Final Notes, Harvey Chell

Harvey Chell, old-time fiddler, passed away on July 25. Born in 1927 and raised on a farm near Sisseton, South Dakota, he took up fiddle at age nine. He started playing for dances as a teenager with his cousin on accordion. Their band, the Scandinavian Stringbusters, played for Polish and Norwegian house parties. Harvey recalled these parties sometimes lasting till dawn, when he would walk home to a full days work in the fields. Both Canadian fiddling and his Swedish/Norwegian musical heritage influenced his unique style with its “trilling” ornamentation. A wonderful composer whose tunes are still played at contests and jams in the region, Harvey also co-authored several fiddle tunes with the great Canadian fiddler and close, personal friend Calvin Vollrath.

In 1946 Harvey moved to Montana where he met his wife, Jo, who became his piano accompanist. During the 1950s with the popularity of rock ’n’ roll and worsening arthritis, he put down his fiddle for 15 years, but fortunately he took it up again and never laid it down. Though his hands and neck were crippled by arthritis, he was a true and authentic old-time fiddler. Like many traditional fiddlers, Harvey had a wide-ranging interest in different kinds of fiddle music from old waltzes and rare schottisches and two-steps, to swing, rags, and polkas, as well as tunes that he composed. He made one CD, recorded in his living room by his friend Craig Sterry Remembering: Old-Time Fiddle Tunes, which contains 34 tunes. [reviewed in OTH, vol. 9, no. 1. ]. We are fortunate to have this musical record of such a fine fiddler. He will be greatly missed.

-Alice Gerrard
Craig Sterry


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