Serendipity was on our side at our September monthly GODC meeting as Stephen joined thirty-six of us to teach a workshop tailor-made for the GODC at the same time that PBS released Ken Burns’ impressive, multi-part documentary, “Country Music”. The themes of Stephen’s teaching and the themes of the documentary clicked together perfectly: music birthed by diverse traditions along with the historic effort of musicians to build on that tradition over time while personalizing the music they love and play. Let’s remind ourselves from time to time that we get to play together in Music City, and we have the best in the business here to teach us … how fortunate is that?!
The G Strings, one of the many groups associated with The Grand Old Dulcimer Club, performed an exceptionally lovely version of “Amazing Grace” for the crowd at Larry and Elaine Congor’s annual workshop this August at the Lake Barkely, Kentucky resort. *Geriatric Strings (!)
For your enjoyment:
Mary Lawrence sends some snaps!
Our Nancy comes back from Kentucky Music Week with a rare, red Lapblaster electronic dulcimer. She writes,
“I bought raffle tickets. They pull them one at a time and you get to pick what’s left. They pulled them Thursday night after the teacher’s concert. I was glad nobody picked the Lapblaster so I did. Bing has one, too. He said he was jealous because I have a red one and they are more rare!
To hear Nancy play the Lapblaster at the Grand Old Dulcimer Club Meeting this past Sunday (14 July 2019) Click on the videos below:
Another of Stephen’s workshops—this time at the foot of the Smokies in Townsend, Tennessee at Mike and Connie’s Wood-n-Strings Dulcimer Shop— was so intensive that our Mary Lawrence decided to throw an end-of-workshop party for all participants. Stephen, Heather, Mike and Connie and their family joined us to blow off a little steam and have some fun. We all gathered at the gorgeous back porch of her little place on the river for hot dogs and potluck to marvel at both what we learned in the workshop and what we were all grateful for: a master teacher and the Clemmers, who are always so warm and friendly to all of us. We met some amazing players who were serious jammers and, after our dinner, we had a ball playing old and new songs on the porch. Our new friends meet regularly on Monday nights here in Townsend and invited all of us to come back soon. We can’t wait to take them up on their invitation. Enjoy the short video below that brings back a very happy time!
Today ( May 1, 2019) we are celebrating the start of a new era in Japan. Our Emperor stepped down due to his old age and from Today we have a new Emperor (Naruhito). I was watching the ceremonies on TV. Japanese People are in a festive mood. The new Empress (Princess Masako)is a former diplomat and Masami and I know her well. She was a junior staff when my husband was in the headquarter office. And as I was working at the Foreign Service Institute (Training institution for Japanese diplomats), I remember receiving her as one of the newly employed diplomats there. She was not only beautiful but so elegant. (She graduated from Harvard too) After she married the crown prince, she fell ill for a long time, but today she seems to be recovering. I hope she will be healthy and strong again.
Our grand daughter is growing fast. I am sending a few pictures of her and our family.
The wrap is a sort of our traditional baby wrap in kimono style.
It is used to cover the baby with mother (or grandmother) when visiting the shrine. We go to the shrine to pray for the good health and happiness of the new born babies after one or two months. Then after 100 days (three months), we have another celebration for the baby. We call it "Okuizome" (first bite ceremony), as we start to feed the baby with other food than milk. In reality, babies don't start to eat food, but it is just our tradition.
Of course you are welcome to share the photos and my updates with all the friends of dulcimer and GODC. I always enjoy reading the group emails from Linda and keep me informed with the group's recent activities. How I wish I could join you again!
The weather is just gorgeous in Japan now. I try to take a walk whenever I can. There are lots of green spots near my house and I just love to smell the flowers blooming in the spring sun shine! It is a beautiful season again. I hope you enjoy the wonderful spring time in Tennessee too.
It’s the third and last early morning of Stephen’s Three Day workshop this year in his hometown. As I wake up, I wonder how in the world he will find even more topics to fill my head than he already has. I busy myself with the morning routine of farm life: getting dressed, feeding the animals, checking the seeds and plants for the quickly coming spring. But spring is barely on my mind. For just these three days, I’m only going through the motions with My Other Life, the one that seems only peripheral now to playing music. It’s because my mind is full of mountain dulcimer wonder: the emerging growth of the countless seeds of all kinds that Stephen has planted over the last two days in the minds of the students in his workshop.
Imagine thinking that you’re walking into a fast food restaurant, but, instead, you’re served a 14 course gourmet meal by a five star chef. Or, imagine you need a lamp to bring light to your very dark barn, but the manager at the hardware store hands you a 500 watt bulb and shows you how nicely it will fit into what you thought was a 60 watt socket on your lamp. Voila; your world is changed. That’s what taking a workshop with Stephen is like.
I take some useful learning skills of my own to any classes and workshops I attend. In a former life I was an educator of new teachers who needed to know how students learn most effectively. In other words, I know what works for most students, and the kinds of challenges that teachers face in the classroom. A professional lifetime of being a teacher (in a non-music field), observing other educators and studying teaching and learning means I know how to define excellent teaching in a learning milieu. No matter how many times I’ve attended his workshops, I always leave with the same sense of wonder and awe and feeling that I am perhaps the luckiest music student ever. Think about it: this past weekend, twelve of us got to be able to sit in the classroom of a person widely acknowledged as the best mountain dulcimer musician in the world, who also has a passion for teaching and a sensitivity to students that seems to equal his passion for music and learning. That is a rare combo; take my word for it.
It is a most delightful irony that the man who literally wrote the mountain dulcimer world’s most beloved playbook, “Join the Jam”, spends very little time teaching us how to read the sheet music in his book. Instead, he spends almost every minute of our time together seducing us into believing we are all musicians in the making. We walk out each day standing a little taller, with a newfound sense of confidence that no challenge, no jam, no group, no song is going to be too much for us, no matter how lowly our skills or how many secret self-doubts we might have in our hidden baggage. One fellow student, a very advanced mountain dulcimer player who also teaches piano for a living, told me that she had a whole new world open to her because of the workshop, and learned many ideas for helping her own students. She wanted, she said, to apply what he taught us to get even better at how she approaches music. Another fellow student who was brand new to the dulcimer told me she was so excited to be a part of this; she was having the time of her life.
One of Stephen’s many gifts to us is his full permission to not play the “Join the Jam” tab as it is written. Music, he says, is a living tradition. Tab, he insists, is not a destination, but a point of departure. Stephen spends much time teaching the foundation for approaching any song to play it, no matter how complex, and shares many, many techniques to make it your own. Stephen doesn’t just give you a fish; he teaches you how to fish.
I write this blog entry as an invitation to everyone: to those who have ever considered playing the mountain dulcimer to those who—like me once—believe they could never play a musical instrument, yet have a nagging sense of something wonderful missing in their lives. Pick up a mountain dulcimer and make your way first to a Stephen Seifert lesson or workshop before you do one more thing. If you would like a lesson via Skype, or if you can take a lesson or workshop in the Nashville area, do it. You’ll have the time of your life. Go to stephenseifert.com to learn more, and check his calendar to see when he may be teaching in your area.
On Thursday while visiting mother, Elaine and I were told a dulcimer group was playing at NHC ( National Health Care) Gallatin. Curiosity got the best of us so we went to check it out.
A neighboring dulcimer club from west Tennessee made up of people from Houston and Stewart County known as “All Strung Out” led by Dorris Borens entertained the residents with a 45 minute Christmas concert.
All of their music pieces were arranged by Doris herself. Simple but rich sounding tunes. I asked her when she planned to publish a book. The marimbula was an interesting instrument accompaniment to the group. One of the residents joined in with with the playing of the bells for Jingle Bells. It was great to hear and experience a neighboring dulcimer group who undertook a two hour drive one way to share their talents.
Patient participating in Jingle Bells.
The Grand Old Dulcimer group performed at the Ellington Agricultural Museum. It was well attended and enjoyed by all!
We want to thank each of you who attended the 2018 GODC Christmas party, at our house, for coming and making the afternoon a wonderful experience for all. The food that you brought, the music that you made, and the laughter and good will that filled our home was seasonal and heartwarming. We loved every minute of it! We appreciate each of you who came, and those who were unable to attend, and we wish you all a joyous Christmas and a safe and happy 2019.
Trish and Bob Hackett
This has been a wonderful workshop. I wish everyone could come along with us and experience this. We have met people from as far west as Oregon, down south in Florida and to the east in North Carolina as well as from Arkansas and many other states. We have found the dulcimer community a great group of people. The teachers are so talented and knowledgeable. Today I took a class from Aaron O’Roarke who is probably one of the best dulcimer players I have ever heard. If you ever get to meet him make sure you ask him to play Boil Them Cabbage Down. And on to class with Dottie Sheppard learning to sing along with church songs. My last class of Welsh Church music with Nancy Galambush. Stephanie spent her class time with Linda Brockinton and Jeff Furman on technique. After the concert (picture of all performers included) I participated in learning Contra Dance but quickly decided I had two left feet. Until next time..... (Click photos to see Elaine and Stephanie’s slideshow).
Well its 10:22 so this will be short and sweet. Another busy day at NGFDA. I want to share some photos from the concert tonight introducing to you some new faces for me in the dulcimer community. Names are on photos. Also have uploaded a video of a "planxty" by Linda Brockinton.(Check back tonight for video)
Last week my son, Stephen, and I headed over to the Rhodes Scholar Rendezvous Festival in Kentucky. Stephen was teaching a Dulcimer class there for five days along with two other teachers. Many people call it the Jabez Festival. They hold it twice a year in Nancy, Kentucky: once in the spring and once in the fall. It’s a wonderful festival directed by John Tierney and his wife, Lalana. Its so beautiful there. One afternoon we carpooled to a high point nearby overlooking Lake Cumberland and John gave us a history of the area in period costume. With a short walk from the lodge you can also look out at Lake Cumberland.
John is a really interesting naturalist. He has done so much for the state of Kentucky that they gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award this year! He knows everything about nature. On some days he gives walking tours in the afternoon.
In the evening, weather permitting, we jam on the large front porch that has rocking chairs. One evening an old time group puts on a show for us complete with dancing dolls. Another evening you can watch the Jean Ritchie movie “In The Cumberland’s” about her life story. Thursday evening is when the classes perform for us lead by their teachers. Then we have open stage to play something or tell a story. At the end John leads a jug band handing out unusual instruments such as kazoos, washboards, Jews harp, etc. while John plays an autoharp. We sing along old time songs like Old Susanna or She’ll be coming around the mountain among others. Sometimes we do a little jamming in the evening.
One of the most interesting things to see and do is to go to this old-timey store they have nearby where you can find the most usual things that you can’t hardly find any more. At the festival it’s known as the Jabez Mall and they have the best creamy whip ice-cream. But it’s only available in the spring.
You never go hungry with three meals a day, including a salad bar and snacks in the morning and evening. Coffee is available 24 hrs. a day.
When you go to this festival, you stay in a 4-H lodge that has rooms decorated with all different kinds of themes.
At the spring festival they have four teachers and the fall three teachers. The classes are broken up into levels.
At the open stage Stephen and I were asked to play a duet of the old Hank Williams song, “Kaw-Liga”. We can’t post it because it’s copyrighted, so I hope you enjoy these photos instead.
I started my day with classes on flat picking and fingerpicking with Judy House and Linda Brockinton in the first two sessions of the day. The session in the afternoon was with Jeff Furman working on hammer-ons and pull-offs as well as smoothing our playing with chords. It was so exciting when something clicked and “the lightbulb came on in my head”. Of course, looking and shopping in the booths is a special treat between sessions.
As we nestle in this German town in the mountains of north Georgia we learn, learn and learn. Today for me was Butch Ross, Ann Lough, and Linda Brockinton. A day of 70's music, playing in G without a capo and hymnals with many teaching points. Ended the evening with a concert. Everyone needs to check out Matthew Dickerson on hammered dulcimer for some beautiful music. And look who we ran into.
Check out the October 7, 2018 blog entry News From Yoshie if you have not already. Now you can see the the second half live performance. Yoshie and friends from her choir in Japan present the dulcimer segment just after the piano duet. Enjoy.
Stephanie and her sister Elaine leave this dispatch as they head out to the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association’s annual festival in Unicoi State Park. (Link here.)
Stephanie writes: Long day of traveling in the rain to the North Georgia Dulcimer Festival. Stopped in Cleveland for the Cabbage Patch Hospital. Beautiful views along the way.
Last Tuesday Oct. 2, I signed up to go on a waterfalls tour with Tennessee state parks. The adventure involved a lot of hiking; however, the scenery was beautiful and I loved learning the history from ranger Randy Hedgepath, the State of Tennessee naturalist. On the last day of the tour our agenda was totally changed after discussion with the group. Ranger Randy decided to take us to the top of Black Mountain overlook. He told us it was the origin of the tune Black Mountain Rag. His favorite version was played by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Well, it was a beautiful overlook and being the skeptic that I am did some research. Black Mountain Rag is the title of one of the most popular fiddle tunes in history. It became popular in the 30's under the name "Black Mountain Blues" after the name of a mountain in Cumberland County, Tenn. It was purchased in 2002 and has been managed by the park system near Crab Orchard TN. Not up for a hike? Then as you drive toward Knoxville on I40 look for the mountain with the big radar tower on top when you get near the Crab Orchard exit. That would be Black Mountain. The radar is used to direct planes into the Nashville airport.
For about three years, the Nashville dulcimer community had the privilege of having Yoshie Kinefuchi join us in learning and playing the mountain dulcimer. Now living back at her home in Tokyo, she is sharing her love for the dulcimer with her Japanese community.
Enjoy the following photos and excerpts from recent letters from Yoshie:
Our concert last night (September 15 was a great success! We had a big audience; about 170 people in spite of rain. The feedback was very positive. They said the program was very good and our performance was excellent. The first part was the choir; we sang 10 Japanese songs. The second part consisted of a piano duo concert, country & folk music with dulcimer, viola and recorder, one Egyptian song, three songs for finale. I had the microphone before our performance in the second part and gave a brief introduction of the dulcimer: its history and structure, and how we enjoy it. The audience was very interested and listened to my explanation carefully. Some people came up to me after the concert to see my dulcimer up close and wanted more story about it.
It was truly a delightful evening. Many people said they loved the sound of the dulcimer. So I guess we gained at least 170 new fans of the dulcimer in Japan!
It was sometimes difficult for us to get together and practice regularly as everybody is busy in their own life, but each member practiced her part at home and tried our best to put them together in harmony.
I suppose the concert was successful because we put our hearts together. We had a very good time. Here is some information on our choir: The name of our choir is "Soot El Wald" (meaning "Voice of flower" in Arabic). This is a sister group of the Japanese women's choir in Cairo that was established around 1990. At that time, there was little activity that Japanese women could enjoy there, so a few music-loving women got together and started a singing circle, and little by little more women came to join them. We used to practice once a week and sometimes visited local senior homes, schools and orphanages.
Over the years, the members of the original group have returned to Japan one after another, and around 2010, we established a new group in Tokyo.
So the members of our group are all returnees from Cairo. (Sadly, the original group in Cairo is no longer active due to security reasons over there.) This year's concert was held at Suginami Public Hall in Tokyo on Saturday, September 15th. This was our second concert in Japan.
You were asking about the place we had the concert.
It is a concert hall called "Suginami Public Hall." It has a big concert hall, a small hall and a salon. We used the salon (the smallest space, accommodating approx. 150 people) for our performance.
It has a wonderful structure and the acoustic is really good. Unfortunately the website is only in Japanese, but I hope you can get the idea of it.
The gowns we wore are all hand-sewn by a friend of our member. We love the gowns too!
Submitted by Judy Beier who met Yoshie and her husband Masami during a Tai Chi class at the Green Hills YMCA. (Mr. Kinefuchi was serving as Consul General from Japan for the Southern States.)
When Yoshie overheard someone ask Judy about playing music at Uncle Dave Macon Days, Yoshie said: “What is a dulcimer?”
Judy and Yoshie met for several sessions on Saturday mornings before the Tai Chi class began. After a few lessons Yoshie started playing regularly with the Twangtown Dulcimer Players. Now you know the rest of the story!
What is your ideal end-of-summer get away? Mine involves a scenic setting, good company, and lots of dulcimer music. Every year, I look forward to Larry and Elaine Conger’s Dulcimer Duet Retreat at the end of August along with about 50 other dulcimer players from all over the United States.
What is a Duet Retreat, you may ask —if you were not amongst the dozen Nashville GODC members who were there this year. It’s simple. Larry and Elaine create wonderful duet arrangements and teach us how to play them at a lakeside venue. From fiddle tunes to spirituals to blues, songs we know and songs that are new to us—all sound better when played in two parts. The arrangements are geared for the intermediate level player, but the Congers do not turn anyone away. Even if you don’t feel your have intermediate level skills, you can always just pluck the melody line and keep up with the group. But, if you pay attention, you will come away with a better understanding of how to play chord melody style with smooth transitions between chords using the finger shapes that Larry and Elaine teach.
The weekend began by diving right into the songbook which every one receives (with an optional demo CD of the songs). Then Larry and Elaine gave a mini concert. It is hard to believe Elaine never played the dulcimer before she met Larry. Of course, she is very musically gifted with a voice like an angel. But now she also plays bass dulcimer like a boss! Larry seemed to enjoy segueing from one song to another without telling Elaine which song he planned to play next. Sure enough, within a couple of notes she caught the tune and was plucking out a cool bass line.
Saturday was a full day of lessons, punctuated by meals and snacks and coffee breaks. The most anticipated part of the weekend occurs on Saturday night, when the participants play for each other. I know I enjoy this part of the retreat immensely, and it was gratifying to hear that Larry and Elaine also enjoy listening to us amateurs play. Having the largest group of players, the Nashville Dulcimer Ensemble always commands the last spot of the evening. This year we chose to play two of Tull Glazener's arrangements: Packington’s Pound and The Road To Boston. We were also treated to a solo by our own Tricia Hackett. She performed a medley of country hits which Larry had arranged in a beautiful fingerpicked style.
One of the things I appreciate the most about such retreats, is the opportunity to just sit and chat with the players we may see at the monthly club meetings but don’t know well. This is how I first met and got to know Mary Lawrence, Lela, Georgia, and Shan. And now that Shan has retired from playing, I am honored to be included in their quartet, infamously known as the G-strings (G for geriatric, of course.) We performed Appalachian Round based on a duet arrangement by Heidi Muller and Simple Gifts arranged for four dulcimers by Larry and recently published on his Patreon site.
Previous years the Dulcimer Dulcimer Retreat was held held at Tennessee state parks. But since those lodges are under repair, this year the Congers moved the event to Lake Barkley in Kentucky. This is a beautiful rustic facility just 90 minutes from Nashville. Although we all arrived on Friday not quite knowing what to expect, by the end of the weekend we were glad to hear that next year’s event will be held in the same place, August 23-24, 2018. Hope to see you there!
Where have you been with your dulcimer lately? We would love to hear about your dulcimer adventures. Let’s make this a regular “blog” for everyone to contribute. Send your update to Stephanie or to Linda and we'll publish it here.