On Sunday afternoon, November 4, a small bunch of us gathered to celebrate my twelfth dulcimer anniversary with a little concert.
(Picture by Ruthie)
John Sherck got the whole thing on video:
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.
In October, I’ll have been a hammered dulcimer player for eleven years. That’s really cool. I was hesitant to get one — would I be any good, would I still like it after a few weeks, and so on — and here we are a decade and a year later.
I’ll present a concert in the Alumni Lounge of the Legion Memorial building on the Culver Academies campus, October 16, 4-5. Not especially geared toward kids, but all ages are welcome.
I’m starting to think about music… I pulled out John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth again… would be lovely to have a quartet of voices for it. Maybe some other pieces with singers — Sheep May Safely Graze, in German; maybe others. I’d love to do some things with other instrumentalists, too — maybe some percussion, maybe harp, who knows!
I just have to keep in mind that it’s less than a month away… and to be realistic about how much learning and practicing time I have along with the rest of life.
I’m remiss in not posting about this festival earlier — I did remember to post information about it on my facebook page but forgot the blog.
The Yellow River Festival is this weekend. Today I played at the Argos Library — a selection of traditional music, mostly for dancing: hornpipes, reels, jigs, polkas, marches, waltzes, and airs.
Tomorrow at noon, Beth Pare and I will be taking the main stage with harp, dulcimer, recorders, and a lovely assortment of classical music and folk and hymn tunes.
See the festival site for more information — there will be numerous music performances, an arts and crafts show, an education stage, and more.
Beth plays harp, and we both play recorders; so many possibilities for our set list. This time we had to limit ourselves to things one or both of us already knew, or that would be easy to learn in two weeks’ time — but we’re already starting to think of what we might work on for future gigs.
We had three recorder duets: A lovely Bach piece, “Aus meines Herzens Grundes,” an early piece just titled “Allemande” (which is the French word for “German”), and O Waly Waly (which you most likely know as “The Water is Wide”).
Several pieces for recorder and harp, including more Bach, and a hymn for recorder and dulcimer, “Be Thou My Vision.”
On all of these, I think, Beth played tenor — a lovely counterpoint to my soprano. I also had one I played on alto — the Gounod “Ave Maria” that goes with Bach’s “Praeludium I.”
Then there were harp and dulcimer duets, including the fun “Tambourin” by Gossec and Bach’s “Musette,” more hymns, and some traditional pieces like “The Ash Grove.”
Both of us were impressed with how lovely the harp and dulcimer sounded in a “Largo” by Vivaldi; that will become a cornerstone of our repertoire, I’m sure. Beth’s husband Paul got some video of this piece that I will link to as soon as it’s posted.
See you next time!
“It was really beautiful to hear the two of you play harp & dulcimer together. It was a lovely family afternoon.” ~Janet
“I really enjoyed the harp and dulcimer song that I heard. Great job.” ~Dave
“They were amazing!! I hope Beth can play again-you two are really fantastic!” ~Dawn, owner of The Culver Coffee Company