Childs is a fiddler himself, having imbibed the fiddle styles of his native Maine, and performed there with Old Gray Goose and the Moosetones as he was embarking on his luthiery training. He studied art at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and apprenticed under violin makers Anton Smith and Michael Weller.
With 31 years building violins behind him, he has built a loyal following among the players who get one of the five or six instruments he completes each year. The camaraderie is so strong that Childs began hosting annual get-togethers where he invited his customers to share tunes and fellowship. Since he began in 1988, these get-togethers have spawned a much larger yearly event, a non profit educational organization and five audio recordings featuring his violins and many of the artists who use them.
All of these endeavors fall under the aegis of Childsplay, a 501(c)(3) corporation which exists to…
“…create an instructive bridge between our audiences and the rich tapestry that is our heritage of traditional music and dance. Unencumbered by commercial or corporate agendas, we provide a direct link to human traditions of creative expression, cooperation, and community. Our audiences are inspired and encouraged to become active partners in traditional arts.”
The newest of the CDs, Waiting For The Dawn, was released on June 23. It has as a theme the interplay between the violin and the human voice, and the voice in question is that of Aoifé O’Donovan, vocalist with Crooked Still and Sometymes Why. The music is primarily of Celtic origin or influence and, as always, O’Donovan’s singing is compelling – riveting even – and reason enough to investigate this recording.
A number of Irish fiddle tunes are offered, often played in an ensemble setting using several violins, along with violas, cellos, guitar, accordion, bass, piano, banjo, flute and harp. All of the playing is impeccable, but still Aoif?©’s voice steals the show.
Here’s a video of her singing the Irish ballad I Am A Youth Inclined To Ramble at a 2008 Childsplay concert. The song is a high point on the Waiting For The Dawn CD as well.
Additional videos can be found on the Childsplay web site, along with lyrics and information on the more than two dozen musicians involved.
Outside of the awkward and disjointed inclusion of Elvis Pressley’s Love Me Tender and Steve Earle’s Christmas In Washington, Waiting For The Dawn is a joy from start to finish.