Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio



Peter Yarensky, Barrington, New Hampshire (

Peter was born February 7, 1951 in Durham, North Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of New Hampshire, and works as a part-time instructor in Psychology at the University of New Hampshire.


Peter's heritage is Jewish; his parents were born in Brooklyn, New York and Manhattan, New York. His great great uncle had a violin shop in New York City ("he's the source of my fiddle") from the early to mid 1900's. Peter's sister, Cathy, took lessons for a couple of years and Peter began playing fiddle in October of 1995, "right in my own living room". He has "taken lessons irregularly from a local fiddler for a year and a half." Peter remarks on informal lessons: "[I have been] talking to other local fiddlers about various techniques and observing them for many years; [and have enjoyed] the benefit of participating in the fiddle list and reading advice and ideas from many who are far more knowledgeable about the fiddle than I. I've also attended classes at music camps, etc." These camps are Ashokan, Northern Week (for about seven years), and Maine Fiddle Camp (for three years). Peter remembers his first fiddle tune: "I squeaked out the Joys of Quebec a couple years before I started playing, on a friend's fiddle. The first tune I really played was Les Fraises et les Framboises." He learned it mostly from Omer Marcoux, both in person and on recording, and from other local French fiddlers. He wouldn't say that he really has a favorite fiddle tune, but he likes Reel of the Hanged Man a lot. He especially enjoys Jean Carignan's version and considers Carignan his favorite fiddler.


Peter enjoys playing hornpipes, schottisches, marches, jigs, hambos, ganglats, polkas... "all the sorts of tunes we dance to in New England". At this point he does not play in cross tuning. "Not yet..." Peter stays busy playing piano, button accordion, pennywhistle, and harmonica in addition to the fiddle. Piano is his preferred backup for fiddling. Peter most frequently plays with his band at dances and at a weekly jam session "of mostly French-Canadian music (New England French). As someone who has been dancing for about 20 years and calling and playing at dances for over 15 years, and as the music I play is dance music, playing at a dance seems like the most real form of playing to me, and generally the most fun." He has also played at weddings, although not yet on fiddle.


Friends can find Peter at contests, "although more for the music than the contest". He has competed a few times, the first time at Kittery, Maine in September of 1996. He played Joys of Quebec, Cowboy Waltz, and Swedish Schottische in Dm, with piano backup. He remembers Lissa Schneckenburger and Deanna Stiles among the winners. The largest contest Peter entered was the Concord, New Hampshire fiddle contest. He has not judged a contest but "I've turned down the opportunity because I wouldn1t like to. Around here, I'd say the most important thing [that makes a good fiddle contest judge] would be an understanding of what makes the music danceable (e.g. rhythmic, clear phrasing, giving lift to the dancers, etc.). Most local contests put an emphasis on danceable music, and we have lots of dancing in the area." When asked whether a good judge should be a fiddler: "No, but I should think it would help; just as it isn1t absolutely essential but is very helpful to be a dancer if you want to play for dancing."


"As a relatively new fiddler I don't know that I have much style yet; but I'd say my style is a combination of New England and French Canadian style (especially New England French) with perhaps a bit of Southern influence. Hard to say [who was an influential musician in earlier times with these styles], but in modern times the most influential New England fiddlers would be April Limber and Rod Miller; and the most influential French influences would be Marcel Robidas and Jean Carignan." Peter says "I have no idea!" how many styles there are overall, but "New England, French, Irish and Cape Breton all seem to be important around here."


Peter's instrument has no label, "but it's supposed to be northern Italian and at least a couple hundred years old. Not sure [what type it is], but it's unlike any other I've seen except one that was said to be an Amati (but I'm not sure how much the owner knows about types of violins). It has a very bright sort of sound, and a fairly rich sound. It sounds much better when someone else plays it!" Peter uses a Kun shoulder rest and prefers Dominants currently, although he plans to try others.


"Mostly because it's fun; also because I will eventually be able to play tunes on the fiddle that aren't playable on the other instruments I play; and because the fiddle has such great possibilities for musical expression."


"I learned the Joys of Quebec so long ago it's hard to say [where I learned it]; but I might originally have learned it from Simon St. Pierre's record of the same name." Peter adds he probably learned it in the mid 1970's, although he didn't play it on any musical instrument until the early 1980's. He provided his own backup on keyboard "(I used a keyboard because the mike cable wasn1t long enough to reach the piano.)"