Interview with Ryan J. Thomson

From the interview with Ryan J. Thomson of Newmarket, NH conducted by Rae Tennyson at the Fort Worden History Center on July 6, 2002.  Mr. Thomson described himself as “a full time folk musician” and here he tells how, in 1977, he discovered Centrum’s  The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and Port Townsend:

“I was in Weiser, Idaho at the National Fiddle Contest when some friends told me that there was a lot of fiddling going on out in the Seattle area and in Port Townsend. I finished up the contest and drove straight to Port Townsend and, sure enough there was a lot of people playing fiddles all over. It was a very comfortable feeling.  I had my fiddle in my car and my sleeping bag and my tent, and I met a lot of other people who were similar and they were all here to make music together. It’s a beautiful location, an exotic place.  I didn’t realize at the time that Fiddle Tunes was an organized event that you signed up for and took classes.  I just showed up, parked my car and got up and played music.  I put my tent up in the woods and just stayed in it.   I met some people from Seattle and stayed in Seattle for a week with other musicians.  I kept in contact with people involved in Fiddle Tunes, I met Bertram Levy and Frank Ferrell.

The way I met Frank –I’m really interested in archaeology, so I found it incredibly fascinating to hike through the old gun emplacements.  I discovered that you can go into some of them that were open and that there are wonderful caverns and echoes, so I got my fiddle to play inside one of those bunkers.  This time, I was playing in a big bunker and I could hear fiddle music coming out of another one.  They are very dark inside and I couldn’t see anyone, but I walked in with my fiddle.  We played together in the total darkness for a while.”

At the time of the interview, Mr. Thomson had been attending Fiddle Tunes for 25 years.  He noted changes in the event that made it more organized and attracted new people, but went on to state:

“This festival has a really good reputation nationally.  I think it is one of the best general fiddle camps that there is anywhere.”

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