A little one

Sometimes I like to let little ones try the dulcimer. I brought it to my daughter’s preschool class once, and here’s another one exploring. It’s sweet to see them enjoy the sounds they can make and discover different aspects of the dulcimer, the hammers, and music in general.

I confess there are also times when I am not up for young (or old!) exploration. If anything ever happened to my dulcimer I’d be heartbroken, and it would not be easy to replace. Plus, I don’t have insurance that covers it outside our home.

Yellow River Festival 2011

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.

Harp, dulcimer, and recorders

Today Beth Paré and I performed at the Culver Coffee Company.

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

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Daughter has learned the first verse of this carol, and she’s heard me sing two other verses as well. She recognizes it when she hears it on CDs or the radio, too.

O Come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

It’s an Advent carol; Advent is the season of the church year in which we contemplate the promise of Messiah’s coming.

I’ve been participating in a Bible study group that has been reading Isaiah this year. It’s one of my favorite books. There’s so much in it — a call to abandon the idolatry of trusting in anything other than God, to practice justice and righteousness, and a warning that exile waits if the people continue unrepentant. Even then God is still bent on redemption — he will destroy those who have tried to destroy his people, and he will bring the people back from exile and deliver them from idolatry and unrighteousness.

And how?

Through a child — a little branch from the old stump of David’s dynasty — one who will suffer while serving his people — one on whom all our iniquity will be laid, by whose stripes we will be healed.

What child is this?

Emmanuel means, “God with us” — ordinarily it’s enough to just say it means God will not abandon his people but remain with and for them, but God does one better and literally — in the flesh — comes to be with us.

If you celebrate, Merry Christmas to you!

Whether you do or do not celebrate, may I invite you to consider again who this Jesus is, and whether or not he might have something to say about your exile.

Easter Thursday

I am gaining confidence in “good enough” tuning — sometimes what doesn’t sound perfect to me right in playing position sounds just fine via a video, or if I’m on the other side of the dulcimer or a little further away.

I would want to be more exact in tuning for a CD, or for an important event like a concert or wedding ceremony. But for background music, especially outside, this tuning is good enough.

Easter Thursday is an English country dance tune, in 3/2 meter. The middle section is what I play if someone else is playing melody, but it sounds rather nice on its own as well.

A trio version is available on my Christmas CD, What Child Is This, with Craig Higgins on guitar and Jerry Drumheller on fiddle.

Strobe tuner repair

I love my Conn Strobotuner ST-11.

It’s an old strobe tuner. Inside there’s a patterned wheel and some strobe lights — one moves according to the pitch of the note on my dulcimer, and the other moves according to the correct pitch, and the closer I get to exactly in tune, the slower the movement. It’s so precise that even if it’s still moving a little, I know it’s going to sound good. So, for me, it makes tuning a little more relaxing, with a lot less second-guessing and waiting than I had with the digital tuners I’ve used.

It’s almost always made some noise on the B note, and recently it’s started having noise on C as well — and the movement for C doesn’t seem to be accurate any more. Sometimes it is — but sometimes it claims my dulcimer is far sharper than it actually is.

From what I’ve read at Peterson’s forums (they bought Conn), it sounds like the bearings in the motor are wearing down, so the motor will need to be replaced. Their service facility is about three hours away, so I could avoid shipping charges, which with something this heavy would probably cost more than six hours of gas. In 2008, the motor cost $80. That’s almost as much as I paid for the tuner.

So… I may look around Ebay for another one… or maybe look into having this one repaired… or maybe consider a newer model if I can get one used.

Peterson also makes virtual strobe tuners — I don’t know whether they have the same advantages a real strobe has, or whether it’s just about aesthetics. More research needed.

Sheep May Safely Graze

Tomorrow morning I am playing at the South Bend Farmers Market, outside, on probation. If approved, I might get to play there regularly, and inside.

I thought I would need to tune the beastie this afternoon, and didn’t get around to it before my student arrived. I noticed that it sounded fine as she played it, so I figured it would be fine for tomorrow as well. Whew! It’s always nice to avoid a tuning, especially when I’ve been doing a lot of work with my hands and don’t want to stress them. (I have hypermobility and not much strength, so they’re prone to injury; hence my special ergonomic hammers.)

Anyway, I rejoiced by practicing the obligato for Sheep May Safely Graze, and then decided to try recording it. I wasn’t able to get an errorless recording, but here it is anyway. Oh, and I’m sorry it’s rather quiet — I forgot how weak my camera’s mic is!

(I can’t play the obligato and the melody at the same time; check out this one to hear the melody sung beautifully.)

Rhythm stickers

I had this idea the other day that I thought might help visual learners with understanding rhythm — the lengths of notes, how they combine into measures, and so on. Understanding rhythm can help a dulcimer player with selecting hammering patterns. And for any musician, a good sense of rhythm is essential for musicality — smooth, expressive playing.

I’ll need to add some dotted notes, too, and trim everything to fit more precisely.

The board currently only has room for two measures; if I want to show a pick-up measure, I could put it above the two full measures. Or, to analyze a pick-up measure, I could put it in the first measure-box, and use rests to fill in before the pick-up note(s). Guess I’ll need to make some rests, too! Since dulcimer has no real control of when a note ends, rests are not as frequently important as they are for other instruments.

To School

Daughter goes to preschool in just a few weeks! Her school is in Mishawaka Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Since it’s just three hours each day and the commute’s an hour, I’ll just stay up there while she’s in school.

I’d love to find a home or music store or other space where I could offer dulcimer lessons. I’ll let you know if I find a place, and if you have ideas let me know.

I’m missing my trio; except for a few one-time things, I’ve been solo since we moved to Indiana. I don’t know if I will have time and motivation to be committed to a new band, but part of me is itching to find some folks to play more regularly with. I’d be especially interested in Irish flute and guitar or bouzouki, playing mostly Celtic with some classical and original and other traditional things thrown in.

A friend at Mark’s school plays viola; we have some tentative plans to work up some classical pieces together. I haven’t worked on my parts all summer, though! Better get out that sheet music again.