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Around The Grange
Olde Tyme Fiddlers Club isnít just fiddling around

By Thomas DíAgostino, The Reminder News (5-9-08)

  MAY 9, 2008 --

For more than 50 years, the pleasing sounds of yesteryear emanating from the Ekonk Community Grange have meant two things - one, that spring is truly here, and two, the Olde Tyme Fiddlers Club has begun their performance season. On Sunday, May 4, the Grange held the club's opening "gig" for a full house of old time music fans.

The fiddlers club, formally known as Old Fiddlers' Club of Rhode Island, Inc., was organized Aug. 4, 1929, when a group of fiddle players met at Waterman's Hall in Greenville, RI to form an official club. Their mission was to keep the interest in old-fashioned music alive. It is known to be the oldest fiddle club in the United States, at present. Frank Moon ran the club for 74 years, from the time he was 17 years old until he passed away last year at the age of 91.

William LeBlanc is the present musical director, secretary, treasurer and booking agent. "I wear many hats," he said. LeBlanc joined the club in 1989. LeBlanc said, "We have about 34 members and play 14 to 21 shows a year. The first show has always been the Ekonk Grange Hall, and the last is at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock."

The group has four meetings a year, and there is very little rehearsal, as they get to know the music on their own. Each person gets to perform a short solo piece during the concert. Fiddler Earl Hopkins, of Sterling, was one of Sunday's soloists. The last solo is saved for virtuoso violinist Edward Varrechia, who has been with the club for many years.

Salvatore Ruggieri, of Fall River, Mass., has been in the club for 20 years. "It gets me out of the house. We do fairs, birthdays, family events and parties. It keeps me active." Ruggieri said.

Fiddler Bernice Pacitto, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said, "It really helps to keep me going and gives me and others encouragement."

The Grange Society started after the Civil War in order to help the farms destroyed by battles in the south. The organization quickly spread across the nation. People from every type of occupation are members of the Grange.

The Ekonk Grange Hall No. 89 was organized Dec. 14, 1888. Program Director Russell Gray said, "The grange focuses a lot on community service these days, as more farms are disappearing each year." They still support the agricultural and rural sectors, as well as giving whatever they can to promote the community and its people, actively raising money for different charities. The Ekonk Grange Hall holds many events during the year, including dinners and fairs.

"The towns often call on us for projects. Whatever they ask, we do." Gray said. Gray was also president of the Connecticut State grange from 1998 to 2002. There are 64 subordinate town granges in the state at present. Gray said he would like to see more towns get involved in the society.

There are presently 104 members of the Ekonk Community Grange. They hold their meetings on the first Monday of every month, except July and August. For more information on the Ekonk Community Grange and their schedule of events, contact Secretary Sue Gray at 860-564-2131.


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