Many years ago, I was lucky enough to stumble into an Irish fiddle class at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. I’d just started on graduate work in ethnomusicology and I had always loved listening to Irish music and thought, as a long-time violinist, I’d like to try my hand at it. The class was taught by guitarist Jim DeWan and fiddler Liz Carroll. At the time, I didn’t know a lot about Irish music and hadn’t heard of Liz Carroll, but I quickly learned that she is one of the most incredible fiddler players working today. So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are a few examples of Liz’s excellent work:
Liz with John Doyle (formerly of Solas) playing some lightning-fast reels:
Liz and John Doyle playing at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day, 2009:
More reels with John Doyle:
That last one is my favorite of the three videos for two reasons: 1) You can really hear Liz’s amazing rhythmic sense and 2) Her feet. I noticed Liz’s dancing feet from the very first class. When she sits, she practically dances along with the music. It’s contagious. I remember talking to her about Cape Breton-style fiddling and she was admiring the way Natalie MacMaster dances while she plays. But Liz dances too, in her own way.
Here’s Natalie playing and dancing. Stick with this recording until the end — it’s where the fireworks really happen:
And here she is on a TED talk with Donnell Leahy playing and talking about what she does:
Playing Irish fiddle quickly became one of my chief musical joys. I’ll talk more about how it compares to playing classical music and what it’s like to jump into another style another time. But for now, I hope this taste of Celtic fiddle has whetted your appetite for more.