by Nils Fredland
New England fiddler Nat Hewitt died on the morning of Friday, November 23rd of complications from cancer. He leaves behind a 25-year-old son and two teenage daughters, and will be missed by the many people whose lives he touched through his music, generosity, and kindness.
When I think of Nat, I think of the sea, and of his love of sailing…that’s odd, because he and I never had a conversation about either of those things. I knew of Nat’s love of the ocean from his friends who joined him in that part of his life, and while I know he would have welcomed me onto his boat, I never asked to be included, and he never extended the invitation.
I have a lifelong reverence for the sea. But, when I am in the presence of big water, I am an observer – a member of the congregation – seeking perspective and healing, but also full of fear. Nat was an active participant in the company of the sea. I like to think of him as more like a preacher; similarly reverent, seeking perspective and healing, but also striving to gain a deep understanding of how to respectfully harness the power of the ocean, in order to live in tandem with it. I will always admire Nat’s courage, marked by his willingness to be out in the midst of all that chaos and beauty.
As a dance caller, I’ve shared the stage with many great fiddlers. I haven’t been able to explain why Nat’s fiddling stood out to me as unique in the midst of all of that greatness; why, despite the fact that Nat and I weren’t close friends, I always felt a certain kinship with him that went beyond our musical collaboration.
I realize now – it’s the sea. I could hear it in the way he played: polished and beautiful; but also passionate, raw, and fearless. His music never failed to fill me with the same feelings I get when I sit on the beach to watch the waves.
Thank you, Nat, for keeping me in touch with the wonder of the ocean. I miss you, friend.
Should you wish, the family suggests gifts in Nat’s memory be sent to CDSS, 116 Pleasant St #345, Easthampton, MA 01027-2759. Please include a note with your check directing the gift in memory of Nat Hewitt. You may also make a memorial gift online at www.cdss.org/appeal.