Central Coach Special

Composer: 

            Fiddle music, along so many other important indigenous musical styles in this country, is an integral part of our cultural heritage.  And it comes in about as many distinct musical traditions as we have cultural and ethnic “folk.”   But, central to the style is the repertoire and playing techniques that date back to seventeenth century immigrants, and their later followers, from the British Isles.  Northern European immigrants brought their traditions, as well, but the core of “old time fiddle music” lies in the reels, jigs, and hornpipes of the Celtic tradition. Other dances and sub-styles were added as time went on.   Of course, there is no difference between a violin and fiddle, with both folk and classical musicians using the two terms interchangeably.  It must be said, however, that some traditional “fiddlers” do make minor changes to their instruments from time to time, notably to the bridge, string choices, and to tunings.  The basis of the repertoire is dance music, not songs, and thus, the tempos tend to be steady.  Everyone likes to kick up the heels after a long week of boring, hard work, so its not surprising that relatively fast tempos are common.  Another salient trait that almost everyone can identify is that of incorporating the “open” strings (ones not fingered) simultaneously with the strings playing the tune.  There’s nothing like it, and the infectious joy of the whole phenomenon is one of America’s fundamental musical pleasures.

            Central Coach Special is one of a series of “specials” that the indefatigable Calvin Custer wrote for American school groups.  It is a simple fiddle tune that employs many of the traditional sounds and techniques of the old time style.  Notable is the chance that Custer gives the cello section in the middle of the tune to show off their ability to play the same technical challenges that usually only the “fiddles” of traditional performances get to show off.  Custer was connected with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra for many years, and was the arranger and composer of an imposing list of compositions.  They are performed all over the country in groups as diverse as junior high school bands and orchestras, and the Boston Pops.