The Fiddle Hell Massachusetts Festival is a yearly gathering of fiddlers, cellists, mandolin/guitar/banjo players, and singers to meet, jam, learn, listen, and have fun. It's both friendly and diverse, crossing all ages and including many traditional musical styles. Typically, there are about 10% beginners, 25% low intermediates, 35% high intermediates, and 30% advanced players, with many workshop and jam session choices at each level. Roughly 15% of the attendees are kids, and there are some sessions just for them.
The invention of the late, great fiddler Dale Hopkins from Missouri, "Fiddle Hell" events have occurred in fun locations worldwide. Prior Fiddle Hells have been held in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany. Dale used the term "Fiddle Hell" to refer to the unique sound of many fiddlers playing a tune together. While Dale's two Fiddle Hell gatherings involved performances for the public as well as some informal sharing of tunes and techniques, Dave Reiner extended the concept to make the Fiddle Hell Massachusetts Festival more of a hands-on festival for all ages, with hundreds of scheduled workshops and jam sessions led by a wonderful group of experienced and supportive instructors, as well as more than a dozen amazing concerts. The Fiddle Hell Massachusetts Festival and Fiddle Hell Online are run by the Fiddle Hell Massachusetts LLC.
In 2019, we had 800+ musicians at the fifteenth Massachusetts Fiddle Hell. They came from as far away as Scotland, Germany, Québec City (Canada), California, Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Florida, and from as near as Westford itself.
This amazing gathering starts at 11AM on Thursday and goes until 6PM on Sunday (Nov. 5-8, 2020). There will be around 500 instructor-led workshops and jam sessions. Really! In addition, there will be lots of informal and spontaneous jam sessions in the hallways, where the 52 original and 52 new Fiddle Hell common tunes may often show up. The Saturday night concert and contra dance afterwards are open to the public and are legendary! Fiddle Hell participants can dance or sit in with the band (led by Eric Eid-Reiner, Autumn Rose Lester, and George Fowler) at the contra dance, which will be called by Lisa Greenleaf. In addition, we'll have 12 one-hour concerts at Fiddle Hell by various bands and instructors. On Friday night, The Whomp! is back. So is the Friday night easy contradance, with caller and music TBD. And don't miss the Cellosaurus Stomp Flash Mob - learn the dance here, and see the sheet music if you'd like (treble clef, alto clef, bass clef).
Activities: For our workshops, the Westford Regency has many large meeting rooms with comfortable chairs. We also will use several hotel suites for the smaller sessions. Workshops cover many different styles, and also include hands-on learning about jamming, learning tunes by ear, backing up singers and other instruments, practicing techniques, music theory, bowing shuffles, picking techniques, chop bowing, free improvisation, left hand technique, oldtime fiddling, bluegrass fiddling, oldtime fiddling, Swedish fiddling, contradance fiddling, workshops for kids, and more.
While the frequent focus is on fiddle, there will be many workshops every day for cello, mandolin, guitar, oldtime banjo, and singing, led by excellent players and teachers. There are also a few workshops for piano, harmonica, and bass, but these happen only occasionally. We've also set up many instructor-led jams in particular styles, like New England, Oldtime Southern, Irish, Scottish, Bluegrass, Klezmer, Jazz, and Western Swing, and at different levels. Slow-speed tune workshops will be helpful when you're just learning some of the tunes. There will be some excellent jamming spots in the wide hallways, and it's fine to jam in the workshop rooms between sessions. We will be inviting selected local players (guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, and more) to join in the jams. The 2019 instructors and accompanists are listed on the Staff page; it's not yet updated for 2020. See the Schedule for more details on 2019 workshops, jams and concerts; 2020's schedule will be similar in many ways, and should be online by the end of September, 2020.
Fiddle Hell will be held once again at the Westford Regency Inn, 219 Littleton Road, Westford, Massachusetts, on Nov. 5-8, 2020. There's lots of workshop and jamming space, free parking, nice rooms if you wish to stay there (bookable around the end of January), and good food both onsite and nearby. Sessions, workshops, concerts, dances, and late night jams will all be under one roof! Click here and scroll down to Lodging and Food for information on booking sleeping rooms, starting at the end of January. When the Westford Regency sells out of sleeping rooms for 2020 - which will happen within a few days once they're available - note that there are other hotels nearby.
To help with jams, to give players some common repertoire, and to encourage all to try out new styles, we introduced the "original" set of 52 common tunes in 2010, and added the "new" set of 52 more tunes in 2016. The New 52 were chosen based on your suggestions from the prior 4 years of FH surveys. Some of these 104 common tunes will be taught in workshops in November, and will likely show up in jams. These tunes are all listed here. We just call them the "Common Tune List" or "CTL" these days, without distinguishing which of the two lists tunes come from.
You can order an instructional 2-CD set of the 52 original Fiddle Hell common tunes, played both up-to-speed and slowly by the Reiner Family Band. Volume 1 is only $15 postpaid (within the US) in our online Store.
In 2017, the Reiner Family Band (and several talented friends) recorded the 52 new common tunes, played fast and slow. Volume 2 is also only $15 postpaid (within the US) in our online Store.
There are lots of jam sessions at Fiddle Hell, both scheduled and impromptu. Click for jamming guidelines.
If you attended Fiddle Hell 2019, click here to take a quick 10-question survey and help us improve Fiddle Hell! We read every response, and really appreciate your feedback.
The Fiddle Hell Massachusetts Festival is run by the Fiddle Hell Massachusetts LLC. The event is loosely sponsored online by the Fiddle and Alternative Strings Forum and the Fiddle Hangout. At these websites, you'll find discussions, event listings, and other resources; you can join for free and read about past and future Fiddle Hell meetings.
For many years, Fiddle Hell has been sponsored by CodaBow (maker of great carbon fiber bows) and by D'Addario (maker of responsive, fine-sounding strings). During the 2018 Fiddle Hell weekend, we gave away many sets of D'Addario Helicore strings (including two sets for cello), a couple of dozen sets of D'Addario EXP74 mandolin strings, and 10 sets each of D'Addario banjo and guitar strings (lights and mediums). Right after Fiddle Hell, there was a drawing on the CodaBow website for a new Diamond SX bow valued at $625-$750 (fiddle, viola, or cello bow to match your instrument). You had a few days after Fiddle Hell to sign up for the giveaway on the CodaBow website, using a URL we gave out at Fiddle Hell. Just so you know, CodaBow asks for your email when you sign up. Finally, to one of the musicians who preregistered for the weekend, we gave away tickets to a show at Club Passim in Cambridge, and to another a $100 gift certificate from Johnson String Instrument / Carriage House Violins usable at Fiddle Hell or at their store in Newton, MA. 2019 giveaways will be very similar - but wait, there's more!
We welcome two new camp sponsors, and two great new giveaways to people who preregister (as playing participants) for Fiddle Hell Massachusetts in 2019. We'll hold a random drawing for these giveaways at Fiddle Hell in November, 2019.
1. A free registration (including meals and bunk/tent) at one of the Maine Fiddle Camp June weekends in 2020 (or $250 credit toward one of the full week camps at MFC). Transferable to another Fiddle Hell attendee of your choice if you aren't able to go.
2. A free registration (including tuition and meals; not including lodging) at any of the Ashokan Camps in 2020, such as Southern and Northern weeks, or Uke Fest. Transferable to another Fiddle Hell attendee of your choice if you aren't able to go.
By the way, Doug Protsik at Maine Fiddle Camp will reciprocate by giving away (at one camp TBD in 2019) one free 2019 Fiddle Hell registration. And Jay Ungar at Ashokan Camps will give away (at the Southern and Northern weeks) two free 2019 FH registrations. We're all musical friends! Many thanks to Doug and Jay! Of course, regardless of giveaways, and in addition to your joining us at Fiddle Hell Massachusetts, we enthusiastically encourage you to consider attending one or more of the themed Ashokan Camps and comprehensive Maine Fiddle Camps in 2019.
- Dave Reiner, Andy Eid Reiner, and Eric Eid-Reiner, Fiddle Hell Music Directors