Connor Civatte, 19, started learning to play the violin in kindergarten. But the country was almost robbed of one of the most talented fiddlers by something called the “Suzuki method.”
“Long story short, I really wasn’t having it. It just wasn’t for me,” said Civatte of the traditional method of learning to play the violin. “And then my brother bought me a Kevin Burke DVD, an Irish violinist, that came with a little book of sheet music, and I never looked back. I found exactly what I wanted to do.” Civatte, who specializes in Scottish music, is self-taught. He finds sheet music on Google images and then watches YouTube videos to learn how to play it. He attends a special camp every summer, too. He’s now composing some of his own tunes.
Civatte will be playing at the Florida Keys Celtic festival this weekend, Jan. 10-11, in the Nessy Pub about five times a day. He also has a spot on the Marathon Community Park’s main stage on Sunday. The North Carolina native’s performance will be a treat for fans of Celtic music, a chance to hear an award-winning fiddler. In 2017, he won the 18 and under U.S. Scottish Fiddler Championship. A few months ago, he won an adult invitation-only competition of the North American Championships.
The thing to know about Civatte’s music, or any Celtic music, really, is that it always comes with a story. He tells a tale before he ever picks up the bow.
“The music complements the story and the story complements the music,” Civatte said. “There’s so much Scottish music written around these incredible stories — tales of heroism or betrayal. It’s really what I enjoy doing.”
“Scots Wha Hae,” by Scottish poet Robert Burns, is a crowd pleaser, Civatte said. But he also wants to test out his own original tune, “The Berserker of Stamford Bridge.” Civatte said that as the Vikings retreated from the English Army almost 1,000 years ago, they left one berserker behind — a Norseman who fought like a crazy man. He said by the English account, or the victor’s account, he killed about 100 men.
“So he probably killed twice that many. They finally sent a boat under the bridge and stabbed up with pikes to kill him,” said Civatte. “So I wrote the tune and each time I play it faster and faster, to symbolize the fighting getting more frantic and chaotic. It’s a fun song to play and people really like it.”
Civatte will be joining the rest of the Clan — the Screaming Orphans, Albannach, West of Galway, Brendan Nolan and Colin Farrell — at the festival. They all play the Celtic circuit together. At least, this year.
“I am taking a year to travel and play, but I have been accepted into the Royal Conservatorie in Glasgow, Scotland next year,” Civatte said.
For a schedule of events for the Florida Keys Celtic Festival, click here.