Scaling the Mountain for Music -- Literally

May 30, 2018, 2:33 PM · "Do you want to play on a summit?"

This is a question that no one had ever asked me -- until fiddle player extraordinaire Andy Reiner did. For context: a few weeks ago I had posted on Facebook that over the Memorial Day weekend I'd be visiting my daughter Natalie in Colorado, and that we'd be running 10K called the Bolder Boulder. I'd met Andy last year at Creative Strings Workshop, where he taught some fiddle classes in which we learned some Celtic Fiddle ornamentation and also a Swedish fiddle tune called Fluddën's Död. Andy also helps his father Dave Reiner runs a yearly event called Fiddle Hell, a musical gathering every fall near Boston that appears to keep growing, attracting some 560 fiddle players last year.

I didn't know it, but Andy lives in Boulder and has quite an outdoors bent.

"Do you mean play fiddle music on top of a mountain?" I asked. What a gas, that sounds fun!

Andy thought it might be a good way for me to "violinacclimatize," as he put it. After all, the Bolder Boulder is a run that winds through the city of Boulder, which is a mile above sea level. Living as I do in Pasadena at sea level, I could not train for that element of it!

He sent me a video to demonstrate what he meant:

This video shows Andy and his wife, cellist Joy Adams, (as a musical duet they call themselves Half Pelican) last summer on Mt. Shavano in Colorado, playing duets at 14,229 feet above sea level. Uhhh, I could probably hike up a mountain, but as someone who grew up in Colorado, I know about 14,000-foot mountains ("14ers" as the locals say). Basically, these are mountains that are too tall for most humans to climb. Ponder that pilots must use supplemental oxygen when flying at 10,000 feet - it's actually a law. Somehow these two climbed this peak with a violin and a cello, and then recorded a five-song playlist at the top!

"Andy I'm not planning to bag a 14er..."

He sent me another video:

Yes you are seeing this correctly: While skiing down a slope at Loveland Basin, Andy is playing the fiddle, and Joy is playing the CELLO! Andy has a goal of skiing a slope every month of the year (not always with the violin), and he travels around the country and world finding slopes where this is possible.

I stipulated that they'd need to bring it down a notch -- or maybe several -- for this now-flatlander. If we could choose a much less ambitious slope to climb, I was all for it.

So we made a plan: Andy, Joy, my daughter Natalie and I would meet in Boulder and hike on Sunday, the day before the big run. "I can even provide you a stunt fiddle," Andy said.

Unfortunately, the fiddling part of our mountain adventure didn't come together. Andy had a few extra gigs, my daughter and I had some friends to visit, and so it wasn't until later in the day that we could meet. Thus, we didn't quite have the time to get all the logistics together for hauling the instruments up a mountain. But we did get to do a shorter hike in Boulder's Chautauqua Park, and it was just gorgeous.

Poppies on the trail

As I huffed and puffed and struggled to keep up, I realized that this kind of hike would be pretty difficult with a fiddle on my back!

Laurie scrambles down the boulder
How exactly do you do this with a fiddle case on your back?

I had a great time getting to know these two adventurers, who are hatching plans to perhaps get a group -- both musicians and audience -- to hike to somewhere remote in nature for a concert.

Andy Reiner and Joy Adams
Ahhh, the perfect spot for a concert!

And our own Fiddle Summit still must happen! I fully intend to meet again and do some fiddling on the mountain with Andy and Joy the next time around!

Beyond that, hiking was indeed the perfect prelude to a long run, and Natalie and I finished our very first 10K together the next day at the Bolder Boulder. Here are a few pictures!

Laurie and Natalie
Natalie and I before the race!

Course Summit
The altitude, at the top of the race!

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May 31, 2018 at 02:03 AM · Wow! I congratulate you on both your hike and your run. You are awesome in many ways.

I have a technical concern for the instruments, too, when taking them up and down a mountain. Don’t the large changes in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure affect the strings severely? Are there any adverse effects on the instruments themselves? I know that horrible things can happen to an instrument in the nonpressurized hull of an aircraft in flight. I’ve experienced minor troubles with modest changes in temperature and humidity, as most violinists have, and I wonder about extreme changes.

Again, bravo, Laurie! I really admire you.

May 31, 2018 at 01:16 PM · Thank you, Pauline! The “stunt fiddle” that Andy mentions is an important part of an adventure like this. “Don’t try this at home!” Especially with your best fiddle!

May 31, 2018 at 06:19 PM · Thanks for your response. What is a stunt fiddle? How does it tolerate such extreme conditions? BTW I really like your photos, too.

May 31, 2018 at 10:58 PM · Pauline, I'm thinking a stunt fiddle is simply a brave instrument that has been designated as such, though I'll ask Andy! Also, I understand that the Coda bow works pretty well for such endeavors!

June 1, 2018 at 04:41 AM · Thanks, Laurie

June 2, 2018 at 06:56 AM · Andy said you could also call it a “beater” fiddle, but a “stunt violin” sounds more cool and gives it a little more dignity!

June 2, 2018 at 09:34 AM · You could try it astride the ridge of a roof - like Isaac Stern DIDN'T!

June 2, 2018 at 05:20 PM · I am with John. Laurie, your next task is to be the fiddler on the roof. Good luck!

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