Elle Cosimano

Tech'd Out In The Tavern

In November, I embarked on a solo journey to Colonial Williamsburg for 3 days of research and exploration in preparation to write THE SUFFERING TREE, my current work-in-progress. In developing my characters, I knew I wanted my protagonist to play an instrument, but I wasn’t sure which one until I attended a lecture/performance by fiddler Dean Shostak.

Mr. Shostak explained that fiddles were the most popular instrument in early colonial America, as they were both affordable and accessible to servants and gentry alike. He then performed a song called “Calliope House” (actually composed in the late 1900′s by Boys of the Lough) which happens to be a great example of the style of jig that may have been played in the southern colonies in the early 1700′s. I came away inspired. It was settled. My character, Nathaniel, would be a fiddler!

Later that evening, exhausted from ghost walks and lectures and tours, I settled in at Chowning’s Tavern for some hot buttered rum and roasted peanuts. Performers drifted in and out of the candlelit tavern rooms, performing and taking requests. I couldn’t resist. I had to hear “Calliope House” again! So I raised my hand and called to the fiddler and asked him to play it for me. To this, he responded he didn’t know the tune, but he promised to return in five minutes.

The performer stayed true to his word and returned with his fiddle, and of all unexpected things, an iPhone. He kindly asked me to hold the screen at arm’s length for him, as he read the sheet music via his wireless internet connection. The fiddler performed “Calliope House” in its entirety and without flaw while I gawked in sheer amazement over the juxtaposition before me. By far, the best live performance I’ve ever experienced and one I will not soon forget.

In The Suffering Tree, my protagonist, Nathaniel, performs a fiddle jig. I searched the web for a clip of the light-hearted piece I heard in the tavern and found this wonderful solo performance of the “cowboy jig” called “Calliope House” on YouTube:

My special thanks and appreciation to the performers in Chowning’s Tavern for indulging my special request and helping to inspire what I hope will become a great story.