Monday, November 11, 2013

KADC fall retreat in Townsend, Tenn.: Beef cabbage soup and dulcimers on the "peaceful side of the Smokies"

When I go to a dulcimer workshop or a music festival, my first thoughts aren't about the food. Brats, burgers and chili taste better at a festival, but they're just bratwurst, burgers and chili. And institutional food, even at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Western Carolina University or Our Lady of the Snows in suburban St. Louis, still reminds me of dorm food. I'm there for the music, not the food.

But at the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club's fall retreat over the weekend, the beef and cabbage soup at lunch Saturday was so good, I asked for the recipe. It's linked below.

KADC's retreat was held at the Townsend Church of God, in the mountain resort community of Townsend 30 miles south of Knoxville. Members of the congregation served meals in the church gymnasium, and the cabbage soup was one of the choices Saturday noon. It featured ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes in addition to the cabbage in a beef broth -- perfect for a fall day.

The Rev. Jeff Dockery, who co-pastors the church with his wife Angie, found the recipe on line -- on the Everyday Manna website hosted by Lisa Smith of Living Faith Television. Dockery grew up in the restaurant business, and he has a good eye for flavorful recipes that are easy to prepare and feed a lot of people.

"We make it a lot, and it's our favorite soup," he said.

Dockery says he believes the church is called to be involved in projects that help the community. He hopes it provides a good venue for KADC, and he knows it's good advertising for Townsend. He said Mike Clemmer of the Wood-N-String Dulcimer Shop on U.S. 321 brought KADC and the church together.

"They were looking for a venue, and Mike down at the dulcimer shop said, 'Have you talked to the Church of God?'" said Dockery.

They talked. And as a result, the retreat has been at the Church of God for a couple of years now.

It seems like a good fit. The KADC retreat is intentionally small, and I think the words matter: It felt like a "retreat," not a festival. It wasn't a wham-bam-thank-ye-ma'am rush from one class to the next like at so many festivals, and I felt like it gave me a chance to grow musically. Perhaps even spiritually. Which, of course, is what retreats are supposed to do.

Here's the link to that recipe:


'Peaceful Side of the Smokies'

Townsend (population 244) is only 20 or 25 miles from the bumper-to-bumper traffic and major tourist destinations to the east at Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but it's a whole different world. It consists mostly old-fashioned motels, inner tube rentals, craft shops and barbecue-, steak- and trout restaurants strung out along U.S. 321 and Old State Highway 73 leading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its vacation guide, published by the daily newspaper in nearby Maryville, calls it "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies."

It's also a knowledgeable side of the Smokies.

Or maybe it's just more relaxed than the big tourist destinations.

Saturday afternoon Debi and I went to the IGA to pick up a couple of items, and a clerk at the register noticed our wooden KADC name badges in the shape of a hammered dulcimer.

"Oh," she said. "Are you in town for a dulcimer conference?"

We said we were, and we chatted about music a minute or two.

Dulcimers aren't part of the regional culture in Illinois, where I live now, and I think most people couldn't identify one if they saw it in a police lineup. So I was impressed.

No doubt they'd also be familiar with dulcimers in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which also have a lot of genuine mountain crafts and some very fine luthiers, but I don't know if the clerks in a grocery store there would have time to chat about them.

Family dulcimers in southern Ohio

Among the instructors and performers at KADC's retreat were Kendra Ward and Bob Bence of southern Ohio, who publish the Upcreek Productions Let's Jam! fake books. In addition to several numbers on hammered dulcimer and guitar, they played "Uncloudy Day" on a two-person courting dulcimer that had been in Kendra's family -- Bob playing backup while Kendra strummed the melody traditional style, using a noter and letting the drone ring out on the open strings. She said several generations of her family played the mountain dulcimer, but they called it another name.

"I never heard it called a dulcimer until the late 1970s ... in our area, they just called them 'dulcerines,'" she said.

I wasn't familiar with the term, but it is "a recognized southern Ohio variant name for dulcimer," according to a comment by Ken Hume in the thread "where are the heads?" in the Making Dulcimers group of the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website June 22, 2011, 9:24 a.m.

Kendra Ward, who grew up along the Ohio River near Gallipolis (up river from Parkersburg, W.Va.), has posted pictures of the family instruments to the forum on History of Dulcimers and Songs, under the heading "Dulcerine Pictures" on the the website. She also mentions the term, along with reminiscences of her father playing "fiddle tunes and old standards like Grandfather's Clock" with a noter creating a "resonant buzz ... the ancient sound of the dulcimer," in an article "By TAB or By Ear: I'll Take Both, Please." in the Spring 2010 issue of Dulcimer Players News.

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