By Matt Krueger-Batavia Daily News, Published January 28, 2016
BATAVIA — Author S.M. Hulse learned how to play fiddle while she was writing her debut novel, “Black River.” She took to it so well, that she was able to describe intricate details about playing and the Old Time music that is popular in rural areas of Montana, where the book is set.
While she has admitted to not playing much anymore, she was able to filter everything she had learned through her protagonist, Wesley Carver. A retired corrections officer, Carver loved two things, his wife and his fiddle. But his ability to play was robbed from him when he was tortured by an inmate during a prison riot.
Since music is one of the major themes of the book, which has been chosen for the 2016 A Tale for Three Counties community reading project, officials at Genesee Community College have organized a program to explore the music discussed in the story. Jim Kimball, a music professor at Geneseo State College and fiddler, will present “The Sounds of Black River” from 1 to 2 p.m. Feb. 4 at GCC. He will play many of the tunes mentioned in the book with fellow fiddler Bill Henrie and guitarist Adrienne Mahrer. Kimball will also discuss each tune within the context of the novel.
“The book had so many different things you could do with it, and music was such a big theme,” said GCC librarian Cindy Hagelberger, who is also a Tale committee member. “I thought I would rather go that route than the heavy, more serious prison riot direction.”
After asking around about local fiddle players, Kimball’s name was the one that kept getting mentioned. He gladly accepted the invitation to play and present.
“All I had to was send him a copy of the book and he just sort of ran with it,” Hagelberger said.
Listeners to Old Time music will undoubtedly recognize titles mentioned in the book such as “Over the Waterfall,” “Lost Girl” and “Whiskey Before Breakfast.”
“I think we found about 25 tunes that were talked about or played in the book,” Kimball said. “A bunch of them are Old Time dance tunes. We’ll play maybe 12 or 15.
Of course, the one tune they cannot play is “Black River,” the fictional piece composed by the main character as an ode to his hometown.
“We don’t have that one, but it will always be in the background, since it is vital to the story,” Kimball said.
There is no cost to attend the program, which will be held in room T102.