TORRINGTON, Wyo. — Callused fingertips danced up and down frets. Picks and bows slid across strings. Eyes focused intently on music sheets, or else drifted across the room while hands and fingers played on their own.
The Torrington Fiddlers Association’s name is misleading: It is not, in fact, a fiddle group.
“We’re a guitar, banjo, bass, strings group mostly,” TFA President Warren Knowlton said.
The name is a holdover from the club’s origins, when it focused on old-time fiddle music. These days, the club runs the gamut of fiddle music.
“We do tunes from the ‘20s, ‘30s,” said Dana Haas, a fiddler and TFA’s vice president.
“Some popular American,” added fiddler Christie Shaver. “Some ragtime, some waltzes, western, gospel, I don’t know how many kinds of country, country-folk, folk-traditional, folk-cowboy-western, Celtic blue grass.”
And it is a club, not a band. The monthly meetings are jam sessions, not business meetings.
“We don’t have sets or anything like that,” Haas said. “You show up and you play. We’re not structured. What you see is what you get.”
Sometimes it’s a little structured, like when TFA played for Goshen County Library’s summer reading program.
“We figured since we were going to play for a bunch of kids,” said Shaver, “we should have some.”
Particularly during the summer, the group plays local venues and events and has opened for other acts. Some shows are easier than others: at the library concert, the children were given kazoos too early into the concert. The club played gamely through the cacophony of out-of-tune buzzing from kids with more enthusiasm than musicality.
The group has been around for nearly 40 years, after Knowlton and another fiddler got a sight at the statewide fiddle association.
“We went to the state fiddle contest in Shoshoni back in about 1981,” he said. “When we came back, we decided to form a local chapter. We advertised a little bit, a few people showed up and it grew from there.”
Knowlton and banjo player Glenn Hoehne are the only two remaining members of the club’s original group.
The club has a casual approach to their music.
“We take turns picking a song, generally,” Knowlton said. Each member at a jam gets a turn to shout out and start a new song. “That way, everybody gets some input and inclusion.”
“We have so much fun,” Shaver said. “Just a bunch of fun.”
The music, as fun as it may be, is only part of the draw. For many of the members, the club also acts as a social time.
“You’re meeting with the same people and you learn to relate to them,” Knowlton said.
To join or hire the TFA, it’s easiest to call Knowlton at 307-532-2282. As far as payment, the club is generally flexible, both for payment and for the occasion.
“We play for money, or food, or just for fun,” Shaver said.
“We’ve played for weddings and we’ve played for wakes,” Haas said.
As for joining, Knowlton said there isn’t a steep learning curve. Some members are able to play by ear, some rely on music sheets.
“The range of ability is widespread,” he said. “All it takes is an interest. You learn one song at a time. You get a pattern, you learn the things you like.”
Like most of the things the Torrington Fiddlers Association, it’s relaxed. There’s really only one goal, as set by Haas: “We try to have fun.”