Below is a letter submitted by Jim Johnston after attending David Greenberg's live performance at Bemidji State University on May 19th.
A 350-year old violin came to life Sunday in its first public exposure since being restored by Minneapolis luthier Andrew Dipper.
Some 100 lucky Bemidjians (courtesy of Headwaters School of Music and the Arts, and for a paltry five bucks) cozied into the lower tier of BSU's Bangsberg concert hall to hear Halifax's masterful fiddler/violinist David Greenberg play the old instrument – and his regular violin, and an unusual “octave” fiddle.
Greenberg brought the house down with wild number after number. During one mad reel, as the fiddler's fingers flew over the strings, the enthusiastic audience could almost see plaid-skirted dancers come flying out of the wings.
Although Greenberg plays all kinds of music – Baroque, Cape Breton, and was that a little New Orleans jazz? – he specializes in 18th century Scottish folk.
So why did this fugitive from Maryland and Indiana University move to Nova Scotia? 'Cause that's where the Scots are … forced off their farms during Scotland's infamous 18th and 19th century “clearances”.
During the “conversation” (Greenberg's preferred label for his concert), the delightfully engaging musician paused to answer questions. He noted that the old violin was crafted in Scotland, about 100 years after the violin itself was invented in Italy.
Greenberg explained that the octave fiddle, or baritone violin, plays an octave lower than the violin – down in cello range. (In the mid-1800’s, a New Yorker invented an instrument that Greenberg’s octave fiddle was based on, called the “Cradle of Harmony”.)
To Greenberg, all his violins are alive. At the end of one piece, he communes for a moment with the restored model; he is getting to know it. Between numbers he places the violins carefully on protective cloth. Tenderly.
David Greenberg is now living in Corvallis Oregon.
(To enjoy more Greenbergs, you can support Headwaters.)
- Jim Johnston, Audience Member