★★★  Inter Act  ★★★
with
Dan Cassidy
Dan
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1
Emma:
How young were you when you started to play?
Dan:
I started playing music at 9 years old on a small diatonic harmonica but was somewhat frustrated at the limitations of the instrument….it only allows you to play in certain keys….it was tuned in G, so I just taught myself a few traditional melodies and never progressed much further than that.
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2
Emma:
Was the violin/fiddle your first instrument?
Dan:
Yes, I would consider the violin my first “real” instrument, or at least one that I had requested to take seriously. I received a full size on my 10th. birthday, after having listened to an older student from another school demonstrate the violin a couple of months earlier at a school assembly. Instead of playing the expected classical piece, he played the theme from a McDonalds TV commercial, which we all knew and made us laugh. Listening to him play that little jingle, I was somehow sure that he had learned this by ear - which stuck with me and perhaps subliminally set the template in my mind about how I would approach playing the violin, preferring to play by ear rather than reading notes.
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3
Emma:
I come from a musical family but didn't fully appreciate the advantages of that until my twenties. Would you agree that it is a blessing?
Dan:
Absolutely! The time I spent playing and rehearsing with my dad and sister Eva was extremely valuable in my formative development as a musician. Eva was taking up the guitar and singing around the same time I took up the violin, so we we were able to learn songs with our dad in an informal and relaxed setting and ultimately form a little trio, performing folk songs and popular songs of the present and past decades.
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4
Emma:
The sound of strings can be described as 'singing' and your playing certainly sings - do you pick particular tunes to show specific sounds in your playing?
Dan:
Good question…well I agree that the bowed string instruments have a rather singing quality about them….it is said that the violin, viola and cello were designed to mimic the sounds of the male and female voice when these instruments emerged in the 16th. century. It is also said that bowed instruments can produce more textures of sound than any other type of instrument. To try to answer your question - yes, I have plenty of experience playing the violin with as beautiful a singing tone as possible but have also found the opportunity to break the “rules” of tone production many times when asked to play rock and blues and other music which would demand a grating, raspier tone. (Similar to singers who use “belting” and “overdrive” techniques which the music may require.)

Particularly as I get older, I gravitate more towards the slow and beautiful and lyrical side of violin playing….I have enjoyed a lot practice time on Celtic ballads, airs and laments but am comfortable playing many types of music.
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5
Emma:
Do you have a favourite piece to play?
Dan:
Well as I said above, I have a fondness for slow beautiful Celtic tunes and enjoy a small repertoire which I play regularly - but no, I don´t have a favourite piece to play…I like so many hundreds of songs and tunes. I am currently learning many “American Songbook” songs.
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6
Emma:
Do you have a favourite piece to listen to?
Dan:
No, not particularly but I try to stay inspired all the time listening to the very best players and singers I possibly can!
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7
Emma:
Do you always play the same fiddle?
Dan:
Yes, for the most part. Luckily I was able to order and buy 2 good ones from a prominent luthier way back in the noughties during the economic boom here in Iceland. I play on one and usually lend the other out to aspiring students.
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8
Emma:
What has been challenging this year and what has been an unexpected advantage?
Dan:
Well I think that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge to all of us this year. In my case, as a music educator, it has been a challenge to continue teaching all my students regularly and also to follow the current rules on social distancing, which have varied from month to month. Online teaching was required last spring for a few weeks, which was quite a learning experience. Luckily, I am able to continue teaching steadily in person, while wearing a mask. I think the advantage for me this year was getting more session recording work than usual, probably because the busy pace has slowed down for musicians and they therefore have had more time to undergo recording projects.
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9
Emma:
What music have you played this year to stay positive?
Dan:
I have pretty much played whatever I fancied at the time to keep myself in good spirits. Also I have been studying classical violin to keep in shape, as gigs have been few and far between this year.
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10
Emma:
Has 2020 changed the way you play?
Dan:
Not noticeably, but going through this pandemic, I feel less competitive and more accepting of myself as a musician.
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11
Emma:
Do you have any words of positivity for musicians, looking forward from 2020?
Dan:
Well I think we have all had a small taste of what the world might be like without the performing arts flourishing, so it has hopefully given us some perspective on how important the arts are to humanity and will make it that much sweeter for artists to be able to express themselves to audiences again, when things are finally back to normal.
I hope that Dan's thoughts have resonated with many musicians and listeners alike and I'd like to thank him very much for taking the time to offer his observations.

The music goes on, as it always has and always will.

Please enjoy the following recording, where Dan plays the well-known ‘Stardust’:

‘Stardust’

Return to Emma's Voiceblog
19th. December, 2020