A humorous answer that’s been around for years insists, “If you carry it in a case, it’s a violin; if you carry it in a gunny sack, it’s a fiddle.”
And then there’s the old response among musicians themselves: “You don’t spill beer on a violin.”
In a nutshell, the two are the same. They are primarily differentiated by the type of music that comes forth from them.
Fiddles are customarily used in folk or other traditional kinds of music, and violins play composition-based selections, like classical and jazz pieces.
And sometimes, the designations are interchangeable. You might hear an impresario such as Itzhak Perlman call his Stradivarius, a rare and extremely-valuable violin, his “fiddle,” or a bluegrass artist refer to the “violin” his great-grandfather crafted by hand out in the woodshed.
In other words, the devil went down to Georgia with a fiddle, but Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos require violins.
Whatever you choose to call it, the instrument was introduced to the New World with the earliest European settlers and in time, was mastered by almost every ethnic group on the continent, from the French in Acadia to the blacks in the South. And during the settlement of the West, pioneers carried it to the broad expanses of the frontier.
Even to what would eventually become southern Oklahoma.
Music museumAt the Marlow Senior Citizens Center, you will more likely find a fiddle.
And at any time of day, you can discover several of them exhibited tastefully on the walls, along with two mandolins; a banjo; an odd-shaped, high-gloss, deep blue bass guitar; and a number of acoustic guitars.
Some of the instruments seem almost new; others are seasoned with decades of wear.
Interestingly, it was a violin that started the whole decorating thing. Tommie Atkinson, president of the senior council, owned a wall collage consisting of a violin, three small replicas, and musical notes crafted of wood.
Tommie and Leona Hines, a frequent visitor at the center, put their heads together and came up with the idea of adorning the walls with bona fide musical instruments.
It took five people around eight hours to pull it off, Tommie noted, but when they were through, the décor was refined, informative and representative of the music that is so much a part of the center.
Several of the instruments are mounted on framed backdrops, and some have complementary photographs neatly contained in their own frames.
One of the fiddles belonged to the late John Medlin, who died in 2006 at the age of 99. The instrument has quite a history—Medlin played it as a young man ’way back in the 1920’s and ’30s, in the early days of statehood.
His son-in-law, Jerry Williams, remembers a much older John “sittin’ out on his front porch on Broadway, sawing on that thing” at the age of 96.
Until shortly before his death, John enjoyed attending the dances at the senior center. In fact, one of the photos accompanying his fiddle depicts him and his daughter, Minnie Williams, taking a turn around the dance floor.
“He’d sure enjoy the music,” Jerry recalled, adding that John would say it was “gettin’ better all the time.”
Although it’s the oldest instrument on display, John’s isn’t the only one with an interesting history.
One of the guitars, a Silvertone, was sold by Sears-Roebuck in the 1930’s to 1960’s. More affordable than many other brands of its time, the Silvertone was very popular, noted Joe Barnes, who performs several times a month at the center with two different bands.
“I guess you could say they were the standard of the day,” he elaborated.
Another guitar is accompanied by an “In Memory Of” designation and pictures of three area musicians who are deceased.
The banjo is displayed with a photo of a young Billy Joe Foster, the Duncan native who played with some of the biggest names in bluegrass and was a Grand Ole Opry regular before his untimely death this past January at the age of 51.
One of the most unique additions to the décor is a handcrafted replica of a guitar fashioned of rope by Butch Swanson, a member of the Cross Creek Band that plays for the center’s Friday night dances.
It was a gift to Joe Barnes, who has loaned it for use in the display. Actually, all of the instruments are on loan from Joe and Anita Barnes, Lyndel and Leona Hines, the Williamses, the Atkinsons, Matt Foster and Buzz Carter.
Joe has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to stringed instruments.
Steel guitars, he noted, were originally called “Hawaiian guitars” and were played with a slide instead of a pick.
Also decking the walls are an array of framed photos of various bands and musicians who have appeared at the center, as well as snapshots taken during the senior dances.
Moreover, Leona conducted a bit of research and added a brief history for each of the different types of instrument on exhibit.
“I always say, ‘Welcome to the Marlow Senior Citizens Center and the Music Museum,’” said Joe.
‘More than a building’For years, Marlow’s seniors gathered in a dilapidated storefront that continued to deteriorate with the passage of time. Furthermore, it had limited floor space and worn carpeting.
After exhausting other avenues in their search for a new meeting-place, the senior council received a donation in 2006 that allowed them to purchase another storefront on Main Street.
An all-volunteer labor force composed mostly of the seniors themselves began extensive renovations and converted an eyesore into a modern, smart facility, a place that Jerry Williams defined as “one of the most beautiful places in Marlow.”
The center boasts highly-varnished wooden floors; a cathedral ceiling; exposed beams; stylish lighting fixtures; a fully-furnished kitchen; modern, clean bathrooms; a TV; bookshelves filled with reading materials; and an ample supply of tables and chairs ideal for jigsaw puzzles, cards, dominoes or conversation. And that most important feature of all—a bottomless coffeepot.
Multi-purposeThe building on Main Street with the blended-brick façade is, first and foremost, a gathering site for the community’s seniors; but it is really much more than that.
The doors are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday, except for a three-hour period from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Coffee-drinkers usually show up around mid-afternoon.
On Monday afternoons, those who enjoy Skip-Bo or Hand & Foot gather at the center to pit their skills against others.
The Tuesday Bridge Club meets on Tuesdays; and games of dominoes and cards dominate Tuesday nights, with musicians descending on the center on the first and third Tuesdays to jam.
The Swansons entertain on the second Thursday night of the month, and Joe and Friends on the third Thursday. Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the music, play games, visit, or do all three. And oh yes, a potluck buffet keeps the hunger pangs at bay.
Dancing to live music is the order of the day on Fridays. With 140 years of combined experience, the Cross Creek Band provides the music for those who enjoy two-steppin’, line-dancing or waltzing. The dances are open to everyone, and both couples and singles are welcome.
The cost is just $5 per person, and folks are encouraged to bring their favorite desserts or potluck dishes on specific Fridays. And since neither alcohol nor tobacco is allowed, it’s a great night out in a wholesome environment.
Joe indicated that he sees more smiles at the Friday night dances than the rest of the week.
Although the center is not officially open on weekends, it’s possible to make arrangements for playing games. In fact, a couples’ Bunco time and potluck dinner is held on the third Saturday of every month.
The facility may also be rented for such events as reunions and wedding receptions.
The center is operated entirely through donations, rental income and the sale of RADA cutlery.
“It’s a lot more than just a building that you pass on the street,” Joe attested. “It comes alive with the people. You have to come in to feel the warmth of the people here,” he continued. “It’s my privilege to be here to play for them.”
“We need more people to come and enjoy it,” Jerry added. “It’s for the community. You don’t have to be a senior citizen.”
“I guarantee you’ll be among friends,” said Joe. “It’s just like a big family.”
Jerry interjected, “If you don’t come and enjoy the center, you’re missin’ out.”
*****Any musicians interested in performing on Thursday night may call Joe at (580) 658-3141.
For further information, please contact Tommie at (580) 483-4673 or Jerry at (580) 512-7031.