I am excited about a few things coming up this spring and summer. First of all, I’ll be playing at a boarding-house meal at the Earthworks Market on Jefferson in Plymouth, 4-7pm, on St. Patrick’s Day, Monday March 17. Get tickets at the market for one of three seatings.
The other day I got to perform Malcolm Dalglish’s arrangement of Quil O’Quay with the Eisenhower Choir (October 2013). Take a listen:
I had such a good time at my concert last weekend.
This year we held it at our church, which we have been attending for just over a year, and in which we will be confirmed early in November.
It’s a beautiful old building with white walls and dark wood pews and arched ceiling, stained glass windows mostly in deep blue and red, a beautiful beautiful old wooden altar against the front wall, and a fairly wide raised place (the choir) between the rows of pews (the nave) and the altar area (the sanctuary). On one side of the choir is the upright piano, the beautiful pipe organ, and the pulpit. On the other side are rows of pews for the choir singers. At the front of the choir, all the way across the church, is a wooden rood screen — narrow columns supporting a beam on which stands a crucifix.
I set the dulcimer at an angle at the center front of the choir, so that most folks in the audience would be able to see the strings and hammers as I played. At the bottom of the steps I set the two chairs and guitars. My recorder balanced between the top rail of the dulcimer and the music stand that attaches to that rail.
Music included many originals; other pieces dedicated to friends, colleagues, places, and events, beginning with my first introduction to the dulcimer; three original songs with guitar; and one song in Spanish. For a few months now I have been helping Armando lead worship in our Latino mass. I am slowly learning Spanish with the help of the online program Mango through the library at Mark’s school. I can understand all of the liturgy, most of the songs and the Scripture readings, and some words and phrases in the sermons. My pronunciation is pretty good, but there’s not much I can say with any confidence. Anyway, I chose one of the many beautiful songs we do in that service and asked Armando to play and sing with me in the concert. He is from Honduras, and his voice is amazingly deep and intense, and I love how we sound together in the soaring first line of the chorus.
My in-laws came up for the performance, several good friends attended, the choir director from Crown Point who hired me for a Malcolm Dalglish piece (that concert this week!), and also some folks who saw flyers. There were twenty-five or so, which is a good crowd for one of these concerts; last year I think I might have had five! And nearly everyone stayed for a long time at the reception and seemed to have a good time. Several folks had very nice things to say about the whole show and / or about particular pieces.
Speaking of the reception, what a blessing it was for Barb to take charge of things, with the help of Roscinda and Anne. We had wine, cookies, fruit salad, cheese and crackers, chips and salsa, and my sad soupy attempt at a stirred custard with coconut and strawberries.
This Saturday, October 5, I look forward to celebrating thirteen years of hammered dulcimer playing. The concert will take place at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Plymouth, at 7pm, with refreshments following. Music will include original, traditional, and classical tunes as well as a few songs with guitar.
Will and Polly Duval and John Sherck, singing “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Photo by Paul Pare’.
My friend and harp-playing colleague Beth Pare’s husband Paul graciously agreed to film the concert yesterday. Please excuse the fuzz and buzz — the video was taken by a point-and-shoot digital camera from all the way across the room.
Scandinavian Walking Tunes
Polska efter Höök-Olle
And here’s a video of the Masanga Marimba Ensemble covering the original by Mhuri Yekwa Muchena.
Slip Jig from Style, by Denis Carey
On a bright crisp fall day in 2000, Marcy Prochaska was driving across Virginia to pick up a bright and lovely new thing: a hammered dulcimer of her own. In celebration of that anniversary, she will present a concert at 4pm, Sunday October 16, in the Legion Memorial Building on the campus of Culver Academies.
The hammered dulcimer is a hollow wooden trapezoid supporting many strings; like on a piano, notes are produced by hammers striking the strings. A dulcimist holds the hammers instead of using a keyboard to activate them. (A smaller distant relative, the mountain dulcimer, is played by plucking or strumming.) The sound is a little like piano, a little like harp, a little like guitar, and yet not quite like any other instrument – resonant, rich, clear, luminous.
It was in college that Marcy first saw and heard a dulcimer. Tim Seaman was playing in a church service, and she was captivated both by the shimmering sound and the dancing of the hammers. After getting her own dulcimer, Marcy was privileged to study with Tim, who, besides teaching tunes and techniques of all kinds, provided the warm encouragement of treating her as a real musician from the beginning.
Music has been part of Marcy’s life from the beginning. She wrote her first “song” at the age of three, on the black keys of the old blue piano in the basement. There were also children’s choirs at church, a brief stint with viola at school, handbells, organ, guitar beginning in late high school, a fabulous semester of harpsichord in college, and more choirs and other singing. Marcy found (much to her surprise) that the dulcimer fit her more naturally and intuitively than other instruments she’d tried. For one thing, there’s just two hammers to manage, instead of ten fingers. Also, it’s well-suited to visual learners; most scales involve identical patterns and spatial relationships, and many musical phrases form triangles, rectangles, lines, and other shapes.
In these eleven years of dulcimer playing, Marcy has performed a repertoire of classical, traditional, sacred, Celtic, and original music at a variety of events. There have been weddings, baptisms, special church services, and a memorial service. There have been fairs and festivals, farmers markets, teas, open houses, art museums and openings, Christmas parties, wine-tastings, birthdays, restaurants and coffee shops. Marcy excels at background music, when guests can relax, mingle, converse, listen, ask questions. She also really enjoys weddings and other such special occasions. And at concerts like this eleventh anniversary celebration, she feels honored to share her music in a more intimate setting.
That sense of intimacy also characterizes her three albums. No Loose Threads is a varied collection of music on hammered dulcimer with other acoustic instruments and some vocals. The instrumental What Child Is This? tells the story of Christmas from Eden to Easter. The Hanshaw Trio is the self-titled release of a mostly Celtic group featuring fiddle, guitar, and dulcimer. The Christmas CD is available through CDBaby, and all three are available through Marcy’s website, http://mp-dulcimer.com, or at the concert.