A year ago I ventured into the Hammered Dulcimer festival at Evart, Michigan. http://evartdulcimerfest.org/
This was the beginning of me-as-a bowed-psalterist.
I’m staggered by how much I’ve been able to play and learn this year. I’ve accumulated reams of sheet music, but also picked out tune after tune by ear. I’ve memorized a couple pieces. I’ve participated in both a workshop and a festival with Tish Westman, and had gratis lessons, chock full of practice tips, from each Rick Long and Gregg Schneeman. I found a jam to practice with, A Circle of Friends in Haslett, MI. And, oh! Did I mention I played in church at Christmastime?
Friday, I got it into my head to make a quick trip north. After a night at the lake, I drove the 60 miles or so to the 44th annual Evart festival, to meet my new Psaltery Strings friend, Sandy. That in itself was worth the trip. But, not long through the gate, I heard the unmistakable sound of a bow drawn on psaltery strings. There, in the midst of a cluster transfixed listeners, was Gregg Schneeman, I set up my chair, my tripod, my instrument, and tentatively joined in. What fun--Gregg recognized my name from psalterystrings.com. Of course, I knew who he was, he’s such a presence on the website. His fame will grow yet wider: Wayne Simms, instructor for the Bowed Psaltery workshop, was talking up Gregg at the end of class. Wayne is skilled and innovative at building instruments–but he admits he’s not an accomplished player. “You should see that one guy walking around here!” he said, impressed, “ He plays with two bows, and he’s been playing for 40 years!” How fine that someone so experienced is generous in sharing what he’s learned. I’m betting many unsuspecting fair-goers found themselves twirled into the Land of Psaltery Playing by Gregg’s two bows and charm.
Sandy and I met in the afternoon. She had found a Jam group, so I tried to fit in. My psaltery had become so badly out of tune that I was desperate to connect with my tuning apparatus, left in the car. In time, both my instrument and I were improved. Sandy and I finished out the day with the same friendly musicians. The group included fiddles, guitars, a uke, and us two psalteries. Later, a banjo and a classical guitarist joined us. I had found it challenging to play with hammered-dulcimerists in the past, so I was happy to find that one could maneuver through the “oldest and biggest hammered dulcimer festival in the world" without being overwhelmed by that, um, assertive group.
Suddenly, I realized I needed to start the drive “home.” I can quickly become quite helpless when my Parkinson’s medication wears off. So, ASAP back to the family cottage. I would be alone, but the woods would blend old memories with new and ease me into sleep.
Can’t wait for the next musical meeting!