Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My First Dulcimer Jam

I just got in from the dulcimer jam at The Lippy's; what a blast! Of course, it took me almost two years to attend after I first met David and Kim at the Central Florida Fair, where they performed with a couple of other dulcimer groups. They were very welcoming, as were the other members, and the first thing I noticed was how nice everyone's dulcimers were! I love my Joline, but she's seen better days - and her frets are so worn down that it takes some effort to nail the upper register. Nevertheless, she sang beautifully.

Soup and bread was served at 6:30 pm - a sort of roasted tomato bisque - and a lady named Erline brought pumpkin bread which was all kinds of delicious. Then everyone took a seat in their cheerfully decorated living room and we began to play. Of course, I didn't have any of the music that the circle called out, so I was given copies to read, and it was just about all sight reading for me, since the tunes were not familiar to me. Talk about a crash-course! Each member chose a song that they wanted to play, after we had gone through three Christmas tunes: "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", "Upon The Housetop" and "Joy To The World."

There was "Black Mountain Rag", "Southwind", "Farther Along", "The Boatman", "Edelweiss", "Chickens Crowin' At Midnight", an unusual piece called "Lame Tame Crane" that we played in a round, "John Stinson's #2", "River" (which had some hauntingly beautiful changes), a couple of tunes from Stephen Seifert's "Join The Jam" book ("Johnson Boys" and "Sugar Hill"), "South Callaway Waltz", a super-fun piece called "Nutfactory Shuffle" (don't you love some of these titles?), "Rocky Top" and we ended with "Amazing Grace."

When it was my turn to call a tune, I luckily had memorized "Whiskey Before Waltzing", and so we played that. When it came around again, I de-tuned to D-A-A (we'd been in D-A-D, pretty standard for most dulcimer folk) and called "Cripple Creek" - which was a different version than most of them played, which seems to be the case across the board; there are many different versions of tunes due to some of them being passed down by listening rather than notation. It was good to know how the group normally plays it, so I have a clue when jamming it with others.

David asked me to play an original, so I played my "Amazing Grace", which has been posted over at Dulcitunes.

It was a terrific time, and a total rush, since I had never heard 80% of the material and was sight reading as we went along. The sound of a room full of dulcimers is one of the sweetest things you'll ever hear. I'm looking forward to the next jam, which is on the 20th. This time, I hope to come armed with pages of tablature!

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