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Festival of Texas Fiddling showcases range of Lone Star fiddle styles

Written by , published December 2, 2014


When it comes to Texas fiddle music, many people think first of Western Swing. But the fiddle features prominently in a range of Lone Star musical styles, and the inaugural Festival of Texas Fiddling aims to showcase that diversity. 

Texas Folklife and Texas Dancehall Preservation, Inc. are putting on the one-day festival at the Twin Sisters Dance Hall, an 1870 hall located six miles south of Blanco on US 281. Along with Western Swing, the festival will feature fiddlers playing old-time music, contest style, Creole, Texas-Polish, Mexican-American, Country-Western, and Creole.

“We’re trying to highlight the fact that there’s a lot of genres of fiddle music in Texas that cover different ethnic groups and different styles,” says Cristina Balli, executive director of Texas Folklife, an Austin-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and showcasing Lone Star culture. “Texas is so rich in music styles and different genres that have been influenced by different ethnic groups in the state.”

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Along with performances, the festival also includes three hands-on workshops for fiddlers. The workshop leaders are Ed Poullard, who plays Creole style; Howard Rains, who plays traditional fiddle tunes from early Texas; and Brian Marshall, who plays Texas-Polish music with the Tex-Slavic Playboys.

The day will close with a Western Swing dance featuring Al Dressen's Super Swing Revue. General admission tickets are $10. VIP tickets, which include reserved seats and a meal, are $100. The workshops cost $30 each, or $60 for all three; all ticket-holders will be able to watch the workshops, but you can’t participate as a fiddler without a workshop ticket. Food and drinks will be available for sale.

In conjunction with the Festival of Texas Fiddling, Texas Folklife is releasing a new CD called “Traditional Music of Texas, Volume 1: Fiddle Recordings from the Texas Folklife Archives.” The CD features live recordings of fiddle music from Texas Folklife workshops, field recordings, and concerts dating to the 1990s. The CD includes Texas Swing by Johnny Gimble, Rio Grande Valley fiddle music by Jose Moreno, Brian Marshall’s Polish-style fiddling, and more.

Texas Folklife and Texas Dancehall Preservation Inc. partnered earlier this year on the Polka Festival and Symposium, which took place in February at the Sengelmann and Turner dance halls in Schulenberg. Balli says it makes sense for the groups to partner again for the fiddle event.

“Texas Dance Hall Preservation is trying to not just preserve the physical structures of the dance halls, but the culture that goes along with it, the music and the dancing,” she says. “And that’s what we’re trying to preserve to. We have a natural intersection of missions and purposes there. And sometimes these events are much stronger if two groups work together to present them.”

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