Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival

On a whim, thanks to an email reminder, I decided to go to the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival this weekend, at the state park in Morris, IL.

At this Saturday-Sunday festival, workshops and concerts run all day from 10am to 6pm. There’s always someone performing at the main tent, sometimes someone at the new talent tent, and — simultaneously — workshops conducted at five perimeter locations. A string of vendors lines the edge of the field by the parking lot, too.

I had an early slot in the new talent tent. I played Easter Thursday, a Bach prelude and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, a trio of Scandinavian walking tunes, my original jig set Irksome Girl / Midnight Maze, What Child Is This? / Menuet (Quantz), an original meandering arpeggio-based tune Winter East and Kensington, and an upbeat rhythmic original Third Street Market. One fellow listened for the whole set; he was performing right after me. Three different people manned the soundboard in succession. And occasionally — during the faster numbers, a few other folks wandered in to listen a while.

After my set, I grabbed some lunch (provided by a Boy Scout Troop), then stayed to listen to the other fellow for a while before wandering toward the site of my first workshop — West African Improvisation with Max ZT. There was so much to say about this topic that we didn’t play a whole lot, but it was interesting stuff. At this point, though, it’s getting mixed up in my mind with the stuff from Max’s workshop this morning on Indian music.

Next was a workshop by Andy Young introducing Gypsy Swing. It was interesting to see how even some of the chromatic stuff fits into visual and movable patterns. Later in the afternoon, there was intermediate penny whistle with Guy George, in which we played through melody and harmony for two Carolan tunes and another traditional piece. I learned a G# and an alternate fingering for C# that’s useful when a neighboring note is D.

In the evening the old time dance was held at a nearby school. We kept trying for a square, but never had the right number of couples. So we did several circle dances, one contra, the Virginia Reel, and the Texas Star. Great fun — I haven’t done this sort of dancing since we lived in upstate NY. I know there’s a contra dance in Goshen, about an hour away; might have to look into going once in a while.

This morning started with Max’s Indian workshop, in which we learned a little about what a raga is and explored one a tiny little very interesting bit. At the next site over I took Luke Notary‘s second workshop on polyrhythms, in which he sat on his box drum with an African shell shaker thingy strapped to his leg and led us in one groove after another. I especially want to remember and play around more with the one in six (accents on 1, 2, 4, 5, 1, 5) and the reduction in three (1… 2… 3… 1.. 2.. 3.. 1. 2. 3. 1231231231). Back to Max for his workshop on developing speed — through some seventh chord patterns, travis patterns with melody bits over top, and buzz / long rolls with one hand while the other hand plays a melody or bass line or something.

There weren’t any other workshops I wanted to take, but I stuck around to hear Lisa Ferguson play — while waiting for her set I had lunch, wandered around, heard Max’s band’s set (loud, intriguing, obviously highly skilled, a little more improvisational music than I would normally listen to in an hour). It was super hot, and it was very hard to sit still, but there wasn’t much else I wanted to do. I did manage to stay put long enough to hear some of Lisa’s set, which was rhythmic and interesting. Then a friend who’d just gotten in wanted to hear me a little, so we found a quiet spot and I ran through some of my new talent stage set. That was it for me — Mark and daughter picked me up and we headed home.