Thursday, January 03, 2013

Prairieland (dulcimer) Strings - ** UPDATE ** doin's in January

Some updates on what we've been doing this month, what we'll be doing in the next few weeks -- and an appeal for help with my lessons for beginners at Clayville. We had 22 people show up this morning! (I expected four or five.) They're having fun, and they're enthusiastic. I think these workshops can be a wonderful way of recruiting people for the Prairieland Strings and Clayville alike. But I need a couple of more experienced players -- and extra loaner dulcimers! -- to help the newbies at our next workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Clayville Historic Site on Ill. 125 at Pleasant Plains.

So if you can help out, please let me know at hogfiddle - at - If you linked here from my email message, just send me a reply to that message.

We also have our regular third Thursday meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson. Kate will be introducing us to a famous piece by Turlough O'Carolan called "Sí Beg Sí More" in Mel Bay's Complete Book of Celtic Music for Appalachian Dulcimer by Mark Nelson.

And beginning in February, we'll meet on the first Tuesday and third Thursday of the month. This will be more convenient for members of our group who have other responsbilities on Thursdays. Details below at the end of this post.

Sí Beg Sí More

Mel Bay's Book of Celtic Music is one of three books we're using, and it's available for $29.95 from and other online retailers. You can also find dulcimer tab online at on the Three Rivers Dulcimer Society's website in Washington state. (Also a very nice tip sheet for beginners.) I don't know if the chord positions are the same as Nelson's, but the melody line should be the same. The tune is said to be Carolan's first, and it dates from the early 1700s.

If you're looking for the song online, you may see it called "Si Bheag, Si Mhor" -- which is what Three Rivers calls it -- or "Sheebeg Sheemore." Don't worry. It's the same tune. It's Irish, and it gets transliterated into English different ways. It means the big hill and the little hill, and the song tells a story about a conflict between the little people, or fairies, who lived on (logically enough) a big hill and a little hill. The lyrics are in Irish.

Here's a lovely arrangement of "Si Bheag, Si Mhor" - by Andrea Beaton (violin), Matt Haverly (harp), and Mike Saunders (guitar) at the Terrible Beauty Irish Pub in Renton, Wash.

"Jam-along" versions on harp, guitar and Appalachian dulcimer are linked to the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association website (directory at Scroll down to the various spellings of the Carolan song.) I don't know if I could jam along with any of them without a lot of practice, but the way to get that practice is to try playing along at home. And I enjoy listening to them already. NGFDA has a lot of valuable resources posted to the World Wide Web, by the way.

Forked Deer

Another song we played at our last session the first week in January was "Forked Deer" from Stephen Seifert's Join the Jam (available on his website at "Forked Deer" an awesome old southern Appalachian fiddle tune that's easy to play and has some interesting chording in the B part. Here's an Appalachian dulcimer performance at Winterfest 2010. Gary Gallier, dulcimer; Dave Wilson, fiddle; and Bo Brown, guitar.

And here it is played up to speed by an old-time string band (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and upright bass). Up to tempo. Matt Arcara, Tashina Clarridge, Wes Corbett, Steve Roy & Joe Walsh perform Forked Deer at Community Music Center in Yarmouth, Maine, 2006.

Our new schedule: 1st Tuesday, 3rd Thursday

Starting in February we will be changing our schedule a little. We'll play:

  • On the first Tuesday of the month. From 7 to 9 p.m. at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson, as always.
  • And the third Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Atonement.
If you live in Springfield, they test the tornado warning siren on the first Tuesday of the month, so it can be a reminder that we meet that night. Otherwise, just repeat to yourself first Tuesday, third Thursday a few times.

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