Professional fiddler and violinist Tom Morley, who recently moved to Chattanooga from Fairhope, Ala., is offering his expertise in two upcoming classes: one focused on music history from the violin to the fiddle, and another on learning traditional Irish music in the "slow session" style.
The former is directed toward non-musicians and begins with the history of the violin, the first instrument brought to North America by early settlers from Ireland and Scotland. With it, they also brought their traditional tunes.
"Most folk music today directly relates to music those folks brought," said Morley, who incorporates trivia and his own musical performances into the lectures to keep things interesting. "I try to make the history come alive."
He will explain the difference between the violin and the fiddle, and how Old World music brought to our shores by European settlers in the 1600s evolved into American folk music traditions including Appalachian, old-time, bluegrass and Cajun. Morley said he will also cover the various roles the instruments have played in American culture, such as the fiddle's role in the Civil War.
The four-session class will be held at Mountain Arts Community Center on Signal Mountain Thursdays, Feb. 1, 8 and 15 and March 1 from 6:30-8 p.m. each night. The cost is $100.
A longtime lecturer for the Rhodes Scholar program, Morley developed the "From Violin to Fiddle" program after moving from Nashville to Fairhope, where the classical violinist was exposed to the Irish fiddle.
"It's a big departure from what I did as a classical violinist," Morley said, explaining that playing the Irish fiddle involves creating sounds and ornaments that break the rules of classical playing. "For me, it was a huge challenge."
For those who want to play the fiddle in the Irish style, Morley's 10-week Irish Slow Session workshop series will be held at Fiddlers Anonymous in Red Bank Mondays beginning Jan. 29, from 6-8 p.m.
The "slow session" workshops allow advanced beginning to intermediate fiddlers the opportunity to hear tunes from the Irish traditional repertoire and learn them at a slow tempo, using a combination of sheet music and playing by ear, without having to worry about making mistakes, Morley said. Participants will learn the correct etiquette of a traditional Irish pub session, and will typically learn one or two new songs each week.
"It all revolves around a passion for the fiddle," said Morley.
He started a similar group in Fairhope eight years ago, and has since led its members on trips to Ireland in 2013 and 2017 to study traditional music.
"Slow session" class participants can attend as many sessions as they wish for a cost of $10 per session.
Mountain Arts Community Center is at 809 Kentucky Ave. and can be reached at 886-1959. Fiddlers Anonymous is at 2248 Dayton Blvd. and can be reached at 994-7497.
For more information, call Morley at 251-604-8253 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.