How often at a scholarly gathering dedicated to folk, ethnic or traditional music, have the participants burst out of their academic straitjackets, deserted their ivory towers, and shared with others, late into the night, the music that has encouraged them to pursue a lifetime of study? And how often at a folk or world music festival have participants debated into the small hours the merits and demerits of a particularly innovative act in terms of authenticity and traditionality? This thinking helped forge the idea behind NAFCo, thereby bringing together two sides of the same coin, those who practice fiddle music and those who preach it.
Ian Russell and Mary Anne Alburger, ‘Connecting Cultures’ in Driving the Bow
The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) was established by Ian Russell in 2001 to develop new audiences for traditional music and dance, and to act as a cultural, artistic exchange and meeting place for artists, academics, and enthusiasts. NAFCo is innovative, not just for offering performances and workshops to the public, but for presenting distinctive learning opportunities for all ages in traditional music and dance based around the North Atlantic seaboard.
The Convention has been held six times to date – in Aberdeen in 2001, 20
06, and 2010 hosted by the Elphinstone Institute of the University of Aberdeen (directed by Ian Russell); in St. John’s Newfoundland in 2008, hosted by the Centre for Music, Media and Place, and the Department of Folklore, Memorial University (directed by Anna Kearney Guigné); in Derry/Londonderry in 2012, hosted by the School of Creative Arts, University of Ulster (directed by Liz Doherty); and in 2015 in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia hosted by the Department of History and Culture, Cape Breton University and the Celtic Colours Festival (directed by Heather Spalding and Joella Foulds). In 2018, 11-15 July, NAFCo will return to its founding home in Aberdeen.
The fiddle has been the most popular vernacular instrument across Europe and North America for over 300 years. However, studies of it and its associated dance forms tend to be scattered across specialist books, theses, and articles, so NAFCo provides a unique forum in which to deepen and integrate conversations about fiddling and dance, allowing scholars and practitioners to develop themes, issues, and methodological enquiries. In this way NAFCo helps develop researc
Whereas scholarship describes music and dance through language, music and dance as such are not linguistically based, and the value of seeing, hearing, and participating in such events offers an essential insight into these expressive forms. NAFCo not only provides a forum for presenting existing research, but acts as a catalyst for conducting new and ongoing research. NAFCo allows performers to discover what research is being conducted in their traditions, and how it might inform their practice. NAFCo allows scholars from diverse backgrounds to deepen their understanding of performance and creates opportunities for building relationships with performer consultants.h networks.
NAFCo is a formally constituted organisation with its home base being the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. Emeritus Professor Ian Russell of the Elphinstone Institute is the current President of NAFCo.