Get your fingers pickin’

Tanglecove members Dan Rubin and Dave Panting offer book, videos, workshop on Mandolin playing for Christmas

Published on November 27, 2013

Dan Rubin and Dave Panting of Tanglecove hope to get more people playing traditional Newfoundland tunes this Christmas. In addition to their CD, a new book of sheet music, two videos on, the pair are holding a Dec. 7 workshop for mandolin and fiddle players interested in some tips on playing some Newfoundland Christmas Tunes. — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

The liner notes of Tanglecove’s CD reads like a restaurant menu. The titles of the songs are all laid out, along with brief descriptions — peppered with mentions of Figgy Duff — hoping to tantalize you into listening.

In addition to the recording, Tanglecove members Dave Panting and Dan Rubin are offering you up a special smorgasbord of sound they’re hoping you’ll take home and cook up for yourself: they’re presenting the sheet music for some well-known holiday tunes, so you can learn to play them at your own kitchen parties this season.

Panting, who was a member of folk group Figgy Duff, and Rubin, a member of Vancouver-based quartet Flying Mountain and local folk trio Atlantic Union, first met 30 years ago at a festival in Alberta.


Tanglecove plays "The Mummers Song"

Tanglecove plays "Good King Wenceslas"

Tanglecove plays "Silent Night"

Tanglecove plays "Deck the Halls"

Play along with the Tanglecove Songbook

They connected again in 2003, after Rubin moved to the St. John’s area with his Newfoundland-born wife, and starting jamming together.

“Musical long-lost cousins,” is how they describe themselves.

Early last year, they formed a musical duo called Mandomania; that duo has now become Tanglecove, and earlier this month, they were nominated for the 2013 MusicNL Award for Instrumental Recording of the Year for their debut CD, “Tanglecove: 30 New Canadian Fiddle Tunes.”

The pair attended the MusicNL conference in Gander and performed everywhere from the stage to the hotel lobby.

“What a great event,” Rubin said after the event.

“Wonderful sense of community, some fine workshop sessions and it wrapped up with jams with some of the amazing young performers who were showcased at the conference. We have retuned to St. John’s newly inspired with tons of connections from the weekend.”

Tanglecove has also recently published a book of sheet music to go along with the CD, which consists of original tunes inspired

by the music of Newfoundland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Appalachia, Russia and Scandinavia.

Among them: “The Memory Waltz,” a piece Panting wrote after Figgy Duff; “The Road to Raffydiddle, Rubin’s piece inspired by a children’s poem; and “The Wedding Gift,” Panting’s famous wedding waltz.

There are songs honouring fishermen, Vikings, tourists, and the Portuguese White Fleet, as well as songs dedicated to people like Frank Maher, Stan Pickett, Emile Benoit, and Panting’s daughter, Sara. Panting and Rubin are in the middle of sorting out national distribution for the book (which is available locally at Fred’s Records) and, next summer, will perform on VIA Rail trains from Toronto to Vancouver. They’re planning a cross-country tour to coincide with the travelling gig.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, Panting and Rubin are inviting musicians of all ages who play mandolin, guitar, fiddle and accordion to join them for a full-day workshop at Points East Guesthouse in Pouch Cove, where they’ll focus on teaching some well-known Christmas tunes from Panting’s “Mandolin Christmas” CD.

“Here is a chance to develop your skills, while joining with others in playing traditional tunes and carols,” Rubin said.

Workshop participants will learn melodies, counter-melodies, rhythm and chords, and after the session is over, can join Tanglecove in playing some of the pieces at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Pouch Cove Town Hall.

Registration for the workshop is $45, which includes sheet music and a home-cooked lunch, and can be done by sending an email to

In the meantime, Tanglecove and The Telegram are presenting videos and the sheet music for four holiday tunes — “The Mummers’ Song,” “Silent Night,” “Good King Wenceslas” and “Deck the Halls,” to get you started. Visit to download them.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury