The strings do sing |

The strings do sing

Wren Wertin

“It’s just phenomenal, what she does,” said Zimmerman. “Her tone is great, and her timbre. It’s neat to see her relaxing with fiddle music, too.”

The Wednesday-night gig has evolved into a low-key, spontaneous evening of toe-tapping tunes and sit-back ballads. The group started less than two years ago as a quartet with Rich Zimmerman (mandolin), Ken Carpenter (banjo, cello), Paul Watiras (bass) and Charlie Porter (guitar). Playing the old-time songs they loved – primarily ballads and bluegrass – they established themselves as musicians interested in clean, honest music. Every so often a fiddler would sit in, to rave reviews.

And so the quartet began looking for a full-time fiddler. When Suzanne walked into the room, she was a classical violinist – and single. Now, she’s a bluegrass fiddler and married to guitarist Charlie.

“It’s exciting because it makes me think of other stuff musically,” said Suzanne. “I have to rely only on my creative aspect of playing, not just knowing the music.”

“It’s great having her in the group,” said a biased Charlie. “We’ve got all the parts now.”

Suzanne is getting in tune with some of her roots, as her father is a fiddler. They now play some of the same tunes, though they do it differently. This new project has infused her classical playing with new life and direction.

On any given evening, WherzFloyd? will run through vintage bluegrass, proven newgrass, classic Celtic and whatever else comes to mind. Early days saw them rehearsing religiously. Now, they like to show up and see what happens. Light-hearted camaraderie always characterizes the feel of the room.

“Ken challenges us to play something new on the spot, and it’s becoming a lot of fun,” said Zimmerman. “What he loves is spontaneity, and the “musicalness’ of the moment.”

“I like the way it comes together,” said Carpenter. “It forces me to be more in the moment and not rely on pre-conceived musical ideas.”

Many of the musicians have other musical projects, and they use Wednesday nights as their time to dig in and jam. Both Watiras and Zimmerman perform for apres on Thursdays at the Christiania as two-thirds of the trio Old Dangerfield. Carpenter freelances with several other musicians.

“I think it’s just a really good situation,” added Watiras. “The five of us are in a circle, and people can just catch the vibe we’ve got … I think that’s important, they feel more a part of it than if someone’s in the corner.”

The room is decked out with a full bar, roaring fire and overstuffed sofas. People intending to drop in for one drink often end up wiling away the night in cozy comfort.

Carpenter switches between the cello and banjo as whim dictates. He’s only played the cello for a couple of years, but is very pleased with his progress.

“It’s become, I think I’m safe to say, an obsession,” he said. “But today is banjo day.”

WherzFloyd? will be making their first festival appearance this summer. For now, they can be seen every Wednesday – including tonight – at the Fitz Williams Lounge in Manor Vail at 7 p.m. For more information, call the hotel at 476-5651.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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