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VIVIAN WILLIAMS: WALTZES
I love to play waltzes and watch the dancers glide across the floor. The waltz can be fast with lots of movement and spinning, or it can be a real slow "buckle polisher." Many of the great waltz traditions from around the world can be found in the Pacific Northwest. They came here in various waves of emigration to the region, from the Oregon Trail days to the present. In my over 40 years of playing for dances I have been fortunate to have learned from some great waltz fiddlers from these Northwest fiddle traditions, and to play for great dancers.
As a kid I learned how to dance the Viennese waltz from my mother, who was born in Austria. I also learned the "box step" and "two-step" waltzes. The waltzes I heard ranged from "folk" to "Strauss."
In 1957 I met Gordon Tracie, founder of Skandia Folkdance Club, who introduced me to Scandinavian fiddle music and the dances that go with it. Before long, I was playing for the Skandia Balls. Scandinavians are a major population group in the Puget Sound area. Some came here directly from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, and others came by way of North Dakota. Scandinavian waltzes have a special lilt and usually are at a moderately fast tempo.
When I started attending fiddle events in Montana and Idaho in the early 1960's I heard a different kind of waltz playing in what seems to be a uniquely Western American style. These Northwest fiddlers played waltzes in a slow, mournful, bluesy, plaintive, unadorned manner, with lots of feeling. Some of the great fiddlers in this style who influenced my waltz playing include Harold Allan, Chuck Griffin, Alman Manes, and Loyd Wanzer.
The fiddler whose waltz styling I most emulated was Joe Pancerzerski, from Enumclaw, Washington. He was born in North Dakota, learned a lot of his fiddling in Saskatchewan, and played primarily in Western Canadian style. He told me that a waltz should be played like a love song, and taught me a lot about expression and phrasing in waltz playing.
These are some of my favorite waltzes.
1. Sir John MacDonald's Waltz (Graham Townsend)
My all-time favorite waltz, this tune was named for Canada's prime minister in the 1870's.
2. Silver Wedding Waltz (Andy deJarlis)
I learned this tune from Joe Pancerzewski.
3. Whistler's Waltz (trad.)
Just about all the Northwest old timers used to play this waltz.
4. Saturday Waltz (trad.)
When a group of North Dakota Norwegians were camped next to us one year at the National Old Time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho, and played this tune all week, I couldn't help learning it!
5, Stonetown Waltz (V. Williams)
Shortly after I wrote this tune, I played it at the Tenino Old Time Music Festival and asked the audience for suggestions for a name. The one I liked best was "Stonetown," a nickname for Tenino because of the quarry at the south edge of town.
6. Emma (trad.)
I fell in love with this tune when I first heard it. It is a traditional Finnish song, very common in Finland and well-loved by musicians and dancers in the Northwest.
7. Keepsake Waltz (V. Williams)
I wrote the second part of this waltz to sound like a typical Scandinavian dance. I came up with the first part later, in a more sentimental style. Somehow the parts go together anyway. This waltz has been played in contests and recorded by Canadian fiddlers.
8. Rebecca's Waltz (Joe Pancerzewski)
Joe wrote this tune at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington, and named it after Rebbekka Riverstone.
9. Fairweather Waltz (V. Williams)
One summer when we were out on our sailboat, I wrote this tune to celebrate the beautiful weather we were having.
10. Fairy Waltz (Joe Pancerzewski)
Joe Pancerzewski was a first-rate composer as well as a great waltz fiddler.
11. A & E Waltz (Rusty Modrell)
Another of those mournful Western waltzes that all the Northwest old timers used to play.
12. Good Neighbor Waltz (Andy deJarlis)
One of the most danceable waltzes I know.
13. Dry River Waltz (trad.)
This is one of the first waltzes I ever learned to play on the fiddle, from an old Don Messer 78 rpm record.
14. Swedish Wedding Waltz (John Weiland)
The real name for this tune is Skedvikullans Brudvals but I've been calling it the "Swedish Wedding Waltz" ever since I learned it from Barbara Lamb decades ago.
15. A Beautiful Night (V. Williams)
I think of this waltz as a romantic conversation.
16. Anniversary Song (J. Ivanovici)
The first two parts of the Viennese composer's eight part "Waves of the Danube" waltz suite.
Vivian Williams, fiddle; Phil Williams, guitar & bass
Engineering and Mixing: Phil Williams
Recorded at Voyager studio February, 2001
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