The first part of our name, Golden Griffon, was inspired by the paintings on Loretta's hammered dulcimer and is intended to conjure up memories of simpler times. Stringtet is a combination of string band and quartet, quintet, etc. that we made up because it's memorable, it's elegant and like "String Band" it allows us the flexibility of any number of musicians. For instance, when we play for contra dances, we'll have four or five musicians and a caller. Typically, the instruments would be hammered dulcimer, fiddle, flute, guitar and bass. For weddings or Christmas music, there might only be hammered dulcimer accompanied by guitar.
The music we play is generally classified as dance music, meaning square and contra dance tunes. Our repertoire includes traditional jigs, reels, waltzes and airs from Irish, French-Canadian, New England and Southern/Old Time sources, contemporary dance tunes written in the traditional style and a few contemporary pop melodies that we have corrupted into contra dance tunes. We also play Christmas and religious music when appropriate.
The Golden Griffon Stringtet has been performing since 1992 at cultural and historic events including the Ohio Renaissance Festival, the national convention of Abraham Linclon Presenters, the Windham, New York Civil War Music Heritage Gathering, New Year's Eve celebrations in Ypsilanti, Birmingham and Port Huron, the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, the Port Huron Thomas Edison Festival, the Northville Victorian Festival Ball, the Clinton Fall Festival, the Henry Ford Community College production of "The Grapes of Wrath," and the Greenfield Village re-dedication of Henry Ford's birthplace as well as numerous weddings, receptions, contra dances, Civil War re-enactment dances, fairs, festivals and community events throughout Michigan and Ohio.
Loretta has been involved with music almost all of her life. Acknowledged in Who's Who In Music, Loretta retains a teaching certificate in piano and organ, and has received several awards for her performance on the clarinet. She was named the 2000 ABA Traditional Instrumentalist of the Year for hammered dulcimer. Her attraction to the hammered dulcimer is generated not only by the unique sound and appearance of the instrument, but also the diverse musical styles that it has the ability to enhance. Loretta began playing the hammered dulcimer in 1990 and has been giving private lessons on hammered dulcimer since 1996.
Jim started playing guitar in 1978 and fiddle in 1987. He also dabbles a bit with the mandolin and bass. Jim has played with The Shakin’ Hammers String Band, with whom he made two cassette recordings, Hit & Miss and Dancing Bear. Jim and Loretta met in 1990 and in 1992 formed The Golden Griffon Stringtet.
Jim has been presenting workshops at the Original Dulcimer Players Club Funfest in Evart, Michigan since 1997, teaching tunes, ornamentation, harmony and music theory. He is currently a violin and guitar instructor at Eastern Michigan University's Community Music Academy. Jim also offers private lessons on fiddle and guitar to students of all ages.
In August 2008, Jim placed third in the Manchester Riverfolk Music & Arts Festival Fiddle contest. In March 2008, Jim participated in the Advanced Fiddling competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. He received a "superior", their highest possible rating. Jim took first place in the 2005 Hetzler's Fakebook Fiddle Contest with his performance of Soldier's Joy. Jim has received two seconds, three thirds, one fourth and two sixths in the Michigan State Championship Old-Time Fiddlers Contest from 1995 to 2005. He has been serving as Director of the contest since 2006. In April 2011, Jim placed third in the 18th Annual Green Parrot Old-Time Fiddlers Contest in Key West, Florida. He was named the 2000 ABA Traditional Instrumentalist of the Year for fiddle.
In 2004, Jim's original composition, The Well Digger's Daughter, won second place in the Second Annual Nebraska Chapter of the American String Teachers Association Fiddle Tune Composition Contest. In 2005, Jim's original composition, Emptyhead, won first place honors. In 2006, Jim again won first place with his original composition, Perporkin. In 2007, Jim took third place with his original composition, The Lucky Streak. In 2011, he earned another third place prize in the NEASTA contest with his original composition, The Callipygian Lassie. Also in 2011, Jim's original composition, The Crying Woman, was selected as one of four winners in the Strings Without Boundaries Composition Contest.
In 2001, Jim and Judy Raber published Come Dance With Me, a biography of old-time Michigan fiddler Les Raber, containing articles, photos and Jim's transcriptions of 119 tunes from Les's repertoire, including Les's original compositions, rare old tunes learned from Les's father and grandfather which had never before been written down and many old favorite fiddle tunes played in Les's unique style. The book is now in its fourth printing (2008) and contains Jim's transcriptions of 176 of Les's tunes.
In 2007, Jim and Judy Raber produced Come Dance With Me...Again! a CD of 43 tunes from Les's unique repertoire.