On Thursday, April 24, Nelson fiddler Harvey Tolman will join a distinguished group of honorees in receiving the Governor’s Arts Award at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, New Hampshire. Other recipients will include Marilyn Ziffrin of Bradford; The Bloomfield Family of Bow; Drika Overton of Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine; Phoebe Ann Neiswenter of Pembroke; and Ken Burns for Florentine Films of Walpole. Governor John Lynch and First Lady Susan Lynch will preside.
Although Harvey was born in Massachusetts, the extended Tolman family has lived in Nelson for generations. His immediate family returned to the homestead when he was twelve, and from that time on Harvey was exposed to the music and dance traditions which were being maintained, and to some degree revived, by his second cousins (once removed), Newt and Fran Tolman. He also became friendly with Albert Quigley, more commonly known as Quig, a painter, violin maker, and fiddler. It was Quig who provided Harvey with his first fiddle.
Despite these influences, it wasn’t until 1960 when Harvey heard Cape Breton music being played at the annual Scottish Games in Boston, that he felt the music engaging his inner being. As Dudley Laufman noted in a letter of support for Harvey’s nomination of this award:
“Young Harvey Tolman in his late teens, went to the Highland Games that time in Brookline, Massachusetts. Listened to Scotty Fitzgerald play down east fiddle. It completely captivated him. Next thing he was on his way to Cape Breton Island. He lived in fried green tomatoes and slept in his pickup truck. Followed Fitz all around the island soaking the musics up. Came home from that and took up his fiddle. Learned to play with that same sort of Scotch Snap and has never looked back. “
Harvey began playing as the mainstay fiddler for the Monday Night Dance, which began in Harrisville in 1978. The dance later moved to Nelson, and Harvey has missed very few dances over the decades. These days he usually gets the dance started with a polka, and is usually accompanied by Bob McQuillen. Folks have come some distance to this dance, sometimes to dance to his music, and sometimes just to watch and listen. Over the years he has mentored several young fiddlers (as well as some not so young). His playing has extended beyond the dance community – over the years his music and reputation have spread into the community at large – few people who are tuned in to our regional cultural richess are unaware of Harvey Tolman.
The Monadnock Folklore Society is particularly proud to be the sole purveyor of a T shirt bearing Harvey’s likeness based a painting by his wife, Frankie Brackley Tolman, which is sold in support of the Johnny Trombley Memorial Scholarship. And we are indeed very proud of Harvey for the honor he will be receiving.
Harvey will receive the Folk Heritage award from the Governor as well as a work of art created by artist and fellow fiddler Randy Miller.
For more information and tickets, please visit the Colonial Theatre Website: http://www.thecolonial.org