Hi folks. Since this will be my first christmas with the bowed psaltery I thought I'd take this show on the road in a sense. It always amazes me when I begin to play peoples eyes light up. Like they weren't expecting that sound. That, and the number of people who have never heard of a bowed psaltery let alone heard one played. I plan to do this at nursing/retirement homes in the area. It'll be a no pressure kind of thing. A brief introduction, 10 christmas tunes, followed by a q+a and maybe giving those interested a chance to bow a note or two. Shouldn't be more than an hour. I will not profit from this other than gaining some experience. So what do yall think?

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I think this is WONDERFUL and there are some other members who do this already who might be able to answer any questions you have. I would love to do it, but have to admit I am a little shy about doing it alone and frankly the area I live in is somewhat of a bowed psaltery desert (and I don't live in Arizona ;)

Sharon and Terry Kirby go once a week I believe to play at the nursing homes in their area. They have some great stories : )

I think it's one of the best ways to get some performance experience for yourself while at the same time you are enriching the lives of those who are lonely and limited.



I think playing in local homes is a great idea for both the residents of the homes and for you.  I have played at a local home once a month for 10 years (twice a month in December) and I have learned so much from that experience.  I think part of the time the residents really like what we're playing and singing, too.

Listed are some notes that might help you with this opportunity.

At some homes, the staff has to assist the residents to the location where the music will be played.  This can be a foyer or a cafeteria or any large room in the home.  Check with the activity director at the home for the location and time and if staff will be available to assist the residents.

Lots of local schools and other groups like to arrange home visits at this time of year, be sure to contact the activities director to schedule your visit.  Your schedule might be close to some other group's visit, so be ready to be flexible.  Two of our most fun Christmas programs have been when a local school or other group was scheduled right after our programs.

If you set up in a room and start playing, some people might decide to leave.  I play monthly for a little over an hour and we start with 12 to 20 residents and it's not unusual for 25% of them to leave the room while we are playing.  We just keep on playing for the ones that stay.

So, I hope you'll find these thoughts helpful.  Good Luck with scheduling your visit and let us know how it goes.


My wife, Sharon, and I have been playing at nursing homes for several months now.  The way we got started was to contact the Activities Director at our local nursing homes.  All of them were very receptive and were especially excited that we would be doing this on a volunteer basis.  We put together a list of about 20 songs, mostly Irish and/or Celtic, with a few folk songs thrown in.  The folks really like the old tunes such as Red River Valley and we are going to begin to incorporate some of those type tunes for them.  We have gotten all kinds of responses, from the folks singing along to what seems like very few are paying attention or even know you are there.  We know in the end, though, that the people have enjoyed listening as we have had many written cards of thanks and have been asked back to several of the places we have visited.  When we return, the people are glad to see us and some have more questions each time we go.  We always start the performance by explaining what the instrument is and give a brief history of it.  Many times we take along small hand held instruments such as spoons, crickets, plastic eggs filled with rice and rhythm sticks and let the residents play along with us.  If you are looking for a more active group, you should go to the assisted living facilities.  At the end we always encourage those who want to try to play the instrument.  We have them hold the instrument and then I hold their bow hand and we play Twinkle Twinkle.  They are always amazed that they have been able to play a song.  If you are going to be playing by yourself, you will want to be as close to the people as possible as many of the homes we have gone to have distracting noises such as air conditiioning blowers, people walking around or arguing with each other, aides coming around with medications, etc.  At this time of year we have put together a list of Christmas songs and have had a great response.  Keeping the time to 1 hour or less is good as many of the people will get restless if it is any longer than that.  We originally started to do this as we needed to gain experience playing in front of others.  It has turned into so much more than that.  We have met some very interesting people and it has been a very rewarding experience.  Hope this helps, but if you have any questions, let us know.

Thanks for all the wonderful responses. Let me start of by saying that I'm a nurse who has worked in a nursing home for many years. So needless to say I will be on familiar territory. That's one reason I chose nursing homes to play at, I'm very comfortable there. Plus it seems activity directors don't have much to work with money wise that's why I wouldn't even think of taking a dime. But good suggestions all around. I like the egg shaker idea. Hadn't thought of that. I've got about a week to go. Better keep practicing!

I play with a group of about 10 each week - playing at assisted living facilities and an occasional nursing home.  We play  a different one each Tuesday for about 40 minutes. (rotating 2 month list)  The residents are usually waiting on us!  They love it.  The others play mostly dulcimers with a violin or two, a guitar and sometimes a hammered dulcimer.  I play the psaltery.  Many are interested in knowing about the psaltery.  There are always questions about it.  

Terry, yeah I bet I will get many questions about the instrument considering I went to a guitar shop a few weeks ago and the owner said "you play a what?". I will just be playing alone at the nursing homes however there is a dulcimer groupin town which has hammer and mountain autoharp and guitar. It would be good practice playing with an enseble. Btw Terry, the case fits perfectly and looks great! Thank you.

Glad it fits.  Wasn't sure with the added thickness of the violin bows.  I tried to allow for it.  Bet you'd enjoy playing with the dulcimer group.  Having a D psaltery is especially nice for playing in groups like that though. I have a special chromatic D psaltery Rick Long made that has strings both sides so I can play in other keys.  I LOVE it!   Perfect for dulcimer group playing.   Totally spoiled by it.  


Yeah Rick Long must have some magic hands cause everyone raves about his work. I emailed him yesterday to see what he's going to have available in the near future

I forgot to mention my D chromatic is a tenor.  Wound strings.  That's a special order item.  Most of his D psalteries have strings one side making them only one key - still great but less versatile.  Have a look at his website and see all the beautiful woods he uses.  He always has recordings so you can HEAR the instrument too - (best way to choose).  Some prefer a brighter sound.  I love the mellow sounding woods - like cherry or walnut backs - curly redwood or wormy chestnut tops.   Everyone has their own preference, though.  

I play for a nursing home twice a month as a volunteer for a local hospice.  I play with a dulcimer player, and the two instruments really complement each other (guitar also makes a great accompaniment).  It's also less pressure than playing solo.  We get a warm response from all who come to listen.  Even in the dementia unit, people whose eyes seemed vacant seem to light up.  Sometimes they/we sing along.  It's a good cause, fun for them, fun and good experience for us.

Keep on playing, Debra

Twice a month can be tough to meet at times with life schedules, travel, illness, work, etc.  Pace yourself and keep on playing.




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