The internet is a truly wonderful place if you want to learn a tune on the fiddle, jam with others, jam in the comfort of your own home, or get advice on improving your technique.

Over at The Fiddle Hangout there’s a new monthly thread called the Virtual Fiddle Festival where everyone agrees to practice the same tune and post a video or audio file to the site. The tune for March is Mississippi Sawyer. Sheet music can be found at Kitchenmusician.net as well as any Old-Time fiddle book and in the thread linked above.

Here it is as performed by Monmouth, Oregon fiddler Truman Price

The melody is believed to have come from the bloody days of the French Revolution, and was later transported to England where it became known as “Downfall of Paris,” and later still to the US where we know it as “Mississippi Sawyer” reflecting its new geography.

From the Ceolas site:

Ford (1940) relates: “This tune seems to have a strong appeal among old-time fiddlers. The writer has heard it at old fiddlers’ concerts from coast to coast. When played by a fiddler who loses himself in the swing of its rhythm, his listeners may hear the faint tinkle of anvils, the clinking of horseshoes, and the wetting of sickles and scythes and cradles. It is lively and exciting, yet soothing. The authorship is credited to an early sawmill owner, who set up his mill somewhere near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The first enterprise of its kind so far West, it created widespread interest among a people whose only means of producing building materials had been the ax, maul, wedge and rive, and the broad ax and adz. Always referred to as ‘The Mississippi Sawyer,’ the millwright became a noted character and people congregated daily at his mill from miles around. It was a tradition among a later generation that the celebration following the test run of the mill was the occasion for a picnic that lasted for days. The picnickers came in covered wagons, well supplied with good things to eat, and pitched camp in the woods near the mill. All hands took part in handling the logs and lumber as the work got under way, and tables and a dance platform were speedily built of the first boards from the saw. After the day’s work an open-air banquet was served by the woman, and when it was learned that the sawyer was also a fiddler he was immediately chosen by acclimation to play the opening tune of the dance. Thus came into being ‘The Mississippi Sawyer’, one of the rare old tunes of American fiddle lore.”

The interwebs deny that the song has any lyrics, but there’s a song of the same name that looks right by Dave Tweedie if you like to have words for your tunes.

So come on over to the Fiddle Hangout and upload your version of Mississippi Sawyer. There are already many video and sound files posted by FH members and rumor has it that Lora from Red Desert Fiddle has plans to submit an entry into the virtual fiddle festival…