FiddleSticks: Liz's Big Fiddle


Listen to music from this album


Long ago the cello was called the "Big Fiddle" in Scotland, and was part of the old style Celtic folk sound. With this album Liz, the FiddleSticks Cellist, revives the tradition of the cello as front and center in Celtic folk music. Liz wrote almost all of the music for this album, with a couple of tunes by Katie. The album features the "Big Fiddle" with the rest of us FiddleStickers backing her up - Katie on fiddle, Becca on vocals, and Marco on Irish drum; Plus there are lots of other amazing musicians on the album, providing a rich, progressive range of styles and sound. Liz is fast gaining a reputation as one of the top Celtic Cellists anywhere, and this album proves it.

And you'll want the actual hard copy album, because every copy has a fold out poster featuring the "scherenschnitte" papercut art of Cindy Ferguson, that illustrates each of the songs - the cover's art is just a little hint of what's inside!


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Liz Davis Maxfield plays the cello like a Big Fiddle, exploring new ways to incorporate it into Celtic and American folk music.

“Liz is a rising star in the Celtic music scene, and she is revolutionizing the use of cello in performance."-- Natalie Haas

Find more about Liz's music here

Big Fiddle Tune List:
1. Tailor’s Thimble Tim the Trusty Tandem

2. Pretty Saro + Maggie’s Beau

3. Ike and Icky

4. Lake Isle of Innisfree

5. Little Prince + Stone Frigate + Pigeon on the Gate

6. When We Two Parted

7. New Time

8. November

9. The Great Selkie

10. Walter’s Jig + The Abominable Oboe

11. Big Fiddle + Sheepskin and Beeswax

Liner Notes from the Album

    Although cello was introduced as the Big Fiddle in Scotland over 300 years ago, its potential in folk music was largely untapped until recently. After all, it was harder to hear than the fiddle, and definitely harder to schlep (I speak from experience). Within the last two decades, however, cellists have begun to test out new rhythmic, technical, and melodic ideas in folk idioms. As a composer, arranger, and Big Fiddler myself, I love finding new ways to include the cello in folk music.

    The versatility of the instrument allows it to fill multiple roles on this album: the cello can take the place of lead fiddle; provide low, rhythmic accompaniment; or decorate the middle range with supportive counterpoint. I arranged the album’s title track for cello trio to highlight each of these roles.

    This project has been a wonderful experience for me, but I consider it a first stop in a much longer creative journey. I hope you enjoy this album and I invite you to join me as we embark together on this Big Fiddling expedition!

    Liz's Liner Note Comments About the Tunes on Big Fiddle

    1. Tailor’s Thimble (traditional) +
    Tim the Trusty Tandem
    (Liz Davis Maxfield)

    I discovered the Tailor’s Thimble in an old pink book
    of Irish tunes. It seemed a good counterpart for Tim
    the Trusty Tandem, a tune I wrote about a borrowed
    bicycle-built-for-two and an adventure that Drew
    and I had on Cape Cod.

    2. Pretty Saro (tune Katie Davis Henderson)+
    Maggie’s Beau
    (Liz Davis Maxfield)

    Pretty Saro, a traditional song in Appalachia and
    the British Isles, has been performed by artists
    ranging from Bob Dylan to Judy Collins. This ver-
    sion features a new melody by Fiddler and singer
    Kate Davis Henderson. I wrote Maggie’s Beau to
    celebrate the birth of my cello Maggie, and the
    arrival of her bow, Hal. Thanks to J.P. Lucas for such a
    wonderful instrument.

    3. Ike and Icky (Liz Davis Maxfield)

    This tune is solo piece is dedicated to the mysterious
    young twins Isaac and Icarus

    4. Lake Isle of Innisfree (lyrics W.B. Yeates;
    tune Liz Davis Maxfield)

    Irish poet W.B. Yeats referred to his poems as
    songs. When I read about the eternal island, or
    innisfree, this is the song that came to mind.

    5. Little Prince (Liz Davis Maxfield) + Stone Frigate (traditional) +
    Pigeon on the Gate

    Sometimes I wish I could sit with the Little Prince
    and watch 44 sunsets in one day. I wrote this tune
    for him. Stone Frigate and Pigeon on the Gate are
    traditional tunes that have been adopted into many
    Celtic subgenres. Here, I perform them in the Cape
    Breton style.

    6. When We Two Parted (lyrics Lord Byron; tune Liz Davis Maxfield)

    I wrote this melody, thinking it would be a lullaby,
    but after I came across the Lord Byron poem, I
    realized that the melody I had written
    wasn’t a lullaby at all, but a tragic love song about
    sorrow and deceit. Who knew?

    7. New Time (Liz Davis Maxfield)

    This tune is an example of a new genre I like to call
    “ChamberGrass”—a combination of arrangement
    ideas from chamber music with melodic ideas
    from folk traditions. It features my group, the
    Folk Arts Quartet.

    8. November (Liz Davis Maxfield)

    My great-great-great grandfather, Parley P. Pratt,
    was a poet and preacher. During a mission in South
    America, he wrote a poem entitled “November in
    Chile” describing how, despite the beautiful spring
    weather, he longed for family and “the wintry blasts
    of [his] mountain home.” I wrote this solo cello piece
    after reading his poem for the first time.

    9. The Great Selkie (traditional)

    The Great Selkie is an eerie Irish ballad that my
    mother used to sing. My sister Becca sings it now.

    10. Walter’s Jig (Liz Davis Maxfield) +
    The Abominable Oboe
    (Katie Davis Henderson)

    I composed Walter’s Jig for Walter and his wife
    Ellie, my delightful neighbors, after they provided
    an audience for one of my recording sessions. My
    sister Kate Davis Henderson wrote the Abomi-
    nable Oboe after she and I had a most unfortunate
    encounter with an out-of-tune oboe.

    11. Big Fiddle (Liz Davis Maxfield) +
    Sheepskin and Beeswax

    I woke up one morning humming Big Fiddle and
    quickly wrote it down before I could forget it.
    Later I coupled it with a traditional tune I learned
    in Drummondville, Que´bec, and recorded it with
    two of my favorite big fiddlers, Ari and Natalie.

    Thank-yous and Credits:

    Produced by Liz Davis Maxfield. Recorded and mixed by Mark Endozo with additional recordings
    by Steve Lerud (Orem Utah) and by Passport Music (Kauai, Hawaii). Mastered
    by Stephen Webber. Photography by Ben Gebo. Scherenschnitte (paper art) by Cindy Ferguson.
    Design by Yalecrest Media. Cello by J.P. Lucas. Visit for stories, lyrics,
    photos, booking (concerts, workshops), sheet music, upcoming books and albums, and more.

    (c) 2009 Liz Davis Maxfield.
    Musicians on the album Big Fiddle
    Liz Davis Maxfield, cello, voice
    Matt Boland, guitar
    Mark Davis, bodhran
    Kimberley Fraser, Fiddle
    Ari Friedman, cello
    Natalie Haas, cello
    Kyle James Hauser, banjo
    Kate Davis Henderson, fiddle, voice
    Will Knox voice, guitar
    Audrey Knuth, fiddle
    Paddy League, bodhran
    Andrew Maxfield, piano, guitar
    Susie Petrov piano, accordion
    Becca Davis Stevenson voice
    Folk Arts Quartet
    - Liz Davis Maxfield, cello
    - Ivonne Hernandez, fiddle
    - Hannah Read, fiddle
    - Julie Metcalf, viola

    Liz Davis Maxfield, is member of the family band FiddleSticks and is Founder of the Folk Arts Quartet. More about Liz at