CHILDSPLAY - the ultimate fiddle choir! This is a fiddle-based musical celebration featuring vocals and step-dancing and more. All performing on violins made by namesake, Bob Childs, the show features some of the best fiddlers in the nation, from Boston Symphony violinists to all-Ireland and Scottish national fiddling champions.
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C H I L D S P L A Y
“The Camaraderie among the band members, their generosity and their sheer love of playing the fiddle filled the room.”
- The Boston Globe
CHILDSPLAY is the ultimate fiddle choir, a musical fiddle celebration that features some of the best fiddlers in the nation, from Boston Symphony violinists to all-Ireland and Scottish national fiddling champions. From rural dance halls to The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., and from world music audiences in Europe to public radio listeners at home, Childsplay has introduced tens of thousands of people to the delights of traditional and contemporary Irish, Quebeçois, Cape Breton, bluegrass, Appalachian, and Scandinavian fiddle music, as well as jazz, swing, and classical music. Supporting the twelve fiddlers on center stage is an all-star band, including an All-Ireland harpist, a driving rhythm section of guitar, banjo, bass and cellos, a virtuosic Irish flute player, stepdancers and the world’s foremost hambonist.
What is unique about Childsplay and central to the concept behind every performance is that all the violinists and fiddlers in the group perform on violins that violinmaker Bob Childs has made for them in his shop in Boston, hence the genesis and the double entendre on their name Childsplay. So the special sound of Childsplay lies not only in the skill of the musicians but in the warm familial timbre of the instruments they play – a quality similar to the vocal blending of singers from the same family.
They say that of all the musical instruments the violin, when played soulfully, is the most like the human voice. In more recent years, the group’s performances have focused more on vocals in to showcase the relationship between the human voice and the voice of the violins. Known to its audience as a celebration of spirited, innovative, and exuberant music, a concert by Childsplay offers the audience a rare glimpse into the intricate weavings of the beautiful singing of Grammy Award winner and two-time female vocalist of the year (by the International Bluegrass Music Association) Laurie Lewis, with the voices of the violins made by the same violinmaker.
Perhaps the heart of this camaraderie and the unique nature of this group is evident in one of the songs it performs:
“But I was made to play the fiddle
To hear it sing
To hear the angels dream of softer wings
Here Devils stop and scream
Where does the music come from
Where does it go
I may know, I may know, bye and bye
I draw the bow and I feel my heart fly”
From The Fiddler’s Hymn, Pete Sutherland
The group's passion, authenticity and artistry declare that traditional music, song and dance are alive and well in North America. Captivating, inspiring, entertaining, life-affirming, call it what you will, the stick-to-your-ribs fiddling of Childsplay has become a jewel in the crown of American music.
Bob Childs, the artistic director of Childsplay, has spearheaded this endeavor by drawing in fiddlers who have purchased his instruments over the years, as well as musicians and dancers he has met along the way. Year after year, he crafts these shows and creates inspiring events that are both a celebration of the beautiful and diverse voices of the violin and are a tribute to the masterful musicians who perform in the concerts.
In every Childsplay performance, every craftsman draws inspiration from a personal story. Bob’s has to do with his early years of living in multiple foster homes and a dream he had on the cusp of opening up his own violin shop after years of training. In the dream, he is standing next to a table with a violin on it. In reaching over to pick up the violin and in turning it over, Bob discovered inlaid into the back of the violin an image of a small boy crying. It was at that moment that he came to realize that he had come to craft violins as a way of finding a vehicle to express that part of his experience that lacked language. Says Childs, “Integrating voice with violin is part of my own maturation, as well as that of Childsplay … the revelation that there is a power in words, that one’s capacity for ex
Quotes and Reviews - Childsplay
“The Camaraderie among the band members, their generosity and their sheer love
of playing the fiddle filled the room.”
— The Boston Globe
“Spirited, ruminative, daring, challenging, beautiful - all these adjectives and more
apply to... Childsplay.”
— The Bluegrass Special
“...an increasingly rare, and wonderful, thing...”
— Boston Irish Reporter
“He (Childs) has created a family- in the warmest sense of the word.”
— Strings Magazine
“It is a remarkable experience... the house was packed and everyone had a rolicking
— Portland Press Herald
From Bob Ludwigwho has mastered countless Gold and Platinum award winning
recordings, from the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits … to Coldplay:
“The sound of the new Childsplay album is very lifelike. One can really hear the
beautiful sounds of the violins in the actual room it was recorded, well done! [Bob
Ludwig mastered Childspaly’s new recording Waiting for the Dawn. His very first
Grammy Award was in the 1960’s for the wonderful Nonesuch Swedish fiddle
recording that made such a huge impact and helped launch fiddle music out into
the audio world.]
From Liz Carroll, all-Ireland Fiddle Champion and National Heritage Award winner:
“Childsplay is the kind of project any fiddler would be proud to be a part of – a who’s
who of fabulous fiddlers playing a great variety of music in exciting, interesting and
challenging ways, all on Bob Childs’ beautiful instrument.”
From the blog A Fifty Cents Lighter and a Whiskey Buzz: “Irish and Scottish
fiddle champs, Boston Symphony member, master luthier, singer/songwriters
… and that is not even half the band!”
From the blog Interchanging Idioms: “The group Childsplay is more than a
diversion from the norm, they are a whole new concept in creating something
From The Bluegrass Special blog: “Waiting for the Dawn, a most engaging
guide to vistas of imaginative vitality!”
From the blog Cover Lay Down: “The newest album, which revolves around rich
ensemble pieces that nonetheless manage to sound light-hearted, folksy and smooth,
includes several traditional reels and tradtunes, and a couple of covers; most balance
Aoife’s sweet, breathy voice with a full string-led sound, and the result is nearly
From the blog A Fifty Cents Lighter and a Whiskey Buzz: “On Waiting for the
Dawn, no fewer than 14 fiddlers form the core of a powerhouse ensemble and blend
their considerable skills and diverse influences to create a stunning collection of
contemporary fiddle classics!”
Bob Childs: “Integrating voice with violin is part of my own maturation, as well as
that of Childsplay … the revelation that there is a power in words, that one’s
capacity for ex
When History and Heart Abide
Where History And Heart Abide by David McGee 'I came to realize that by crafting violins I had learned to give voice to a part of myself for which I had no language, no voice.' --Bob Childs WAITING FOR THE DAWN Childsplay Childsplay Records Spirited, ruminative, daring, challenging, beautiful--all these adjectives and more apply to the exhilarating new album from Childsplay. More to the point, history resonates, history both American and, deeply personal.
It begins on foreign shores--in Cape Bretton, in Ireland, in Scotland, in Holland--and is filtered through the artists' American experience to arrive as something both redolent with qualities endemic to its source and robust with the spirit of our land. Listen to Childsplay's alternately exuberant and introspective fiddle-rich excursions without the aid of the liner notes, only your imagination, and it will conjur visions of the Appalachians' grandeur, of the rich, fruited plains beyond, and of the beckoning wide open spaces of the west, where lies a blank slate upon which to build a new world, a new national character.
Childsplay is an unusual proposition. Its founder, Bob Childs, has been building custom violins for 35 years; the fiddle players who assemble periodically to form Childsplay come from Europe and America, and play Childs's handcrafted instruments, as they do on this, the group's fifth album since its 1986 debut. Childs's own liner notes, however, reveal the deeper purpose of this exercise. A child of foster homes, he recounts a dream he had in his 30s, after completing his luthier training and opening his own shop: "I am trying to enter a country in Europe. Border guards tell me that I must stop at the customs house. Once inside, I am led through a series of rooms and I come to one that is totally dark except for a single light shining on a table. The guard points to a violin lying on the table and motions for me to pick it up. I do as I'm asked, and when I turn the violin over, I see, inlaid in its back, an image of a small boy, crying." Childs adds: "It is often said that when played soulfully, the violin, of all musical instruments, sounds the most like the human voice. Through my dreams, I came to realize that by crafting violins I had learned to give voice to a part of myself for which I had no language, no voice."
"Waiting for Dawn", then, which is the first Childsplay album to feature vocals--in the form of the haunting, whispered musings of Crooked Still's Aoife O'Donovan--is seen by Childs not only as the maturing of the Childsplay sound, but also as evidence of "my own developing capacity for ex
|David McGee, The Bluegrass Special|
Photos - Childsplay
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Outreach Programs- Childsplay
In the classroom: Designed for a maximum of 25 students in a classroom setting.
Portable Folk Festival - the Instruments and Elements of Childsplay
Educational Performances: typically designed for 100 or more students in small or large auditorium setting.
The Arrangements - in Two Parts
Part 1 - Performance conversation where the group engages the audience through questions and demonstrations of what goes into the arrangements that are unique to the sound that is Childsplay.
Part 2 – A discussion about how to make old music sound contemporary and new for today’s audiences
Residency: Single to multi-day residencies
The Fiddle & Fiddlemaker
The art and craft of making a musical instrument, the violin. What it takes, and what it gives - lessons in patience, diligence, and music along-the-way.