Retreat of note a real delight for string players

January 21, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - Ann Cann encouraged those gathered Saturday for the third Upper Potomac Fiddle Retreat in Harpers Ferry to get in touch with their "inner dork."

Fellow fiddle teacher Joe Herrmann joked that he named his miniclass "Applied Fiddle Theory" hoping no one would sign up for it.

Musician Chance McCoy described the weekend of bow flexing that continues through today at the Hilltop House Hotel as an opportunity to get together with "a bunch of geeks" who enjoy the sounds of a stringed instrument often relegated to back porches and kitchens.

"I came to soak up whatever tunes I could," said Lloyd Muchow of Reisterstown, Md., who is among more than 90 students registered for the retreat. "Playing the fiddle for me is like going to church ... nourishing ... It fills me with delight and peace. There's so many great people here."


For Joanie Blanton, executive director of Upper Potomac Music Weekends, the retreat is helping build community and keeping folk traditions alive as renowned instructors come together for the events.

"Folk music tends to go into the forgotten corners," Blanton said in the lobby of the venerable hotel on the cliffs above the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

"If you tried to put this on in the (Verizon) Center, it wouldn't work," she added.

For Judy Warner of Rohrersville, the retreats, whether fiddle or dulcimer or bagpipe, have provided a bit of comfort and a challenge to learn more.

"I try to go to all that I can because they're always good," Warner said. "You can get to jam with other people."

Blanton said she teamed up with the Potomac Valley Scottish Fiddle Club, whose members meet in conjunction with the retreat.

"Almost every room in the hotel is rented by a fiddler," said Blanton, noting more than 100 musicians were attending this weekend's workshops, classes, jam sessions and a dance.

"I really don't want to get any bigger," she said.

More information about the Upper Potomac Fiddle Retreat is available on the Web at

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