so you know, CodaBow will ask for your email when you sign up. To one of the musicians who preregisters for the weekend, we'll give away a $100 gift certificate from Johnson Strings / Carriage House Violins that can be used at Fiddle Hell or at their store in Newton, MA.
The Music You're Hearing: is Beaumont Rag in the key of D, played and recorded live by Dave Reiner (fiddle), Eric Eid-Reiner (keyboard) and Paul Harty (guitar and harmonica) at Buell's Orchard in Connecticut. The music player itself is at the top right of this page if you need to turn it off or make other adjustments.
- Dave Reiner, Andy Eid Reiner, and Eric Eid-Reiner, Fiddle Hell Music Directors
P.S. #1 (from Dave) The Old Groton Inn, which had hosted Fiddle Hell Massachusetts from 2005-2010, burned down on August 2nd, 2011, fortunately with no injuries to guests or staff. The Inn was built around the year 1678. Dark but lively, full of character and history - in many ways that quintessential New England setting was just like the old traditional tunes that we played there. George (the owner) loved music, cooked with pride, and was always telling me - "We'll take care of you, buddy!" And Vicki (the manager) worked very hard, against a variety of obstacles, to make every Fiddle Hell as smooth as possible for her guests. I am very sorry for their personal loss and the historic one as well, and offer my heartfelt thanks for our years of partnership.
P.S. #2 (from Dave) From 2011-2013, Fiddle Hell was hosted at Concord's historic and inviting Colonial Inn. We greatly appreciate the fine support and warm welcome Fiddle Hell received from the Colonial Inn and its staff through those three years. We have moved on to a new location since the event has now grown too large for the Colonial Inn, but we wish them well!
Where and When: The Westford Regency Inn at 219 Littleton Road, Westford, MA 01886, combines New England charm with modern amenities, about 45 minutes west of Boston. Fiddle Hell will be Friday (Nov. 4) from 11:30AM until 3AM, Saturday (Nov. 5) from 8:30AM to 3AM, and Sunday (Nov. 6) from 8:30AM to 6PM. Come join us for a single day or the whole weekend. If you're coming from far, come early or stay on -- there's lots to do and see in the Greater Boston area.
Prepayment: To prepay for the 2016 Fiddle Hell Weekend, click on Fiddle Hell Fees on the left (or on the top of this window for mobile devices). There is no requirement to prepay, although it saves you money. You can just show up and pay onsite by cash or check.
Parking: There are 800 free parking spaces right at the Westford Regency Inn.
Lodging: The Westford Regency Inn in Westford, MA, has great rooms if you'd like to stay over. The Westford Regency is now sold out for Friday and Saturday nights unless there's a cancellation. Try the Residence Inn Boston Westford at 978-392-1407 (8 minutes walk, across the road) or the Hampton Inn and Suites 978-392-1555 (a mile or so down the road). For Fiddle Hell attendees, prices at the Westford Regency are a discounted $99/night plus tax, although there may be suites available at a higher rate. The discount is valid until 9 days before Fiddle Hell. It's a good idea to book early if you want to be sure of a room. To make lodging reservations for 2016, call the hotel directly at 978-692-8200 and tell them the magic booking code HEL114 to get your Fiddle Hell room discount. There's a choice of two different types of rooms, with either 2 double beds, or 1 king and a foldout sofa. Currently, the discount is available only for Thursday and Sunday check in.
Food: The Westford Regency will have breakfast buffets, Clark's Pub, and the restaurant. There are also many other restaurants within walking or easy driving distance in Westford.
Activities: For our workshops, the Westford Regency has many large meeting rooms with comfortable chairs. Workshops cover many different styles, and also include hands-on learning about jamming, learning tunes by ear, bowing shuffles, playing backup on fiddle, chop bowing, free improvisation, left hand technique, hot licks, bluegrass fiddling, oldtime fiddling, Swedish fiddling, contradance fiddling, and fiddling for kids. We've also set up jams in particular styles, like Oldtime Southern, Irish, Scottish, Bluegrass, Swedish, Klezmer, and Western Swing, and at different levels. Slow-speed tune workshops will be helpful when you're just learning some of the tunes. There will be some fine jamming spots in the hallways, and it's fine to jam in the workshop rooms between sessions. We will be inviting selected local players (guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, and more) to join in the jams. See the Schedule for more details.
Clark's Pub has a nice ambiance and fine beverages. During Fiddle Hell, we'll refer to it as Old Joe Clark's Pub, in honor of the eponymous fiddle tune. Under-age fiddlers may attend Fiddle Hell, but obviously can't drink alcohol. We'll have free giveaways from various sponsors, such as D'Addario, CodaBow, the Reiner family, and more.
Vendors: Carriage House Violins, now part of Johnson String Instrument, will be at Fiddle Hell all weekend in 2016 with a selection of fiddles, mandolins, bows, strings, rosin and accessories. They will be able to help with simple set-ups (e.g., helping put on strings). Jonathan Cooper, a well-known violinmaker and an accomplished fiddler himself, should be back with us in in 2016. Andy Reiner plays a fantastic Jon Cooper 5-string violin.
Getting there: The Westford Regency is at exit 32 from Rt. 495 (between Rt. 2 and Rt. 3) in Westford, MA. It's about 35-40 minutes by car from Boston, and is very accessible from the North, South, and West as well. The nearest airports are Boston, MA and Manchester, NH. There are commuter rail trains from Boston to several nearby towns including Littleton, MA (5 miles away); check the train schedules to make sure they're actually running when you need them.
Carpooling: You may also be able to share a ride with other Fiddle Hell attendees. We're continuing our new self-serve approach in 2016 to arrange carpools from anywhere to Fiddle Hell and back, with an easy to use and well reviewed website (groupcarpool.com) that only requires a browser (no app, no login). Click here to offer rides as a driver, or to sign up for a carpool as a rider. The free site deals with dates, times, vehicle capacity, and both one-way and round-trip arrangements. You can further coordinate via email or phone. For example, we hope there will be some carpools from Cambridge (perhaps Alewife T stop) and Boston (perhaps near Berklee College of Music). Of course, Fiddle Hell does not take any responsibility for your use of this website to arrange carpools.
Carpooling is especially interesting if you're coming a long distance, say from Connecticut or Vermont. Fiddle Hell is not responsible for these carpooling arrangements, but we've heard that this site works exceptionally well. One suggestion: it's a good idea for riders to offer to chip in for gas and other costs. The site will email you if there are any changes to arrangements.
If you prefer an alternative, you can contact other fiddlers through a posting to the Fiddle Hell Facebook Event or to the Fiddle Hell Facebook Group or to Fiddle Hangout. On-site, there will be a Fiddle Hell message board in the Registration Room where you can ask for or offer rides.
Accessibility: Fiddle Hell registration and many workshops are on the 1st floor, with no stairs required. The Westford Regency has an elevator between the 1st and 3rd floors where other workshops and the concert will be held. Certain of the guest rooms are "handicapped accessible" according to the Inn.
For 2016, our leaders include an incredible range of wonderful fiddlers and accompanists, covering many styles.
Click on leaders' names to look at their websites. Those new to Fiddle Hell in 2016 are marked with a '+' sign; they are most welcome!
Instrument Codes: F=Fiddle, A=Accordion, B=Banjo, BAG=Bagpipes, BASS=Bass, BODH=Bodhrán, CELLO=Cello, CLAR=Clarinet, D=Dulcimer, G=Guitar, HM=Harmonica, HP=Harp, M=Mandolin, P=Piano, U=Ukulele
BALK=Balkan, BG=Bluegrass, BLUE=Blues, BRET=Breton, CAJ=Cajun, CAN=Canadian, CB=Cape Breton, CJ=Chili Judge, CL=Classical, CTRY=Country, EEUR=East European, EN=English, FOLK=Folk, GAL=Galician, GYP=Gypsy, IR=Irish, IT=Italian, JAZZ=Jazz, KLEZ=Klezmer, MARI=Maritime, MW=Midwest, NE=New England, OT=Oldtime (Southern), QB=Québecois, SCAN=Scandinavian, SCOT=Scottish, SWNG=Swing, TX=Texas, VOC=Vocals (at Fiddle Hell), WL=Welsh, WO=World, WS=Western Swing
Musician Instruments Primary traditional styles Alan Kaufman F, M, G OT, BG Andrea Beaton F, P CB Andy Reiner F, M OT, IR, BG, CB, SCOT, SCAN, WO Art Bryan B, G, M NE, OT, IR Art Schatz F WS, BG, CTRY + Autumn Rose Lester F, P NE, IR, OT Becky Tracy F IR, QB, NE Bennett Hammond G, B OT, IR, FOLK Bethany Waickman G, P NE, IR, SCOT Bob Alessio F, G NE, OT, IT + Bruce Molsky F, B, G OT, WO Cathy Mason F OT, CAJ Cindy Eid BODH, B IR, OT, BG, SWNG, BLUE, WS, KLEZ Clayton March F, CLAR IR, NE, KLEZ + Darol Anger F, M BG, WO, OT, BLUE, FOLK, back at FH again Dave Reiner F, M BG, OT, IR, NE, WS, TX, MW, CAJ, SWNG David Kaynor F, G, M NE, SWED, CTRY David Moultrup G, M SWNG, BG, VOC + David Surette G, M IR, SCOT, BG, BRET, FOLK, SCOT, VOC Ed Pearlman F SCOT, CB Ellen Carlson F BG, CAN, SWNG, IR, CTRY, BLUE + Ellery Klein F IR (especially), SCOT, CB, CL, OT + Emy Phelps G VOC, FOLK, BG Eric Eid-Reiner P NE, CB, SCOT, IR, OT, SWNG, WS, BLUE Eric Favreau F QB, CAN Frank Ferrel F NE, IR, QB, MARI, CB George Fowler F NE, IR + Gretchen Koehler F NE, CAN, IR, CL + Jason Anick F, M, G GYP, JAZZ, SWNG, BLUE, back at FH again Jenna Moynihan F SCOT Jerry Wile G BG, OT, WS, BLUE John Chambers A, F SCAN, KLEZ, NE, BALK, SCOT, IR. IT John Robinson G BG, IR, OT, NE, SWNG, BLUE, CTRY, CAJ Joy Adams CELLO, B OT, WO, FOLK, VOC, CL Julie Metcalf F NE, OT, BG, SCOT, TX + Katie McNally F SCOT, CB, G Laurel Martin F IR (esp. Clare & East Galway) Lissa Schneckenburger F VOC, NE, SCOT Lorraine Hammond D, M, B, HP VOC, FOLK (old and new), OT Mariel Vandersteel F OT, SCAN, WO Mark Simos F, G OT, IR, NE, QB, KLEZ, VO, New Trad Marshall Racowsky G TX, SWNG, WS, OT, CJ Michelle Kaminsky F CAJ, OT + Oliver Scanlon F, M, G OT, SWNG, WO Paul Harty G, F BG, IR, NE, WS, CAJ, OT, BLUE, SWNG Pete Anick F, M, G SWNG, BG, GYP, WO, OT, BRET Pete Sutherland F, G, ... VOC, OT, NE, much more + Rachel Maloney F, HM OT, IR, BALK, EEUR, BLUE, FOLK, EN Rob Flax F, M, BASS JAZZ, BG Shana Aisenberg F, M, G OT, IR, SCOT, NE, KLEZ, BALK, SCAN, BLUE + Skip Gorman F, M, G OT, BG, IR, SCOT, VOC + Susie Burke VOC VOC, FOLK, SWNG, CTRY Tim Rowell B, D, U OT Tom Morley F CL, IR, OT
Fiddle Hell is intended for beginners, intermediates, and advanced players. Please understand that Fiddle Hell is not for novices who are new to the instrument and can't play any tunes yet.
We've given a lot of thought to how best to describe fiddling experience levels for workshops and jam sessions. These levels are approximations that you can use as guidelines to pick your workshops and jams.
If you're not sure about your level, contact Dave to ask, ask the desk staff when you check in, or just find the sessions where you're comfortable once you're at Fiddle Hell. There are some very helpful workshops early in the weekend if you've had little experience learning by ear (or jamming).
Fiddle Hell has very limited space for musicians other than fiddlers; please contact Dave first to ask. We request that any accompanying instruments only play styles and tunes they are familiar with, and ask the fiddlers before joining jam sessions. Mandolins playing melody are considered honorary fiddles. Violas and cellos are welcome.
Here are the 2016 levels, followed by some useful advice.
Beg = Beginner. Knows 8 tunes or more; working on basics of rhythm, tone, intonation, bowing, repertoire, playing by ear; would like to play with others; has fun!
Int = Intermediate. Knows 25 tunes or more, can play up to speed (mainly from memory) in one or more traditional styles, working on technique, on going beyond the basic tune, and perhaps on jamming; has fun!
Adv = Advanced. Knows larger repertoire in one or more traditional styles, plays with nuance (from memory) within these styles, has generally solid technique, has a fair amount of experience playing with others; has fun!
All Levels = Appropriate for all players.
In addition to the tune counts above, there are at least three separate aspects of levels that you may wish to balance in choosing workshops, including technical facility on the instrument, ability to learn by ear, and familiarity with the fiddle style being taught. If you have considerable facility on fiddle, and are fast at learning by ear, but are not familiar with the style being taught, it's reasonable to attend Int or Adv workshops. If you are very new to learning by ear, or have limited capability on fiddle, stick with the Beg or possibly Int workshops to start, even if you're quite familiar with the style.
Beginners are invited to sit in the front of Beg workshops; intermediates, in the front for Int workshops; and so on.
Occasionally, sessions are for mixed levels, such as Beg-Int. In that case, the Beg fiddlers may find some parts of the workshop to be a challenge, and the Int fiddlers may find some material to be a bit slow-paced. We ask for your patience here, from both points of view!
Naturally, the session leaders pay attention to who shows up and how well they're absorbing the material, but leaders do try to teach or lead at the "advertised" levels. To give an example, even if an Adv player joins a Beg workshop, it should remain a Beg workshop.
There are often clues to the level of a session in its title or description. A "slow jam" should be just that; one described as "up-to-speed" or "no holds barred" will be more challenging.
Of course, if you find a session to be too difficult or too easy or are not enjoying it for any reason, please head off to a different one. Or take a break and relax.
In the workshop and jam listings on the schedule, the sessions are listed in order of level for each time slot. For example, you'll see a Beg session before an Int session before an Int-Adv one before an Adv one. All Levels sessions are listed first.
KIDS = Primarily intended for kid fiddlers (ages 5-18, say). Of course, kids are welcome to attend any sessions they want at Fiddle Hell. Adults may attend kids' sessions, but hang out in the back and play it cool.
MINI CONCERT = Sit back and listen. Most of these have three instructors playing, for about 20 minutes each.
NEW 52 = Teaches one of the New 52 Common Tunes. We'll be recording a 2CD set of these in April, 2017.
WARMUP = At the beginning of each day is a gentle warmup session led by Ellen Carlson.
TEENS = There are two short teen meetup sessions, which don't conflict with any other sessions.
FLASH MOB = Gather between regular sessions to play a great tune together.
FLASH MARCH = Gather between sessions to stroll and play two great tunes.
Mandolin, Cello, Guitar, Banjo, Singing, etc. = These highlights draw your attention to sessions focused on the listed instrument, or on singing.
Fees & Prepayment
Attendee type 2016 Full Weekend
2016 Full Weekend
Kid (17 or under) $100 $110 $50 $70 $40 $45 Young Adult (18-25) $100 $110 $50 $70 $40 $45 Adult (26-64) $115 $125 $55 $80 $45 $50 Senior (65 or over) $100 $110 $50 $70 $40 $45 Non-Musician (parent, spouse) $55 $60 $30 $40 $25 $30
Prepayment is not required (although it does save you money for the weekend). Prepayment also enters you into the drawing for the $100 gift certificate from Johnson Strings / Carriage House Violins.
It's fine to just show up at Fiddle Hell when you like during the weekend, register and pay onsite with cash or check. There is an ATM in the hotel lobby, and other ATMs nearby.
Kids (17 or under) are required to have an accompanying adult (or "young adult") at Fiddle Hell with them. This might be a parent or relative, for example, or an older musical friend. The accompanying adult need not attend all sessions with the kid, but has the responsibility of supervising the kid's participation in Fiddle Hell activities. An accompanying adult should be registered at Fiddle Hell in one of the musician categories or as a Non-Musician, and also listed on the kid's registration form. Thanks for your understanding on this point.
The dropdown menu and buttons below will allow you to prepay for the weekend (one or more registrations) and contribute to the scholarship fund if you wish. You will receive an email confirming registration within a few days. Sorry, we don't have a prepayment option for single day rates. The last day for prepayment is Oct 29, 2016. After Oct 29th, just plan to pay at Fiddle Hell when you register.
To add multiple items to your cart (such as a prepayment and a donation to the scholarship fund), add the first item, and a new PayPal Cart tab or window will be created in your browser. Click on Continue Shopping in the PayPal Cart to return here and add another item. When you're done adding items, complete PayPal checkout with your credit card or PayPal account. To go to the Cart again at any time, click on the PayPal Cart tab or window, or click the View Cart button below.
Don't want to use PayPal? It's fine to prepay for the weekend (before October 23, 2016) by sending a check instead to Dave Reiner, P.O. Box 566, Lexington, MA 02420.
The Saturday night concert and contra dance are included if you've paid for Saturday or the weekend.
You will receive a stylish wristband when you register; please wear it throughout your time at Fiddle Hell.
Sat. Concert & Dance
Our Saturday night concert, 7:00-9:30PM on Nov. 5, 2016, will feature an amazing lineup of 20+ traditional fiddlers. We'll have more variety and shorter slots than in 2015.
Fiddlers include Alan Kaufman, Andrea Beaton, Andy Reiner, Bruce Molsky, Cathy Mason, Darol Anger, Dave Reiner, Eric Favreau, Frank Ferrel, Jason Anick, Jenna Moynihan, Joy Adams, Katie McNally, Laurel Martin, Lissa Schneckenburger, Mark Simos, Pete Sutherland, Rachel Maloney, Skip Gorman, and Tom Morley. The concert is free if you’ve paid for Saturday or the Fiddle Hell weekend; walk-ins are $15 at the door. Tell your friends! The doors open around 6:30PM.
The concert will be followed from 9:30-11:00PM with an easy and fun Contra Dance - you can dance or sit in with the band. The dance is free if you're at the concert; there are no separate tickets just for the dance.
After the concert and dance, Fiddle Hell continues through the wee hours of Saturday night! There are more workshops (check out Andy Reiner's Free Improvisation for all levels) and several jams (New England, Oldtime, and more), until 3AM. Just like last year, we'll also have jamming until 12:30AM at Old Joe Clark's Pub in the hotel. While you can stay up late on Saturday night if you like, don't forget there are another 95 workshops and jams starting at 9:30AM on Sunday (and a new Warmup session at 8:30AM).
Photos & VideosPhotos from prior Fiddle Hells:
There are a lot of great photos and albums from Fiddle Hell 2015 on the Fiddle Hell Massachusetts Facebook group.
Dave's Thoughts on Playing by Ear
Some fiddlers ask about playing by ear versus using sheet music at Fiddle Hell.
Since I write fiddle books, I'm certainly not opposed to sheet music in general. And quite a few of the common tunes on the Fiddle Hell 2-CD set are also in my book Anthology of Fiddle Styles. But allow me to suggest that you try to play by ear as much as you can at Fiddle Hell, and that you learn some of the Fiddle Hell repertoire by ear instead of trying to find sheet music.
It's okay to bring sheet music along for occasional reference if you feel you need to do so. But here's why I suggest playing by ear.
Playing by ear encourages you to:
- Listen more carefully to other players
- Absorb more of the groove, the stylistic nuances and the feel for the tune
- Improve your ability to learn by ear
- Jam and play along with tunes you haven't heard before or not much - there are many fiddlers and many, many tunes played at Fiddle Hell!
- Vary the tune a bit within the style
If you're new to fiddle, I'd guess there are a couple of songs that you can sing or hum, like Happy Birthday, or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or others, and that you could play these by ear on fiddle with a little experimentation. Try it! It's just a matter of developing this ability with fiddle tunes. If you listen to and try singing or playing along with your favorite fiddlers or with the Fiddle Hell repertoire CDs (which include slow versions of the tunes), you'll eventually have some of those tunes in your head. Then you can sound them out on your fiddle. I know it's hard at the beginning, but it'll get easier over time.
Even if you track down some sheet music for a tune, that may not be the version that's commonly played, so listening and playing by ear is still preferable. And even if you can play what's on the sheet music perfectly, it may sound mechanical and you'll be tied to it unless you take the additional step of learning it by ear.
Here's my personal experience. I've learned some tunes by ear and some from music. The ones that I'm most comfortable with and that sound the best are almost always the ones I picked up by ear.
- Dave Reiner