April 29, 2003
Serving Western Deschutes County
Sisters, Oregon

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Sisters fiddler Rudi Booher releases three CDs
By Torri Barco

Rudi Booher. Photo by Steve Gardner
National fiddle champion Rudi Booher released three CDs this week, packed with skillfully-wrought, old-time favorites, Texas classics, and long-loved Christian Hymns.

The CD graphics feature portraits of Booher's 31-year-old, gentle, cheerful face -- one no doubt familiar to neighbors who see Booher at Papandrea's Pizza and Espresso Junction, the local businesses he owns. Steve Gardner, a former Multnomah Publishers graphic artist, designed the graphics.

His first recordings in six years, Booher said the release of three simultaneous CDs recorded at his brother Chris' Patriot Studio in Texas, gave him the opportunity to present the distinct fiddle genres that have touched him.

"One demonstrates the old-time fiddle music I grew up with," Booher said. "Then in my older years, I participated in more competitions and so I traveled to Texas and learned the Texas competition-style music which is real difficult and faster.

"I chose the gospel CD because I am thankful to the Lord for the music He's given me. I want to put a CD out to glorify God for the great salvation He gave me through the Lord Jesus Christ."

Booher said the market for fiddle music is wider among generations than one might expect. Booher said he serves people from five to 75 years old in his private fiddle lessons.

"A lot of people think that only old people are attracted to this music but that's not true," Booher said.

Older folks do have a deeper appreciation for the skill it takes to play such music and the history behind it, said Karl Farr, a 75-year-old fan. Farr is the son of Karl Farr Sr. -- one of the original members of the Sons of the Pioneers. Karl Farr Jr. is a retired music and dance producer in Sisters.

"The fiddle is a hard instrument to play," Farr said. "You get someone like Rudi who can hit such clear notes and it is fantastic to listen to. I don't think the younger generation appreciates the music because they don't know all the skill it takes to hit so many notes so quickly. A lot of the younger music might hit only four notes and have a heavy beat."

Booher's five-year-old daughter Emily (then four) sings solo on "For God So Loved The World" in the gospel tract.

Booher found special satisfaction playing with Joey McKenzie (tenor guitar), a fiddle teacher from Burleson, Texas. McKenzie stands alone as the only person who has ever given Rudi formal fiddle lessons.

Booher started playing fiddle at age 11, after his grandparents invited him to an old-time fiddle show in Roseburg. He returned home unable to shake fiddle fever. The next day, Booher spent the $69 in his savings to buy a Chinese fiddle.

Booher said he taught himself to play fiddle until his teens when McKenzie gave him five five-hour lessons in one year.

Within three years of those lessons, Booher won the 1990 National Championship in Weiser, Idaho. In addition, Booher has claimed five Oregon State Championships, the U.S. Open Championship and he finished runner up for Grand Masters in Nashville, Tennessee.

"The music can be really happy and get you toe-tapping and feeling really good," said Carla Booher.

"But it also can make you cry because it is so sweet. There is such a wide range of emotion.

"Rudi plays with a lot of passion. You can tell he is not just playing to get on a CD, but because he feels it in his heart."

The CDs are available at Papandrea's and at Espresso Junction in Sisters.

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