DULCIMER … “dulce” (sweet) and “melos” (song)
I first heard the “sweet song” of the dulcimer in the year 2000. My friend Bonnie and I were at the Malcolm Blue Festival in the nearby town of Aberdeen. This is a yearly event and is held at the Blue farm, a historical spot here in North Carolina.
At the festival visitors can shop for a variety of hand-crafted articles and watch a potter at work on his clay. They may also listen to the sounds of the bagpiper and the music of country musicians. We were doing all these things when we chanced upon an older gentleman and his wife softly playing the dulcimer. We were enchanted by the sweetness and purity of sound, as were many others, and we stayed glued to the spot as they finished their song. They then proceeded to tell us the history of the Appalachian (Mountain) dulcimer and to show us some lovely ones that they had made and that were for sale.
Now, you have to realize that neither Bonnie nor I were adept at reading music or playing an instrument. So, it was a great surprise to me when Bonnie decided to buy one of their hand-crafted dulcimers. It was a beauty but I was sure it would end up on a shelf somewhere and never be played.
It did get ignored for a year or so; but, eventually, Bonnie decided to learn how to play the instrument and she went in search of lessons. We are fortunate to live just a few hours away from the Appalachian area of North Carolina and she signed up for “Dulcimer Week”, hosted by Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. That was in 2003, I believe, and she has gone back every year since then. She learned to play the dulcimer and now takes lessons once a week from a local teacher.
The reason I am writing about this is that I am going to join her this year and try my luck at learning to play the dulcimer. I have no high expectations because I can hardly carry a tune, much less make music; but, I am going to give it a try.
The 6-day conference starts June 24th and, luckily, I do not have to own a dulcimer to attend. They will loan an instrument to beginners like me and it will be a great opportunity to see if it’s something I can, and want, to continue learning.
Even if I don’t learn to pluck out a tune it will be a wonderful and mind-expanding experience. The hills of Western North Carolina are beyond mere beauty...and to experience those hills alive with traditional “old-time” music will be a special treat.
Registration is open until June 15th so maybe some of you out there in “blogger-land” can join us. Don’t worry, though. I intend to commit it all to paper...so, stay tuned ... ”details at 11:00”.