An ensemble of more than two dozen young string players from the state of New York descended on Lewiston-Auburn in March of 2015 to perform a public concert as well as share their talents with local school children and retirement community residents.
Hailing from the the Poughkeepsie area, the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers and their slightly younger “JV” team, the Raspberry Fiddlers, are known for their ability to wow audiences with their stellar fiddling techniques representing a variety of genres. Their repertoire includes everything from lively Celtic jigs and lilting English country dance tunes to sassy ragtime numbers and old-time Appalachian melodies, with songs and dance routines adding further pizazz to their shows.
On Sunday, March 29, the ensemble of 25 fiddlers, cellists and bass players presented an afternoon concert at the Temple Shalom synagogue in Auburn. Designed for a family audience, the program included such selections as the elegant “Bare Necessities” waltz, the saucy “Acorn Stomp,” the spicy Cajun two step “Jig Francais,” and the rousing “North Carolina Breakdown,” during which some of the young musicians gleefully abandoned their fiddles and transformed into clog dancers.
Temple Shalom rabbi Sruil Dresdner, who is himself a musician, said “The members of our temple were delighted to be able to provide a performance venue for these extremely gifted young folk musicians.” Dresdner's wife, Lisa Mayer, is a highly accomplished klezmer fiddler who added to the spirit of hospitality by offering the youngsters a free workshop in klezmer fiddle techniques after their concert.
The young musicians remained in the community for a two-day residency during which they performed for students and staff at three Lewiston elementary schools – Martel, Geiger and Montello – as well as at East Auburn School. They also entertained residents at Schooner Estates Retirement Community in Auburn, all at no charge. In appreciation for sharing their talents so generously in the community, Bates College treated the entire group to free lunch at the college's dining commons on Monday, followed by a tour of the campus.
The “Strawberries & Raspberries,” as they are known collectively, comprised students from 15 different middle and high schools in New York's Hudson Valley. The folk bands are sponsored by Stringendo, a community music school through which the youngsters also study classical music. The fiddlers' 2015 visit to Maine was one in a series of semi-annual concert tours during which which they have ventured as far west and south as Minnesota and Louisiana, and even across the Atlantic to Scotland and England.
The group's visit to Lewiston-Auburn came about when the co-director of Stringendo's fiddle program, Carole Schaad – who was born & raised in Winslow, Maine – caught wind of a Young Fiddlers Showcase scheduled to take place at the 2015 DownEast Country Dance Festival in Topsham. After signing up her Strawberries/Raspberries ensemble to perform at this event, she sent feelers out for other opportunities for her group to share their talents in the area. Folque Co-op director Cindy Larock caught wind of her interest and went to work lining up three full days of activities which had the visiting musicians performing for audience members from age 5 to age 95. A highlight of their stay was when they joined the Folque Co-op fiddle group onstage at the DownEast Festival to perform two tunes which the Maine musicians had learned from the visiting group's repertoire, as well as two favorite Franco-American tunes which the visitors had learned from the Folque fiddlers' repertoire. The joint performance ended memorably with the Strawberries/Raspberries learning – on the spot, by ear through “osmosis” from the Folque fiddlers – the popular French-Canadian tune/song “Les Fraises et les Framboises,” which translates to “The Strawberries and the Raspberries,” which has since become a staple of their own performance repertoire!
A Franco-American herself, Schaad said that she was delighted to be able to bring her young music proteges to her home state, where they had a chance to meet and make music with Maine fiddlers, learn some indigenous Maine-Franco tunes, and entertain area residents young and old.
We at the Maine Folque Co-op were equally pleased to be able to bring the Strawberries/Raspberries ensemble to Lewiston-Auburn where their music enriched the lives of so many, and we remain thankful that they chose to direct the proceeds from their Temple Shalom concert towards the support of our own fledgling youth music program. More information about the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers & Raspberry Fiddlers is available on the Stringendo Music School's website at www.stringendoweb.org.
-- -- -- --
Strawberries/Raspberries Lewiston-Auburn Residency Schedule
Sunday, March 29
- 3 pm concert at Temple Shalom, 74 Bradman Street in Auburn
- 7 pm workshop in klezmer fiddle techniques with Lisa Mayer
Monday, March 30
- 10 am performance at Martel Elementary School, Lewiston
- 11:30 am lunch at Bates College dining commons, followed by a campus tour
- 2 pm performance at East Auburn Elementary School, Auburn.
- 2:15 pm performance at Schooner Estates Retirement Community, Auburn.
Tuesday, March 31
- 9:30 am performance at Montello Elementary School, Lewiston.
- 9:45 am performance at Geiger Elementary School, Lewiston.