Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio



John Paul Erdman, Orono, Maine (

John holds a B.S. from the University of Miami (Florida), and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Maryland. He is retired now, but was a scientist, corporate manager, consultant, and small business owner ("in that order"). He is a member of the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club.


John was born October 2, 1942, in Oak Park, Illinois. His heritage is Anglo-German; his mother was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and his father in Taegu, Korea. He is the first in his family to play the violin, which he began in 1996 in Orono. "[A] fiddler friend got me started showing me how to hold the instrument and helped by selecting a few pieces to learn." John has attended several workshops, all Cape Breton or Scottish fiddle related, including the Ceilidh Trail School of Celtic Music. The first tune he learned was Ashokan Farewell, which he already knew on the guitar by ear; he also used sheet music for reference. His favorite fiddle tune today is Prof. Hans Kung Visit to Cape Breton, best played by Carl MacKenzie; MacKenzie is also in a tie with Buddy MacMaster for John's favorite fiddler.


John enjoys playing reels, jigs, Scots airs, clogs/hornpipes, strathpeys, and marches. He plays one tune in high bass tuning (AEAE). He also plays classical guitar, 12-string guitar for Cape Breton accompaniment, and Cape Breton piano. Piano is his preferred backup instrument for fiddle tunes. He has played for dances, at ceilidhs (kitchen dances and jams), with his Scottish band, Tattered Tartans, at charity events, and also busks at the farmer's market.


Occasionally John likes to attend fiddle contests, but does not compete.


John focuses his style on Cape Breton concert and dance styles. He names Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald as an earlier influence. As for the number of styles in existence, John feels there must be hundreds, but in his region New England contra dance style is dominant.


John plays a Strad style German student violin, ca. 1890. Its sound is bright and lively, and he uses a Kun shoulder rest while playing. John prefers Pirastro Aricore strings and uses a bow he inherited from his in-laws. "My violin shop thinks it's quite valuable (1000's)".


"It's an obsession! And Cape Breton and Scottish fiddle music seems to strike a particularly strong chord in me."


John learned Lament of the Death of Rev. Archie Beaton from Jackie Dunn in Cape Breton; Pinkie House March from a CD by David Greenburg, "Puirt a Baroque"; and Lee's Cremo's Reel in Cheticamp, Cape Breton & from a transcription. He learned them during the summer and fall of 1997 and provides his own piano accompaniment on this recording. "I laid down a MIDI recording and played it back on my digital piano (a Roland EP9) while I performed the tunes on my fiddle. Recording was done on a portable cassette recorder by Radio Shack. I used a plug-in mic instead of the voice activated built-in mic.