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The Burning Barrel Fiddle
Jeff Anderson grew up in a musical family in Waterville, Washington. Both of his grandfathers were fiddlers from Norway via North Dakota. Jane is from Olympia, Washington. She was drawn to Scandinavian music in part because of her father’s love of it, which came from his Minnesota roots.
Jeff and Jane Anderson have been playing Scandinavian tunes together since the day they met in 1999. They play traditional dance music for waltz, schottische, polka, mazurka and other toe-tapping rhythms. Self taught musicians, they were introduced to this music through family links. They have traveled to Scandinavia numerous times to learn from tradition bearers and to share their passion for this special music.
My Dad, Palmer Anderson, was a fantastic fix-it man. By intuition, he repaired fiddles, fingerboards and bridges. He re-haired bows, made and installed sound posts. Long ago when someone sat on Grandpa’s fiddle, it broke the neck so Dad repaired that for him. Another fix on the same fiddle was one time at a dance when Grandpa (who had poor vision and only one eye) set his fiddle behind a door during the break and accidentally put it into a bucket of water. Dad had to spread the fiddle sides and back apart to dry it out and re-glue the parts. This is the fiddle that I learned to play on. Palmer had no training for this work except he had seen his father do some repairs when he was young.
Uncle Glenn was from a family of 14 children, 9 of whom played music. He played guitar and the pump organ as well as being a good singer. He taught me the basics of playing a guitar. He was also a practical joker and loved telling funny stories.
The Mystery of the Burning Barrel Fiddle
There is a very fascinating mystery about this fiddle, which was a gift to me from my Uncle Glenn L. Melcher.
One hot August afternoon in 1972 Uncle Glenn visited the Igloo Tavern in Wenatchee, Washington to quench his thirst. On leaving, he took a shortcut through the alley and came upon a flaming burning barrel. To his astonishment he found a partly burned fiddle case stuffed into the barrel. Being a musician himself, he immediately rescued the case and snuffed out the flames. Peeking into the case he was amazed to find a fiddle inside. He decided to take his new-found treasure to my Dad, Palmer Anderson, because Palmer “could fix anything.” The fiddle was placed on a work bench in the basement where the case was carefully opened. Inside was a very sad looking violin. The varnish on the instrument was bubbled and discolored from the heat of the fire. As dad lifted the violin out of its burned case, the neck came off, along with the fingerboard and top string nut. The E-string peg was half burned away. The top was loose, the bridge was laying flat between the F holes, the strings charred. The sides came apart along with the inside blocks, curved strips and the back was not attached. Basically it was a case full of violin parts.
My uncle asked dad if he would put the violin back together and said, “keep track of your time and whatever you need to fix it up and I will pay you for it.” Dad agreed to get the violin into playing condition and he worked on it in his spare time. About three months later the repairs were made. Uncle Glenn came down and inspected it. He asked Dad how much he had into it. Dad told him, “I have $360.00 in it.” Glenn thought it looked very nice, a whole lot better than it did to begin with. I remember as he stood there looking at it he said, “Well, Palmer, I can’t play it anyway. I think I’ll just give it to Jeffrey as a gift. He’s learning to play, so he can have it.”
1. The Burning Barrel Fiddle By Jeffrey R. Anderson. - This tune is in honor of my fiddle because it has had a very rough life. Happily it still has many more tunes in it
2. Ved Stjørdalselva Vals By Edgar Herringstad. - The title of the tune translates as “by the Stjørdals River.” Stjørdals is an area in Norway east of Trondheim.
3. Kalenderfynbo - Danish polka from Sønderjylland.
4. Marsj I Mars - ‘Marching in March.” A Norwegian march, possibly by Sigmund Ekos.
5. C & G Schottis - Swedish schottis from Lars Persa Ultervattnet, Västerbotten.
6. Erik’s Hambo - Swedish hambo.
7. Klövsjö Brudmarsch - A bride march from Jämtland, Sweden (which was played at our Norwegian wedding).
8. Mrs. Anderson’s Wedding Waltz By Jeffrey R. Anderson. - I wrote and played this waltz as a gift to my wife at our wedding in 2004.
9. Snurringen Mazurka - A traditional mazurka from Norway.
10. Gånglåt efter Niklas Niklasson - A Swedish walking tune. We heard this tune played by 100 fiddlers in a grandstand at a Nordleik Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden and just had to learn it.
11. Åt Sulhusgubba Reinlender - Norwegian schottische “the old fiddler from Sulhus” (Roros).
12. Sigurd’s Polka - From Sigurd Biløygard, Gudbrandsdal, Norway.
13. Valerie’s Waltz - Composed by “Banjo” Bob Olson for his wife at their wedding.
14. Rassel Olle - Swedish schottis named for Rassel Olle (1863 -1934) who lived in Hårga, Hanebo Parish near Kilafors in Sweden. Learned from Hallvar Opheim, Norway.
15. Ole’s Vals - An old waltz that my Norwegian grandfathers played.
16. Siljan Gånglåt - A dance tune from Lake Siljan in Sweden.
17. Sirkoijen Tanssi Schottis - Composed by Albert Israelsson of Norbotten, Sweden. Although distinctly Finnish in flavor and name, it is an example of the close ties between neighboring countries.
18. Kvaeser Vals. - Known as “Uncle Bill’s Tune” in my family because he frequently played it on his “3 row buttonbox.
19. Hamborger etter Torfinn Steindal & I Nørstnesfjose Polka - Medley of Norwegian polkas.
Fiddle - Jeff Anderson
Accordion - Jane Anderson
Guitar & Bass - Richard DeRosset
Harmony fiddle - Vivian Williams
Snoring by Lilly
Recorded at Voyager studios by Phil Williams
Mixdown by Jeff Anderson
Fiddle photo by Jeff Anderson
Photo of Jeff and Jane by Martin Ng, Painted Cloud Studios
Artwork by Vivian Williams
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