Work begins on narration for “Winging My Way Home”

April 3, 2009

I begin work this week creating the narration for the documentary on my father, fiddle player Lee Stripling. Though the hard work has been done by others, the narration may have a major role. First I need to restructure the story line to bring the focus back through the filter of my father’s experience. Then I must use the narration as the thread from which to hang all the golden nuggets, which include:

  • The importance of his father, Charlie Stripling, Alabama’s most recorded fiddler
  • My father’s role in passing on a music heritage he learned at the knee of fiddlers who date back as far as the Civil War
A flyer for a preview version captures the story

A flyer for a preview shown at 2008 Fiddle Tunes

There are 30 hours of rich video shot on location in rural Alabama, Seattle, the Berkeley Old Time Music Festival, and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA. Fittingly, a preview of “Winging My Way Back Home: The Stripling Fiddle Legacy,” was shown at Fiddle Tunes last summer when my father, then 86, was once again on the faculty.

The documentary was instigated by his bass player, Tony Mates, in 2005, and brought to fruition by Jeri Vaughn, now of Frause Visual. I wrote and spoke the narrative introduction to the preview version. More key interviews were added in a second edit last winter adding insight but losing some of the story’s drive.

Thus, Vaughn the director has called me back as loving narrator, attempting what she optimistically hopes will be a blend of “Scout” in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with NPR’s wonderful Bailey White in anything.

Hearing how stories sound when read aloud has always been a key writing tool for me. That’s made writing and speaking narration feel surprisingly like home.

Vaughn wants to recapture the warmth, optimism and sense of survival she felt when reading the version of my father’s story that I wrote for The Seattle Times in 2002. That story told of how fiddle music had twice been my father’s salvation, first as a sharecropper’s son in Alabama, and then, picking up the fiddle after decades of absence, as a man in his 70s grieving for my mother.

We will try to seamlessly blend in lessons from the Great Depression and why my Alabama grandfather’s music is played throughout the Northwest, where old-time music thrives today. By filtering it through my father’s story, I hope we can show his essence, which is:

How he passes on the benefits of kindness, optimism and maintaining a zest for life along with the toe-tapping music from America’s roots.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

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