New from the University of Tennessee Press (Charles K Wolfe Series) is Couldn’t Have a Wedding without the Fiddler: The Story of Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island by Ken Perlman. Launch party will take place April 9 at 7:30 pm at the Irish Cultural Centre (BIS), 582 North River Road in Charlottetown. There will be refreshments, a cash bar and a ceilidh featuring Island fiddlers and other musicians. Fr. Charles Cheverie will serve as MC. This is sponsored by the Institute of Island Studies, UPEI and University of Tennessee Press.
Also being launched is the Bowing Down Home website. Other launch parties for Bowing Down Home will also feature book signings and readings: April 7 Little Pond Community Hall; April 8: Vanier Centre, Wellington; April 10: Murray Harbour Community Hall.
If you miss the launches the book will be available immediately at Bookmark on Queen St. in Charlottetown, and eventually at other bookstores and shops that specialize in Island materials.
Couldn’t Have a Wedding without the Fiddler offers a social, cultural and musical exploration of traditional fiddle playing on Prince Edward Island. Based primarily on oral histories collected from about 150 fiddlers and other Islanders, the narrative colorfully brings to life the electric atmosphere of the old Island dances and the central role that fiddlers and their music once played in community life. It was almost unthinkable to plan any important event in the community without first making sure there was at least one fiddler available to play for it. The book also explores attitudes about fiddling, learning patterns and strategies, playing styles and repertoire, dancing and accompaniment, fiddle contests and the role of mass media, the decline of fiddling and the subsequent revival movement. Couldn’t Have a Wedding is the first volume of a new series at the University of Tennessee Press named for, and financed by a grant from the estate of Dr. Charles K. Wolfe (1943-2006), the great historian of Southern vernacular music.
Ed MacDonald, Associate Professor of History at UPEI, says, “With an eye for detail and an ear for nuance, Ken Perlman’s in-depth study deftly deconstructs Prince Edward Island’s distinctive fiddle culture, artfully embedding the music in its social milieu. The result, like a well-played reel, is deeply satisfying—and deeply respectful of its subject.”
Perlman says, “This book was a labor of love over twenty years in the making. I was deeply moved—not only by the music of Island fiddlers—but by their reminiscences of a rich and vibrant way of life in which music and dance were often in the forefront. I simply had to bring this story to the world.”
Ken Perlman is a professional banjoist and guitarist from Boston. He began collecting tunes and oral histories from traditional fiddle players on Prince Edward Island in 1991 and has been working with these tunes and stories ever since. He is best known on PEI for his collection of over 400 tunes called The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic & Acadian Tunes in Living Tradition, and his research forms the core of “bowingdownhome.ca,” a new website devoted to Island fiddling on which he also serves as curator. www.kenperlman.com