|Across the state of Iowa musical traditions are expressions of community life and contribute to its vigor and growth.
[PHOTO BY PETE REINGER]
Gordon MacMasters plays old-time music on a saw.
People gather in homes or community centers to play and sing together, in religious settings to sing praises, or at ethnic festivals to celebrate their heritage. Many of Iowa’s performing groups are family-based, rooted in traditions brought from other places, handed down, adapted to new situations, and adjusted to new styles.
Old-time music in Iowa can refer to the traditional fiddle tunes, accordion music, older polka tunes, and similar styles of music accompanying social dances. This lesson discusses the context for old-time fiddling and accordion playing for hoedowns or square dances. Square dancing has been an historically important form of social dancing in many Iowa communities, and today hoedowns continue to be held in many places throughout the state.
This lesson includes an interview with an old-time fiddler, Nyal Pierce, and a recording by old-time fiddler Dwight Lamb.
Mr. Pierce was born and raised near Guthrie Center. His first instrument was the harmonica, which he abandoned because there “weren’t enough notes there.” He began playing the button accordion before learning to play his father’s fiddle, and today his fiddle repertoire consists of more than 300 tunes and includes schottisches, polkas, hoedowns, waltzes, parlor songs, and early country tunes.
Dwight Lamb is a fourth-generation fiddler and has been playing for over 40 years. Mr. Lamb’s repertoire reflects settlement patterns in Iowa, as it includes the old-time tunes of fiddlers from the southeastern states, the Ozarks, and French Canada. He plays for hoedowns and other dances that continue to be popular in Iowa’s communities.