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Fiddler's show celebrates Scottish Christmas

What's the difference between Scottish and Irish fiddle music?

“About two pints of Guinness. And I'll let you decide which one takes more,” Bonnie Rideout quips during a telephone interview.

She's almost breathless from bustling around her Alexandria, Va., kitchen preparing a Yankee pot roast dinner. It's a treat of a day for violinist Rideout - 15 hours at home during her 18-concerts-in-20-days Scottish Christmas tour.

Rideout grew up just north of Toledo in Saline, Mich., the daughter of a piano teacher and a University of Michigan documentary filmmaker.

She met the fiddle when she was 8. It was December and she was snooping for Christmas presents. In her mother's closet, she opened a cardboard box and found a violin.

Like many families of Scottish heritage, the Rideouts attended the annual Scottish festival in Alma, Mich., when Bonnie was growing up. It was a great place to learn the music and take part in competitions. Winning at Alma propelled her to national Scottish fiddling contests, of which she won three as an adult.

She studied viola and art at UM, but painful tendonitis in her hand kept her from playing her instrument. She completed the art degree, and made money by painting Christmas ornaments. Former President Gerald and First Lady Betty Ford were the first of several White House families to buy her work, she said.

But she loved nothing more than fiddling in her living room. When her hand healed, she returned to music and in 1986 obtained a degree in classical music. She learned that great music is fueled by joy.

Summers, she traveled to Scotland to work on the farm of friends and to make music. She married a Scotsman and had a son, but her husband soon left to join a monastery. She remarried Jesus Medrano, with whom she has two daughters.

In Washington, she worked as an executive secretary in the Executive Office of the president. In her free time, she painted and played music. A small record label in Annapolis, Md., asked her to record an album of Scottish tunes, and she began playing more.

Then came her 1996 “Scottish Christmas” recording. It was a “best pick” by the New York Times. “And we beat out Madonna for a week,” she said. She built on that success by creating a holiday show with 30 songs. Sold out ever since, her Scottish Christmas show is booked two years out.

Playing for an audience, she said, seems like a predestined calling. “It's meant to be. People want to hear it. And who am I to say I'm going to keep it in my living room?”

Fiddler Bonnie Rideout performs at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets are $35 for adults, $33 for seniors, and $12 for students 16 years old and younger. Information: 419-824-3999.

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