Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Upcoming events at Clayville -- jam Saturday, Jan. 4, and tips for beginners Sat., Jan. 18 -- plus links to "Five Pounds of Possum (in my Headlights Tonight)"

Our first Saturday morning jam session in 2014 for dulcimers and -- all kinds of other instruments -- at Clayville Historic Site will be from 10 a.m. till noon Saturday, Jan 4. And two weeks from Saturday, we will have the first of two "Fake It Till You Make It" workshops for rank beginners -- and anyone else who wants to share a few tips on making music in a group or at a jam session.

Details below on the "Fake It Till You Make It" workshop, which is designed especially for beginning mountain dulcimer players who want to learn how to play with other instruments. All instruments are welcome, and all skill levels are welcome. It's part of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, and we're not about teaching technique as much as sharing our knowledge and making music with each other.

But first, here are links to this Saturday's new song --

It's a bluegrass novelty number called "Five Pounds of Possum (in my Headlights Tonight)" that's been going around in the world of dulcimer clubs. I decided to introduce it at Clayville after I heard Michael Shull of Columbia, S.C., sing it last month at the Knoxville (Tenn.) Area Dulcimer Club's fall retreat in November. Shull, who is best known perhaps for for his Southern Gospel arrangements for dulcimer, brought a gospel singer's phrasing and a gentle humor to what is usually a pretty raucous show-stopper. Listen for the verse he adds about "manna from heaven" in this clip:

Michael Shull & Dave Holder, Five Pounds of Possum. Uploaded on Jan 10, 2011. Mountain dulcimer and autoharp player Michael Shull appeared at Red Bank United Methodist Church (Lexington, SC) on Sunday, January 9th, 2011 as part of the Music & Word service series.

The Dogwood Dulcimer Association of Pensacola, Fla., has tab in DAD and lyrics at:


"Five Pounds" is in the first column, about a quarter of the way down the page (which lists the songs in alphabetical order). They've got a lot of free tab, by the way. The Prairieland group in Springfield used their arrangement of "O Come All Ye Faithful" at this year's Advent soup supper gig, and were very happy with it.


-- Jamming Workshop: "Fake It Till You Make It." From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 18, in the barn at Clayville Historic Site. This two-hour will be like last year's workshops for beginning mountain dulcimer players, with more emphasis on learning tunes in a jam, strumming chords to tunes you don't know and how to learn where the notes are on a stringed instrument. If there is enough interest, we will hold more of these workshops later in the year.

-- Mike Anderson's 5th annual Winter Weekend. Feb. 21-23, in Chillicothe, on the Illinois River north of Peoria. Classes with nationally acclaimed mountain dulcimer players: Linda Brockinton, intermediate; Maureen Sellers, novice; and Mike, beginners'. More info on Mike's website at http://dulcimerguy.com/MA_MDW2010.htm.

-- Mike also offers individual mountain dulcimer lessons at his studio in Jacksonville -- and has tentative plans to offer group lessons in Springfield during the coming months (details to be announced as they are finalized). See Mike's lesson schedule on his website at http://dulcimerguy.com. FIVE POUNDS OF POSSUM

Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Sept. 17, 2011, in concert at Franklin, Ky. Leroy Troy - banjo & scrubboard; Lonesome Lester - jug; Mike Armistead - guitar; Robert Gately - standup bass; Dan kelly - fiddle; Mike Webb - dobro.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Swedes in the Quad-Cities - misc notes

http://www.qcsymphony.com/press-releases.html?id=52 Quad City Symphony Orchestra

Swedes on the River May 19, 2013 Fiddlers and music lovers everywhere are invited to participate in a class and hear a performance by Swedish master folkfiddlers Örjan Hans-Ers and Görgen Antonsson at 6:00 p.m. at the River Music Experience in Davenport. Each of the musicians has been designated a Riksspelman by the government of King Carl XVI Gustaf, making them musical ambassadors of Sweden. Part of their charter is to educate youth in Sweden and elsewhere about the importance of folk music.

The fiddlers are part of a delegation that includes the governors of three Swedish provinces, who will present a panel discussion on issues related to sustainability earlier in the day, hosted by Augustana College and the City of Rock Island's Advanced Technology and Sustainability Consortium. Freewill donations will be accepted and split between the QCSO's youth programs and the Mauritzson Scholarship, which for more than half a century has brought students from Sweden to the Quad Cities to study at Augustana College.

The class starts at 6:00 p.m. The performance follows at 7:00. The suggested donation is $5 at the door.

* * *

http://qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=637801 Augustana College

Posted Online: May 10, 2013, 11:07 am
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Press release submitted by Augustana

Rock Island, Ill. – Three northern Swedish provincial governors, two university presidents and cultural representatives including folk fiddlers will make a Quad Cities area visit "in the trek of the immigrants" May 30-31. Two events associated with the tour on May 30, a program on energy and sustainability in Sweden and a musical performance, will be open to the public.

Participants include governors Barbro Holmberg of Gävleborg Province, Sweden´s former Minister of Migration; Britt Bohlin of Jämtland, a recognized national defense expert; and Bo Källstrand of Västernorrland, former head of Swedish Energy.

Also visiting will be university presidents Dr. Maj-Britt Johansson of Gävle Högskola, a forestry land use expert, and Dr. Anders Söderholm of Mittuniversitetet, a specialist in regional planning and development. Cultural representatives include national folkfiddlers (Riksspelmän) Görgen Antonsson and Örjan Hans-Ers, who is also manager of the Gävle Symphony Orchestra. Tourism directors Katarina Ceder Bång of Hälsingland and Mats Forslund of Jämtland also will participate in the tour, to speak about the cultural and natural history of their northern Swedish region, including the newly-named UNESCO World Heritage Hälsingland Farms. They will be accompanied by Jämtland provincial planner and tour organizer Olle Lundgren.

The governors will present a panel discussion, "Sustainability in Energy, Transportation & Tourism: The View from Sweden" as part of a colloquium hosted by Augustana College and the City of Rock Island's Advanced Technology and Sustainability Consortium. The colloquium will take place from 9-10 a.m. May 30 in Augustana's Hanson Hall of Science.

Bohlin's province of Jämtlands has become a leader in renewable energy, including hydroelectric, wind and biofuels. Holmberg took part in a forum last December in China on Eco-City Construction. She is a member of the Earth Charter Initiative.

Also on May 30, musicians Görgen Antonsson and Örjan Hans-Ers will visit the River Music Experience (RME) in Davenport to work with youth from the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and offer a 7 p.m. performance on the RME's Community Stage. In Sweden, the designation Riksspelman indicates a badge of mastery in folk music. Both Antonsson and Hans-Ers have achieved the national designation as folk fiddlers.

Suggested donations of $5 will be used by the American Scandinavian Association to fund the Mauritzson Scholarship, which helps to bring student from Sweden to study at Augustana.

On May 31, the delegation will visit the Jenny Lind Chapel at Andover, Ill., then continue to a public program at nearby Bishop Hill, and Galva, Ill., (sister city of Gävle, Sweden), home of famed Illinois primitive artist Olof Krans. Krans' paintings at the Bishop Hill Museum tell the story of early Swedish migration to western Illinois.

Their study tour will conclude June 1 with a program in north Chicago's Swedish-American Museum in the Andersonville neighborhood.

For more information, please contact Keri Rursch, director of public relations, at (309) 794-7721 or kerirursch@augustana.edu.

Christina Johansson. "Swedish royal visits to Augustana and Illinois." Augustana College 150, 1860-2010. http://www.augustana.edu/x21935.xml. - Christina Johansson is Head of Library and Archival Services, Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center

Because of their deep connections to Sweden and Swedish immigrants, Augustana College and the Quad Cities have enjoyed numerous visits by members of the Swedish royal family during the last 100 years.

Visits by royal family members include Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf's brief visit to the campus in 1927; Prince Bertil in 1948; King Carl Gustav XVI in April of 1976 followed by his sister Princess Desiree and her husband Count Niclas Silvershiold in May of 1976; a 1988 visit by Queen Silvia; and King Carl Gustav XVI and Queen Silvia in 1996.

"History of First Lutheran." First Lutheran Church of Moline. http://firstlutheranmoline.org/history.html.

[church architecture reflects cultural changes]

On November 3, 1875 there was a unanimous vote to build a new brick church which would become the current building. A month later the building committee outlined the design: "The architecture will, on a whole, be simple and tasteful with good proportions without unnecessary cost and gaudiness yet not lacking the necessary adornment for proper style and strength so that it gives a definite impression of being a church and have a worshipful atmosphere." The cost of construction and furnishing was not to exceed $25,000 and, in fact, cost only slightly more.

The church was to some degree patterned after the Swedish Immanuel Lutheran Church in Chicago, rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire. Uncharacteristic of a Swedish church, the ground floor provided accommodations for the parish school and pastor's office. The second floor housed the sanctuary, which was five-aisled with pews occupying nearly every square inch. The need for seating was so great that a complete u-shaped balcony was added. These seating arrangements were also not characteristic of Swedish churches nor was the gothic style of the windows. But very Swedish was the barrel ceiling in the nave and chancel and the semicircular shape of the frescoes, the doorways, and even the hymn boards. The altar painting, an Ascension scene, was also very ethnic. The rest of the chancel was not, consisting of a small communion table below a large dominating pulpit. This represented the contemporary style in American Protestant churches; being designed as great preaching halls for pulpit princes.

In 1918 the chancel was redesigned to include a massive high altar to reflect the increasing sacramental and liturgical development in the Augustana Synod. Still an over-sized pulpit was retained, but to the side of the altar. Years later another contemporary design was effected with the building of a communion table placed in front of the altar so the pastor could face the congregation when celebrating the Eucharist. Since then, the church has housed a liturgically accented congregation. Also in that year the name was changed to First Lutheran Church.

HISTORY First Covenant Church of Moline (written in 2003 by Rev. James R. Lundell, Pastor Emeritus) http://www.firstcovenantmoline.org/history.htm

In February of 1876, a number of Swedish immigrants gathered together to discuss if there was a need to build a Swedish Lutheran church in the west end of Moline. The question was answered in the affirmative.

There were two basic factors that drew these people together. One was a powerful revival movement of the Holy Spirit that spread over Sweden for many years. Lives were changed and the presence of God was evidenced with power and sincere conversion. The other factor was the immigration of many Swedish young people to America. The church backgrounds of these immigrants were varied and this group wanted to organize a "pure Swedish Evangelical Lutheran church free from any synod or outward control". The name chosen for this new fellowship was "The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Gustav Adolphus Church of Moline, Illinois". Soon a building was erected on the corner of 4th Avenue and 3rd Street and dedicated on July 9, 1876. Fourteen years later, the congregation voted to request membership in the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant Church

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Swedes in the upper Midwest - "North Coast creoles?"

... as I have said somewhere else, when you take an intellectual ride on a metaphor, it is important that you know where to get off. -- Ulf Hannerz ("Flows …" 6).

Map based on census figures showing highest percentages in Illinois in Mercer, Henry, Warren and Knox and Winnebago and Boone. Nationally the highest percentages are in Minnesota and Michigan's upper peninsula.

File:Swedish Americans 2000 Census.svg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Swedish_Americans_2000_Census.svg.

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

James P. Leary, Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

In their introduction to an issue of the Journal of American Folklore devoted to the topic, editors Robert Baron and Ann C. Cara declare, "Creolization is cultural creativity in process." ... Baron and Cara go on to enumerate distinctly creole musical forms ("jazz, salsa, calypso ... the tango, the mambo, the samba"), while they and fellow contributors located creolization in tropical climes where European traders, soldiers, missionaries, and colonizers encountered African, Arab, and East and American Indian peoples -- implicitly suggesting that cultural fermentation occurs only amid extreme heat and humidity.

Surely their "cultural and critical lens" would neither fog up nor freeze if refocused to include the Upper Midwest. Here, putatively superior Anglo-American elites were never completely successful in forcing the assimilation of supposedly inferior Woodland Indian and European immigrant peoples. Here, musical interactions have long been distinguished by egalitarianism, by freewheeling accommodation and blending across complex boundaries. Here reside North Coast creoles. … (12)


Ulf Hannerz, "Flows, Boundaries and Hybrids: Keywords in Transnational Anthropology." Published in Portugese as "Fluxos, fronteiras, hibrids: palavras-chave da antropologia transnacional" Mana (Rio de Janeiro), 3(1): 7-39, 1997. http://www.transcomm.ox.ac.uk/working%20papers/hannerz.pdf

Anyway, here we are now, with hybridity, collage, mélange, hotchpotch, synergy, bricolage, creolization, mestizaje, mongrelization, syncretism, transculturation, third cultures and what have you; some terms used perhaps only in passing as summary metaphors, others with claims to more analytical status, and others again with more regional or thematic strongholds. Mostly they seem to suggest a concern with cultural form, cultural products (and conspicuously often, they relate to domains of fairly tangible cultural materials, such as language, music, art, ritual or cuising); some appear more concerned with process than others. [13]

Also, this:

Once I had started thinking in flow terms here, it occurred to me as I continued to look at variations in the organization of culture that this worked rather well as a root metaphor, in the sense of leading on to further elaborations. Not only does the idea of flow stand in opposition to static thought. It implies, moreover, that we may think of mighty rivers and tiny rivulets, separate currents as well as confluences, "whirlpools" (according to Barth, above), even leaks and viscosity in the flow of meaning. Yet as I have said somewhere else, when you take an intellectual ride on a metaphor, it is important that you know where to get off. If for some purposes you find it useful to think about culture as flow, then, no need to believe it is a substance you can pour into bottles. [6]
The metaphor here is cultural "flow," which Hannerz defines (more or less!) like this: "… the term has become transdisciplinary, a way of referring to things not staying in their places, to mobility and expansion of many kinds, to globalization along many dimensions" (4).

North Coast? What's that?

There's a North Coast Festival on Chicago's North Side, which Wikipedia describes, with links, as "an annual electronic music festival held over Labor Day weekend in Chicago at Union Park." Official website at


Seems to be in general use as a synonym for the Great Lakes States or the upper Midwest, though.

Kyle Nabilcy "A new way of looking at Midwestern eats in James Norton's The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food." Isthmus [Madison, Wis.] Dec. 13, 2013. http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41622.

There's some contention about whether the Upper Midwest needs rebranding as the "North Coast," largely around the precise coordinates. Schools in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania comprise the Division III North Coast Athletic Conference, and Brookings Institute scholar John Austin wrote a paper in 2007 about preserving America's North Coast, though he never really defines the term.

Enter The Heavy Table, a Minneapolis-based online food magazine. Founded in 2009, it has been dedicated to charting the ebbs and flows of dining in the Upper Midwest -- mostly the Twin Cities, but the rest of Minnesota as well adjacent states, including Wisconsin and Iowa. Madison native James Norton is the founding editor and his wife, Becca Dilley, is a founding photographer whose work has appeared in many media outlets.

If the team behind Heavy Table has its way, "North Coast" may yet come to refer to the aforementioned three states, thanks to its new book, The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food. The book was funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign (of which I was a proud backer), and Norton held a Madison launch party at Kitchen Gallery on Thursday night to celebrate the book's release. Local contributors John Kovalic, Lindsay Christians, and Sean Weitner were also in attendance, with the delicious wares of Barriques, Batch Bakehouse, Calliope Ice Cream, Candinas, and Wisco Pop ringing the bustling atrium that housed the event.

Though everything was as tasty as you'd expect -- Batch baguettes, Brandy Old Fashioned and Hot Peanut Butter ice creams from Calliope -- Barriques in particular really brought its A-game, with both chocolate-covered bacon and an innovative hot coffee punch spiked with black pepper and ginger. It wasn't clear if the two were meant to be consumed in concert, but the pairing definitely worked. The crowd swelled to fill the space between Kitchen Gallery and Context by an hour into the party, and Norton was in heavy demand, both handing out Kickstarter backer copies and autographing them on request.

* * *

http://heavytable.com http://heavytable.com food magazine based in Minneapolis -- "We are interested in small, neighborhood restaurants; ethnic eateries with a story to tell; great home cooking; Upper Midwestern culinary traditions; stuff that’s hilarious; recipes that work; recipes that fail spectacularly; current events; local food; heirloom food; and people at all levels of the food creation, preparation, distribution and consumption chain."

John C. Austin, Soren Anderson, Paul N. Courant, and Robert E. Litan. America’s North Coast: A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Program to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes. Ann Arbor: Council of Great Lakes Industries, 2007. http://www.healthylakes.org/site_upload/upload/America_s_North_Coast_Report_07.pdf

This report focuses on one area of the United States—the counties bordering on America’s five Great Lakes—that is all too easily overlooked during an era when most population growth in the country is centered on either of its coasts. Specifically, it focuses on the costs and benefits of enacting a major multi-state, multi-year strategy to preserve and further improve the quality of the Great Lakes themselves as part of a larger strategy to attract and retain highly skilled individuals and related economic activity in and to the region.4

* * *

This report follows an earlier report also published by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, The Vital Center, which described the history and importance of the Great Lakes region to American society and to the U.S. economy.5 There were about 84 million people living in the Great Lakes states in 2000, based on data from the U.S. Census. About 24 million, or 28 percent, of these live in the Great Lakes basin.6


[4] These lakes include Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, and Lake Superior.

[5] In this report, “the Great Lakes Basin” refers to the geographic areas in close proximity to the Great Lakes, including portions of the states that border on the Great Lakes— Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. These states, plus the eastern portion of Iowa, West Virginia, Missouri, and Kentucky, were defined as the Great Lakes Region in Brookings’ earlier report on the Great Lakes. See The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, The Vital Center: A Federal-State Compact to Renew the Great Lakes Region (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2006).

[6] Derived from http://www.great- lakes.net/envt/flora-fauna/ people.html.

Urban Dictionary -- http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=North%20Coast

1. North Coast

The areas that are near a great lake in the Midwest/NE region. It is also sometimes referred to as the Mid East of America. This area is a sub-region of the Midwest. It is a very urban area. Major Cities on the North Coast include: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Buffalo(All Great Cities). Cleveland is sometimes referred to as the North Coast. Specifically, the North Coast is the area in the Midwest/NE that is within 60 miles of a Great Lake(small area, but much better than the rest of the Midwest). The North Coast doesnt like to be confused with the redneck, hillbilly, tornadic Midwest.

You have the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast (Southern Coast), and the North Coast. Any area that isnt in any of these regions is full of rednecks and people who gave up on their dreams. The North Coast is much different from the rest of the Midwest.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the 2nd day of Christmas -- Calvin & Hobbes' wager and "Fairytale of New York" on the Feast of Stephen

Some Yuletide cheer on what's already the second day of Christmas …

Arianna Rebolini of BuzzFeed, the entertainment website, has "The 24 Most Valuable Christmas Lessons From Calvin And Hobbes" from the most consistently philosophical comic strip of the 1990s -- perhaps ever. (She adds a 25th: "Santa’s watching.")

Among them is something I'd call Calvin's wager. Scroll down to No. 12, "So it’s good to keep up a level of pragmatism …," and you'll see it as Calvin explains:

"I've decided I do believe in Santa Claus, no matter how preposterous he sounds. … I want presents, lots of presents. Why risk not getting them over a matter of belief? Heck, I'll believe anything they want."
Calvin's wager has nothing to do with the Reformation-era French theologian, of course. But it's a distinct echo of "Pascal's Wager," developed by 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Paschal. As paraphrased by Wikipedia, Paschal posits that "humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or does not exist. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming the infinite gain or loss associated with belief in God or with unbelief, a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.)."

And here, with no reason for being in the same post other than the Christmas season, is an item in the Irish Mirror tabloid of Dublin, quoting frontman Shane McGowan of the Pogues on the origin of "Fairytale of New York" ... which I sometimes think is the best piece of seasonal music since Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

“I’m very grateful to Christ and his Holy Mother and Joseph and all the saints, including my family who have passed on, for the success of Fairytale,” McGowan told the

He also credited Kirsty MacColl, who shared the duet with him in the 1987 video: "I don’t think it would have been such a big hit without her contribution." :

... “It’s a good song – it’s a great song – I’d never get tired of it.

“But I can’t really get excited about it any more and for a while it used to depress me to sing it after Kristy died [in a 2000 boating accident] but now I think of it as a tribute to her.”

Official video for the The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York. RhinoUK bills it as: "Arguably the greatest Christmas song of all time!" Wikipedia concurs: "It has been cited as the best Christmas song of all time in various television, radio and magazine related polls in the UK and Ireland," citing a 2004 poll of all-time Christmas hits by British music TV channel VH1.

Finally, today is St. Stephen's Day. What better way to observe it than to commemorate what Good King Wenceslas said and did when he looked out upon the Feast of Stephen, "When the snow lay round about, / deep and crisp and even."

Turns out the melody comes from Piae Cantiones (1582), and it was a typically Scandinavian song about the coming of spring -- "Tempus adest floridum" ("The time is near for flowering"), first published in the Finnish song collection in 1582. Wikipedia has lyrics in Latin and English.

Here's the Christmas carol --

Good King Wenceslas York Minster 1995. The full English cathedral choir treatment with solos by baritone and boy soprano, organ and soaring descant on the last verse.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Midnight mass in Bethlehem

Some coverage of this year's Catholic services in Bethlehem … with about a three-second clip in the Associated Press story of a response from the Celtic Mass by Fintan O'Carroll & Christopher Walker, the same service music we sang back at St. Joe's when I was in the choir at Springfield College in Illinois -- how cool is that!

Thousands Gather for Mass in Bethlehem. By Associated Press. "A packed house at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Tuesday night as Archbishop Fouad Twal led the midnight mass …" The Celtic Alleluia is about 0:09 seconds in.

According to AP reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh, Palestinian Authority dignitaries greeted Twal at the entrance to Bethlehem, probably the same checkpoint we went through on the way to Jerusalem. "His motorcade crawled through the town's narrow streets as he stopped to shake hands and greet the throngs of visitors," Daraghmeh said. "It took him nearly 90 minutes to make the short trip to celebrate Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity compound."

Hundreds of people packed the Church of the Nativity compound for the service in St. Catherine's, the 19th-century Catholic church adjacent to the sixth-century Greek Orthodox basilica. Among them: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Daraghmeh quoted at length from the homily:

"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, as he arrived in town.

And this ...

In his homily, Twal addressed Abbas, telling the president he prays for a "just and equitable solution" for the Palestinians. Twal, himself a Palestinian, also expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, particularly families with relatives imprisoned by Israel or those who have suffered as a result of the conflict with Israel.

"The world is living through a long night of wars, destruction, fear, hate, racism and, at the present time, cold and snow," he said. Lamenting strife in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, he also urged worshippers "not to forget our own problems here: the prisoners and their families who hope for their release, the poor who have lost their land and their homes demolished, families waiting to be reunited, those out of work and all who suffer from the economic crisis."

Yet Twal called on people not to despair. "We are invited to be optimistic and to renew our faith that this land, home of the three monotheistic religions, will one day become a haven of peace for all people," he said.

"Oh Holy Child, God of goodness and mercy, look with kindness on the Holy Land and on our people who live in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan and all the Middle East. Grant them the gift of reconciliation so that they may all be brothers — sons of one God," he said.

Christmas midnight mass in Bethlehem 2013: Gloria. Longer video posted today by the Magnificat Institute, School of Music, Monastery of Saint Saviour, New Gate, Old City, P.O.Box 186, Jerusalem 91001. It was established in 1995 by decision of the Chapter of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Published on Dec 25, 2013 Featuring: H. E. Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Latins, Mr. Mahmud Abbas, Palestinian President, Magnificat Custody and Yasmeen Choir, Mrs. Hania Sabbara, director, Fr. Armando Pierucci, organist and composer.

Archbishop Parker's Psalter, Bishop Ken and "Tallis' Evening Hymn"


Found while I was looking for something else --

An explanation of where one of my favorite obscure 19th-century English melodies came from … it's "Tallis' Evening Hymn," a highly ornamented version of the Tallis Canon that I first saw in a Primitive Baptist hymnal 15 or 20 years ago.

Excerpt eBooks version of

The Hymnal 1982 Companion, Volume 1 edited by Raymond F. Glover


in Ravenscroft - then Smith and Prellieur, Harmonious Companion (London, 1732), in G "and with a figured bass for good measure" -- first appears w/ Bishop Ken's text

… The early Methodists took up the tune, and with the canon forgotten, it evolved rather like a folk song, collecting ornamentation along the way, until in the early nineteenth century it was to be found in almost every tune book, while on the church barrel-organs it was second only to the OLD 100TH in popularity. It was no longer Tallis; but it could be a stately companion for Ken's matchless hymn, as for example in the small collection published by John Goss in 1827 for Chelsea Parish Church, London, where he was organist before his appointment to St. Paul's Cathedral …

In H82 the editors have sought to put the clock further back by introducing modal harmony with a selection of F naturals based on Tallis's. It will be interesting to learn whether congregations find this effective. (50)

cites N. Temperley, Musical Times, 112 (1971): 375-76. -- facsimile on p. 51

Tallis' canon is the eighth of nine psalm settings in Archbishop Parker's Psalter, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth's archbishop of Canterbury. An unadorned masterpiece of his Protestant period.

Here's the Byrd Ensemble, a West Coast professional early music troupe, singing Tallis' "Nine Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter" at Holy Rosary Church in Seattle, Wash., May 9, 2008. The eighth tune begins at 6:07.

The Byrd Ensemble sings Tallis - Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter

And a BBC documentary on Thomas Tallis and other Tudor-era musicians I hope I'll have time for one day …

Sacred Music Series Episode 3: Byrd & Tallis: Singing the Lord's song in a strange land. Archbishop Matthew Parker's psalms at 18:25. The same collection serves as the basis of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in Bethlehem -- video of Scout parades and Orthodox service in the Church of the Nativity [also a clip of the Noble Joseph sung at Good Friday service in North Carolina]

Some video of Christmas in Bethlehem that I hadn't seen before, beginning with this year's Christmas tree lighting … also a clip of the Noble Joseph, an Orthodox hymn I especially like that I surfed into while looking for Church of the Nativity pix.

Christmas in Bethlehem 2013. Posted by 4D MEDIA2013. [Lighting of the Christmas tree, a tourist event and pop-rock concert in Manger Square, Dec. 1.]

Posted today on the Times of Israel website - "Are Bethlehem’s Christians losing grip on their city?" By Debra Kamin, features writer for Times:

Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun is concerned.

It’s nearly Christmas, but the leader of this famed little town – the first female to ever hold the role – says that tourists are not flocking to the events in the packed calendar she and her team have prepared for the month of December. In a bid to jumpstart the city’s most lucrative season, she launched Christmas early this year, lighting the massive tree at the center of Manger Square on December 1 and unveiling a packed four weeks of music, art and cultural happenings.

But despite Bethlehem’s critical role in the story of Christmas and the life of Jesus, its shrinking Christian community this year is experiencing a rather lackluster holiday.

And so on.

Kamin also quotes Samir Qumsieh, an evangelical Christian broadcaster of Beit Sahour, on "Muslim extremism" and low Christian birthrate in West Bank. Adds some demographics I wasn't aware of:

Bethlehem is part of a trio of towns, including Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, that locals refer to as “the Triangle.” Taken together, they comprise 70,000 residents, and Christians still maintain a majority. But in Bethlehem they are barely one-third of the population, their ranks having been severely depleted by the Christian exodus during the worst years of the Second Intifada.

Cf. three videos by YouTube user David Lanier

Published on Dec 26, 2012. Some video of Scout troops playing mostly British and American carols as they march through Bethlehem up to Manger Square and the arrival of the Latin Patriarch on Christmas Eve Day 2012. [Shows Scout bands marching, to Manger Square ca. 22:00, arrival of dignitaries outside Holy Nativity ca. 28:00.

Orthodox Christmas in Bethlehem. Published on Jan 9, 2013. Celebrations and Festivities of the arrival of His Beatitude, Theophilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan to Manger Square in Bethlehem and the service of the Blessing of Loaves in the Church of the Nativity. [Shows parade through downtown Bethlehem streets, manger square ca. 14:50, blessing ceremony (?) w/ loaves at iconostasis beginning ca. 33:49.]

Walking through Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. Published on Jul 3, 2012. A little footage walking through the market section of old Bethlehem down into Manger Square and into the Church of the Nativity. [Opening footage outside Christmas Lutheran Church! Follows through streets to Manger Square.

The Noble Joseph. Holy Friday at Holy Cross Orthodox Church, High Point, N.C. Published on Apr 15, 2012 The noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure Body from the Tree,
wrapped it in clean linen and sweet spices and laid it in a new tomb.
But on the third day thou didst rise, O Lord, granting the world great mercy.

Placing of the Epitaphios in the tomb.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Prairieland Strings -- "Sumer Is Icumen In," so let's start getting ready ** UPDATED ** w/ sheet music per original ms. in standard notation

You've got to trust me on this one -- I didn't plan it that I'd start looking for video clips of "Sumer Is Icumin In" on the same day as the winter solstice. Yeah, yeah, it's the day when the seasons change and the six-month progression back to summer begins anew. So it fits. But it just worked out that way.

At our next session of the Prairieland Strings dulcimer (and other instruments!) club, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, we hope to have sheet music, in parts, for "Sumer Is Icumin In" (summer is a-coming in), and I think we can have a lot of fun with it.

"Sumer Is Icumin In" is known to us from a manuscript in the Harleian collection in the British Library (picture at left Creative Commons). It has been dated to 1260 and it's been aptly described as the oldest popular hit in the English repertory. When British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson included it in his 1,000 Years of Popular Music" concerts, Sacramento's alternative News & Review suggested the "13th-century ballad" was "perhaps a monkish pop hit in its day." But back in the UK, the Guardian flatly proclaimed it was a "13th-century smash hit." It's been covered over the years in a wide variety of settings, including the elaborately choreographed opening ceremonies at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

As it's usually performed by classical musicians and early music consorts, "Sumer Is Icumin In" is a complicated piece of a cappella choral music -- with a round, or canon, sung over a refrain called a "pes" (from a medieval dog-Latin word for the foot) that sounds a lot like a two-note drone. Wikipedia describes it asa "six-voice round (four in melody, two in 'pes')." [See definitions #1 and #2 in footnotes below.] But it lends itself to a wide variety of other arrangements and interpretations. Richard Thompson, for example, performs it as a duet accompanied by his guitar and an insistent snare drum. And it's a perfect tune for mountain dulcimer, especially played on one string with the drones ringing free.

Video clips are linked below, including the dulcimer solo. Look them over and see if there are some ideas you'd like to see us copy for the Prairieland Strings.

Of all the versions on Youtube, I think the one that comes closest to capturing a little bit of the improvisatory spirit of secular medieval music is a performance by the Argentinian early music group Laudate Dominus for a medieval literature class in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Buenos Aires.

I coloquio joven Literatura Europea Medieval de la UBA. Desafíos. Uploaded Nov. 22, 2013 by Laudate Dominus. "Invitadas por la cátedra de Literatura Europea Medieval, fuimos a tocar un sábado ¡a las 10.30hs de la mañana! No sólo tuvimos un muy buen público, si no que además era muy afinado. Ésta es la muestra." [Invited by the Chair of Medieval European literature, we were playing a Saturday at 10.30am in the morning! Not only had a very good audience, but it also was very refined. This is the sample. Trans. by Google.]

Another coincidence: Just this week -- Wednesday, Dec. 18, to be exact -- Laudate Dominus announced on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/laudatedominum, "You can now order our first album on CD on Amazon.com. It´s not the same edition that the one we have here in Buenos Aires, but one made by Amazon. It´s a great Christmas present!!!!"

Here's another approach. Of particular interest, perhaps, to our mountain dulcimer players.

Sumer Is Icumen In - Solo Mountain Dulcimer. YouTube user Jim Edwards, July 2013. "DAd tuning - drone/melody style." It was posted also to the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website.

Richard Thompson in concert … he used it to open his 1000 Years … act

Published on Oct 4, 2012 26.05.2012, Moscow International House of Music. Ensemble Pfeyffer (old German word for piper), early music consort

Published on Jul 26, 2012 Nashville, Tenn. Sumer is icumin in, anonymous English canon c. 1260 performed by the Nashville School of Arts Early Music Consort, Walter Bitner, director. May 1, 2012, The Polk Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville, Tennessee. www.nsachoirs.org www.walterbitner.com.


Footnotes (but only for those of us who like footnotes).

[1] Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer_Is_Icumen_In describes it like this: "A rota is a type of round, which in turn is a kind of partsong. To perform the round, one singer begins the song, and a second starts singing the beginning again just as the first got to the point marked with the red cross in the first figure below. The length between the start and the cross corresponds to the modern notion of a bar, and the main verse comprises six phrases spread over twelve such bars. In addition, there are two lines marked 'Pes', two bars each, that are meant to be sung together repeatedly underneath the main verse. These instructions are included (in Latin) in the manuscript itself."

[2] The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies - Medieval Music Glossary has definitions for pes, canon, cans and other terms at http://the-orb.net/encyclop/culture/music/orbgloss.html. Another term we should know as dulcimer players is drone, which it defines as "an unchanging pitch that is held beneath a melody and so serves as an aural reference point. Drones are added by modern-day performers to some pieces (e.g. to Hildegard's music or to troubadour-trouvère repertory). Medieval notation never indicates where a drone should be used or what pitch it should hold, so performers must use their good judgement." Lots of drones in "Sumer Is Icumin In" and lots of drones on a mountain dulcimer played right.

UPDATE Feb. 21, 2014. Email I sent today after Prairieland club finally met after being snowed out since December:

Hi Judy --

We're going to have a lot of fun with "Sumer Is Icumen In" when we finally get together!

Debi and I were the only ones at last night's session, so she was banging it out on the piano and I was on lap dulcimer while we went back and forth from the melody to rhythm parts on your tab. Once we got the hang of the "pes" or bass part, it was like having a metronome!

BTW, I found a PDF file that approximates the original but in standard notation (in F). You may have already seen it, but here's the URL ...


And here's a link to the public domain directory where I found it ...


It's the first item in the directory -- by Christopher Upton and it's available under a Creative Commons license (click on the little PDF logo). I found it last night after the session, when I was looking for something with the lyrics -- since I play by ear, it's easier for me to learn a new tune if I sing it before I try playing it. I'm of a generation that still had to memorize the prologue to "Canterbury Tales," so I found the words pretty easy to pronounce.

-- Pete

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nelson Mandela, July 18, 1918-Dec. 5, 2013 -- tributes by the Soweto Gospel Choir and Kirk Franklin

A choral flashmob tribute to Nelson Mandela by the Soweto Gospel Choir in a Woolworth's store at a shopping center in Pretoria, South Africa, has gone viral. Posted Monday, Dec. 9, it had 2,619,561 views on YouTube as of 8 p.m. today. Woolworth's South Africa, which organized the event, gave this account:
Watch the Soweto Gospel Choir sing an incredible tribute to Madiba [Mandela's clan name] in our Parkview store.

On Saturday, 7 December 2013, Woolworths had planned a performance at our Parkview store in Pretoria to support our Operation Smile Christmas campaign. The Soweto Gospel Choir's planned a rendition of James Brown's I Feel Good. But, after Madiba's passing the choir decided on a tribute instead. They chose Johnny Clegg's Asimbonanga.

Woolies and Soweto Gospel Choir: Madiba Tribute.

Johnny Clegg, according to Wikipedia, is "[s]ometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc ('The White Zulu')." He is considered "an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics and African with various Western music styles." The song performed by the Soweto choir is "Asimbonanga," which means "We haven't seen him" in the Zulu language. It "called for the release of Nelson Mandela" when he was still in prison, and "called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle - Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett."

Kirk Franklin

American gospel singer Kirk Franklin was in South Africa on a previously arranged concert tour, and he was asked by the South African government to open for President Obama during the memorial service at a football stadium in Johannesburg. He sang "My Life Is In Your Hands," one of his own compositions:

Oh, I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in your hands
But there was poetry, too, in Franklin's first-person account for CNN:
So standing in the rain today, preparing to perform right before the President of the United States addressed the world, I took a deep breath, said a prayer and reminded myself "this is not about me." This is for all of the men and women who've passed on and never saw this dream come true for their homeland.

I imagined them embracing him, the souls of the beaten, the hurt and the martyrs who finished their race before Tata's and welcomed him home like a proud soldier. My mom is there in that number as well, and I hope that I, too, made her proud today.

"Tata," the Zulu word for father, is a affectionate name for Mandela in South Africa. There's some riveting footage of Franklin's performance embedded in the CNN report at …


And Franklin's entire song aired during a broadcast of the ceremonies by MyJoyOnline.com, billed as Ghana's Comprehensive News Website. They cut away to film President Obama going up to the speakers' dias, but returned to Franklin toward the end.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yueqin - dulcimer-like Chinese "moon lute"

A present from my mother-in-law, who found an odd musical instrument on sale somewhere and decided on the spur of the moment to get it for the son-in-law who collects strange musical instruments. It looked a little bit like a little wooden banjo, and its strings looked like nylon fishing line. The only clues to what kind of instrument it might be were a sticker proclaiming it was "Handmade in Hong Kong" and a hand-lettered price tag identifying it as a "moon lute."

So when I got home that night, I tuned one of the strings up to where it would hold a tone and figured out that whatever it was, it was diatonic. Proably penatonic, although I couldn't be sure because I wasn't able to get much tension on the string and it was really, really floppy. A couple of Google searches later, I was able to determine it was probably Chinese and it was called a yueqin, variously translated as a moon guitar or a moon lute for the shape of its body.

The picture at left (copied here under Creative Commons Non-commercial license) shows a yueqin in the Powerhouse Museum of science and design in Sydney, Australia. A little more Googling around and I learned it's traditionally tuned in fifths -- usually in D and A -- and it's a melodic instrument played on one string a little bit like a dulcimer.

And at that point, I really got interested.

The yueqin in Sydney was made around 1880 by The Old Shop of Jin Shang (Golden Sound), in Guangzhou, China, but the basic design is unchanged today. My new yeuqin looks almost exactly like the one in the picture.

Here's how the museum describes theirs: "The yueqin (pronounced 'yu-shin') is traditionally used to accompany singing. It has four strings (traditionally made of silk) tuned as fifths in pairs. The yueqin is plucked either with fingernails or a small pick. It is often seen in the small instrumental ensembles of the Beijing Opera but it is not widely used in large Chinese orchestras."

Click here to hear a 30-second Amazon.com preview of a song called "Let's Play Yueqin (Yue Qin Tan Qi Lai)" by Qubiawu on the mp3 album Famous Chinese Minority Singers: Vol. 3 (Zhong Hua Ge Tan Ming Ren: Min Zu Ge Tan Ming Ren San).

The Powerhouse Museum offers the following additional "talking points," presumably geared less for policitians than for teachers guiding children through the display:

  • Traditionally these instruments had strings made from silk rather than gut as is common for stringed instruments in the West.
  • The makers must have had trouble with inferior instruments being passed off as their own leading them to place the warning "You are bandits and prostitutes if you counterfeit our products" on their label.

That label is worth translating in full: "The Old Shop of Jin Shang (Golden Sound)/Opened at Haoban Street of the city of East Guangzhou -- We specialise in making traditional musical instruments and all types of exquisite strings, Zi Dai Tai Gu qin xian and Qi Li Hu Si xian xian. Our shop has no extension shops nor branches. Recently some scoundrels have swindled for profit by counterfeiting our trademark in selling their goods. In order to get our genuine products may all our dear customers please beware of our trademark in making your purchase. You are bandits and prostitutes if you counterfeit our products."

A Chinese folk music web portal, known as yuesha.com or Elotaxin, gives more detail:

The yueqin (Chinese: 月琴, pinyin: yuèqín, pronounced [y̯œ̂tɕʰǐn]; also spelled yue qin, or yueh-ch'in; and also called moon guitar, moon-zither, gekkin, la ch'in, or laqin) is a traditional Chinese string instrument. It is a lute with a round, hollow wooden body which gives it the nickname moon guitar. It has a short fretted neck and four strings tuned in courses of two (each pair of strings is tuned to a single pitch), generally tuned to the interval of a perfect fifth. Occasionally, the body of the yueqin may be octagonal in shape.

According to legend, the instrument was invented in China during the Qin Dynasty.[citation needed] It is an important instrument in the Beijing opera orchestra, often taking the role of main melodic instrument in lieu of the bowed string section.

The webpage at http://www.yuesha.com/article-676-1.html makes a distinction between traditional and contemporary yueqins. It describes the traditional instrument like this:

The yueqin in China has four strings, tuned in two "courses," D and A (low to high). Yueqin used for Beijing opera, however, have two single strings, only one of which is actually used, the lower string being there purely for sympathetic resonance. In Beijing opera, the player uses a small wood dowel instead of a plectrum to perform, and only plays in first position; this requires the performer to use octave displacement in order to play all the pitches within a given melody.

The frets were formerly arranged rather like those on a mountain dulcimer, so that the instrument is diatonic; however, the fret size is high enough that any pitch may be bent up a minor 3rd. Modern yueqin have frets tuned in semitones.

The strings on the traditional form of the instrument were made of silk (although nylon is generally used today) and plucked with a rather long, sharp plectrum, which is sometimes attached to the instrument with a piece of cord.

There is no sound-hole, but inside the sound box are one or more strands of wire attached only at one end, so that they vibrate, giving the instrument a particular timbre and resonance.

There is no bridge or saddle; the strings are simply attached to the anchor at the base of the instrument.

And the contemporary, or modern, yueqin like this:

Modern forms of the instrument have three or four strings made of steel[citation needed] (or steel-wrapped nylon), each tuned to a different pitch. The strings are attached to the anchor by looping them through their own end-loops.

3-string instruments are often tuned A D a,

4-string instruments are often tuned to A D a d; however, in recent practice, the instrument is tuned G D g d so modern liuqin and ruan players can easily double on Yueqin. T

he anchor on modern instrument may have up to 5 holes, so it can be strung and tuned as a 3- or 4-string instrument. The nut, at the peghead end of the instrument, is filed with notches appropriate to the number and position of the strings.

Modern yueqin are often played with a guitar pick.

The website (if I am understanding the Google translation correctly( is a project of the Eloxatin Network. which appears to have nothing to do with western medications but describes itself as
... a professional learning folk music charity online media, to "spread the culture of folk music" philosophy, committed to the dissemination and popularization of folk music culture, so that more people like the Chinese folk music.

We will strive to Eloxatin made practical, authoritative study of folk music station! Making it the brand of folk music station! I hope that more people with a traditional Chinese folk music of love and nostalgia, looking forward to the return of national art.

The web portal's name appears to have something to do with the "singing sands" of western China. As translated by Google, it explains: "On Eloxatin (yuèshā) in the dictionary meaning: [musical sand] emit a tone when the sand is agitated or trampled when."

Apparently the youqin is easy to play and has a long history as a folk instrument.

A blog called features china on Chinese arts and crafts, clothing, cuisine and musical instruments, which also appears to be translated from the Chinese, adds this:

The yueqin Nguyen similar, then gradually change clear yueqin Nguyen completely different, although the shape like Nguyen, but handle quite short. Different shapes. Four strings of the old yueqin the improvement yueqin three strings, eighteen to twenty frets, Chromatic device. Four or five degrees tune a stringed instrument, the pitch is not fixed. Right hand holding playing plectrum playing. The tone is crisp and bright. Mainly in the band playing the melody. Yueqin common to the accompaniment of folk ditty, Peking Opera, as well as for national orchestra.

Yueqin widespread in people of all ethnic groups in China, won the favorite of China’s Han, Yi, Miao, Dong, Buyi, white and Hani peoples playing stringed instruments. Rich and colorful yueqin song, all nationalities, all regions will also be different. The famous traditional solo Yi: “scrape wind” Mustang across the river “” a pair of geese “Dali tune” and “Ga woody”. Hani Month melodies mountain tune “. Taiwan has number of famous yueqin, such as the late Wang Siming, warm red painted, Chan Tat, Mr. Liu Lu.

Picture: Courtesy of Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial. Concise link back to this object: http://from.ph/19344.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

1819 Swedish Psalmbook reprint available from Amazon.com in siffernoter ** ADD ** Lutheran Companion review of Augustana Synod's 1901 "English Hymnal"

* * *

Johannes Dillner’s psalmodikon tablature for the Swedish psalmbook of 1819 is now available from Amazon.com for $20 or less. It’s not exactly an easy read, but if you’re trying to document the music of 19th -century Swedish immigrants, it gives you valuable information at a reasonable price.

It’s a reprint of Dillner’s Melodierna till Swenska Kyrkans Psalmer, Noterade med ziffor, för Skolor och Menigheten (melodies of the Swedish church’s psalms, notated with numbers for schools and congregations), published in 1830. I found it by accident, since it isn’t listed on Amazon by title. Instead the publisher, a software company called Nabu Press that specializes in automatic scanning of historical reprints, lists the book as Psalmodikon… (Swedish edition) by Anonymous.

Nabu makes no pretense of editing scholarly editions. According to Wikipedia, they're an imprint of BibiloBazaar, a Charleston, S.C. firm. "BiblioBazaar produced, in printable electronic form, 272,930 titles in 2009, although these were used by means of an automated computerized process, using scanned text and generic stock photography for the covers. They see themselves less as publishers than as a software company." I wouldn't expect their automatic process to sort out the front matter in a 175-year-old Swedish-language book.

"All Hail to Thee, O Blessed Morn" in siffernoter

“This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923,” warns a disclaimer on the Amazon webpage. “This book may have occasional imperfections [but] … We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.”

They’re right about the imperfections, but they’re also right that it’s culturally important.

Ever since I saw a psalmodikon several years ago at the old Swedish colony in Bishop Hill, Illinois. I’ve been researching the music of Swedish-American immigrants. I even have a replica of the Bishop Hill instrument, but I haven't been able to find any living tradition of playing it in Illinois (unlike Minnesota and the upper Midwest, where it didn't quite die out before it was revived by Norwegian-Americans at folk festivals). And now I’ve got a schoolbook that tells me how to play it.

Swedish siffernoter are like the Norwegian sifferskrift, but Dillner numbers his scales from 1 to 8 at the octave, instead of starting over with 1. His tablature for each hymn sets out its key (according to the old church modes), and he retunes the instrument to play in different keys.

For example, Dillner’s tablature for the beloved Christmas chorale “All Hail to Thee, O Blessed Morn,” bears the headnote F+2+3+6+7. That tells us the hymn is in F major, since the combination of plusses and numbers in his tab reflects the steps and half steps of a major scale.

In the introduction, Dillner has tables setting out the sharps (plusses), flats (minuses) and siffernoter numbers for the major (Ionian) and minor (Aeolian) modes, plus others like the Dorian and the Mixolydian still favored by traditional Irish bands.

It all sounds complicated, but the system works.

Like other church music of the day, Dillner’s Melodierna till Swenska Kyrkans Psalmer is designed to be used with a words-only psalmbook. So “All Hail to Thee, O Blessed Morn” is No. 55 in both the melody book and the psalmbook. The words are editor Johan Olof Wallin’s paraphrase of the 1599 German chorale "Wie Schön Leuchtet …" (How brightly shines the morning star) by Philipp Nicolai, and the melody is Nicolai’s. Since Wallin’s psalmbook was only 10 years old in 1830, choir leaders and schoolmasters must have had to juggle the tune from Dillner and the text from Wallin until choir, congregation or students had the new words down.

But, again, the system worked.

“All Hail to Thee, O Blessed Morn,” traditionally sung at Julotta services on Christmas morning, is still part and parcel of a Swedish-American Christmas. And 183 years after Dillner’s Melodierna first came out, the book has been reprinted and (as of today) ranks No. 7,494,115 in Amazon's online best-seller list. Who could have foreseen that in 1830?

* * *


UPDATE: Lutheran Companion review by I.O.N. [staff correspondent I.O. Nathanson (?)] of the "English Hymnal" of 1901 … tells how it derives from the Church of Sweden service and departs from other Lutheran hymnals of the day …

I.O.N. "A Step Toward a Common English Hymnal." March 15, 1913: 6-7.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Before "bim-bim-BOM": Pre-folk revival descriptions of tuning and playing the mountain dulcimer, Kentucky, 1900-1920

What came before Jean Ritchie's "bim-bim-BOM" tuning?

When she's speaking, Ritchie makes it clear the "BOM" is a fifth below the "bim" on the melody and middle strings -- corresponding to our contemporary DAA tuning or CGG in her Dulcimer Book. (In her instructional material, she tunes to C. And she sings "bim-bim-BOM," so it's clear she's referring to the interval of a fifth.) But I've also heard somewhere, although I don't remember where -- Ralph Lee Smith? Phyllis Gaskins? -- the unison high D tuning (dddd) around Galax, Va., is probably the earliest American tuning.

And when I played one of Ralph's 19th-century instruments (pictured at left) a couple of years ago at Common Ground on the Hill, he had it tuned Galax style. It was as bright and clear as a bell, by the way, even though I had to struggle with the tuning pegs and the whole thing looked like it was slapped together out of barn wood.

So it may well be the unison tuning is the earliest, at least in Virginia.

But the earliest published American sources that mention a specific tuning are from Kentucky, and they suggest that both the equivelant of DAA and a unison tuning that would be equivalent to the modern Ddd -- or "bagpipe" -- tuning (with the bass string tuned a full octave below the others) were used in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century.

Anyway, I decided to look it up when I mentioned the "bagpipe" tuning in a Nov. 30 post to Nina Zanetti's thread "DAD or DAA for beginners?" on the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website and another contributor suggested, "I'm almost convinced (admittedly a gut feeling, but a strong gut feeling after years of study and instrumental experimentation) that octave tuning, combined with playing in a true Mixolydian scale (flat seventh, "no 6.5 fret" in modern terms), was common early on in the history of the dulcimer." I promised to get back to him with a new thread, _______. Never did find what we were looking for, but I did get some evidence both tunings were being used by the 1910s in Kentucky.

Of five references I've located, they're about evenly divided. Josiah Combs, an early graduate of the Hindman Settlement School, and Harper's magazine correspondent William Aspinwall Bradley said the strings were tuned an octave apart, while visiting musicians Josephine McGill, Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway said the bass drone was tuned down a fifth. Olive Dame Campbell's account was ambiguous, referencing "two (or three) ... tonic-drones" but not specifying the interval. (I'm leaning toward thinking that means the drone was an octave lower than the tonic, which would suggest a Mixolydian scale starting on the open melody string and Ionian on the third fret, but that's guesswork and I think I'd still better put it down as ambiguous.) They all visited the Hindman and/or Pine Mountain settlement schools, and it is entirely likely that most -- perhaps all -- of them heard dulcimers that were made by Uncle Ed Thomas.

So the published descriptions reflect the regional tradition in a very limited area, and I don't want to generalize too much. But they clearly suggest that tunings equivalent to the post-revival DAA and Ddd were in common use around the Kentucky settlement schools. Brief verbatim excerpts follow, with a list of references:

  • Josiah Combs (ca. 1905). [In his 1925 dissertation at the University of Paris, Folk-Songs du Midi des Etats-Unis, native Kentuckian Combs described the dulcimer as follows.] This strange instrument ... has a slight resemblance to the violin, with a narrow and elongated body and a very short neck. It is usually made of walnut or maple wood, and is strung with three strings plucked by a crow-quill held in the right hand. One of the three strings, the one nearest the body as the instrument lies in the lap, is tuned an octave higher than the third one, and in unison with the second. The melody is produced on the first string by moving a bit of smooth reed back and forth over it, pressing it down between the fret and strumming all three stings with the quill; the second and third strings are used as tonic-drones. ... The ‘dulcimore’ is adapted to simple, one-part tunes rather than fast ones. Because of its simplicity many folk-airs even cannot be played on it. (Hamm 81)

  • Josephine McGill (1914). The Musician Jan. 1917. Like the German zither, it is a long, narrow and shallow in structure, pointed at the ends, curving at the center. It is thirty three inches and a half long, six inches and a half wide. It has three metal strings, two of which are tuned in unison and one to a fifth below. Under the first, the melody, string, extend the seventeen frets giving a range of two octaves and a half, very feeble on the upper tones. Oak or cherry frequently serves as material, though there is no fixed prejudice among the instrument makers on the choice of wood. No high degree of craftsmanship is displayed in fashioning the dulcimers -- which, however, vary somewhat according to the artistry of their makers, occasionally achieving considerable grace of contour.

    The player holds the dulcimer flat on his lap; with his left hand he plays the melody, using a reed to press down the string; with his right hand he strikes across the strings, using a piece of leather or anything else flexible and durable that he can find. … The tone is thin and has a melancholy character; but its droning monotonous character is not without charm. An expert player from time to time plays a melody note on the third string, when the tone runs below the range of the first string and can be reached on the third. (Smith 14-15)

  • __________. Musical Quarterly No. 3, 1917. This instrument, in the vernacular dulcimore, is nearly a yard in length and resembles an elongated violin. It has three strings, the first and second being tuned to the same pitch, the third a fifth below. Two prime effects are obtainable from the instrument; one similar to that of the ancient drone; the other, like the twanging of a banjo or guitar. … As may be fancied, the chief variety to be obtained from the dulcimer is that of rhythm.

    The tune of "The Turkish Lady" is very scarcely departing from the tonic harmony; it suggests the drone of ancient music. The dulcimore afforded an appropriate accompaniment, as it did also for the singer's version of "Barbara Allen." Some versions begin:

    All in the merry month of May
    When the green buds they were swelling

    But my host's rendering not unfittingly transposed the episode to the melancholy days:

    Late in the season of the year
    When the yellow leaves were falling
    Young James James Graham of the west country
    Fell in love with Barbara Allan

    With considerable charm, the children of Hindman Settlement School sing, "All in the merry month of May," as well as that beginning, "Late in the season of the year." The latter, in minor key, lends itself to the plaintive effects achievable on the dulcimer. (Smith, Folk Songs 18-19)

  • William Aspinwall Bradley (1915). The singer frequently accompanies himself on banjo, fiddle, or dulcimer. This last is the traditional instrument of mountain music. Like Coleridge's Abyssinian maid, the Kentucky girl is also a ‘damsel with a dulcimer,’ or rather she was before this odd and yet elegant instrument, which descends directly from Elizabethan England, and which looks not unlike a very slender and short-necked violin, began to disappear. It is strung with three strings, which are sometimes of gut, though generally of wire. Two of them are always tuned in unison, while the third is an octave lower. Occasionally the dulcimer -- or ‘dulcimore,’ as it is called in the vernacular -- is bowed, but more often it is plucked, the performer holding it lengthwise in his lap, producing the notes by pressing the string nearest him with a bit of reed held in his left hand, while his right hand sweeps all three with a quill or a piece of not too flexible leather. The two strings that are not pressed form a sort of bourdonnement, or drone-bass accompaniment, like a bagpipe. The tonal quality is very light -- a ghostly, disembodied sort of music such as we may imagine to have been made by the harp in the ballad of ‘The Twa Sisters,’ although this instrument is formed, not from the bones of a drowned girl's body, but from thinly planed and delicately curved boards of native black-walnut. Those which, like mine, are made by an old man who lives in a cabin at the mouth of the Doubles of Little Carr are pierced with four little heart-shaped openings. (912)

  • Howard Brockway (1916). At rare intervals in our search we encountered a fiddle … More frequently, we found the ‘dulcimore,’ which is the real indigenous Appalachian instrument. It is made in the mountains and fits its environment in quite a charming and piquant way. It seems most thoroughly a part of the spirit of the culture represented by the old songs. In shape it is most like a ‘pochette,’ the little instrument carried by dancing masters in the olden days, although very much larger, of course. It is strung with three strings, either gut or wire. Two of these are tuned in unison while the third is tuned a fifth below. The outer one of the two is the only fretted string, the others supplying a drone bass, giving somewhat the effect of a bagpipe. The dulcimore (accent on the last syllable) is held on the knees and the strings are plucked with a piece of leather or a quill. The melody is played upon the fretted string, for which purpose a quill or a small stick is employed. We found that the dulcimer players were very particular as to the media employed, and that the adherents of the different schools, divided by use of quill or leather, were distinctly temperamental in their allegiance.

    I have heard one man sing and accompany himself most skillfully, and the effect was extremely delightful and quaint He was apparently a virtuoso, and his performance will always remain in my memory as the unique one of my experience in the Kentucky trip.” (Smith 39-40)

  • New York Herald (1916). [From interview with Brockway and Loraine Wyman promoting concert at Cort Theatre, West 48th Street, NYC.] … and Miss Wyman took from the top of her piano a "dulcimer," practically the only form of musical instrument the mountaineers know except the banjo. It is indeed a type of "instrument ancient" and is something like a rough violin, with the body extending clear up the neck to the keys. Two strings safe tuned together and the third a fifth below. Miss Wyman gayly strummed "Yankee Doodle" on it. The mountaineers know that tune, and it was played expertly for Miss Wyman by Bristol Taylor, who lives on top of the mountain." Unfortunately Bristol will never see his name in print, for there are no mail routes near him. But he doesn't care, Miss Wyman said. (Smith 30). [Punctuation, including floating quote mark, in original.]

  • Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp (1917). [In his introduction to the preliminary collection of English ballads in the Southern mountains, Sharp quoted Olive Dame Campbell, who later founded North Carolina’s John C. Campbell Folk School.] Mrs. Campbell … tells me that in Kentucky, where I have not yet collected, singers occasionally play an instrument called the dulcimer, a shallow, wooden box, with four sound-holes, in shape somewhat live a flat, elongated violin, over which are strung three (sometimes four) metal strings, the two (or three) of which are tonic-drones, the melody being played upon the remaining and uppermost string which is fretted. As the strings are plucked with the fingers and not struck with a hammer, the instrument would, I suppose, be more correctly called a psaltery. (Campbell and Sharp x)

Works Cited

  1. Howard Brockway (1917). "The Quest of the Lonesome Tunes" Art World June 1917. Smith 34-40.
  2. Bradley, William Aspenwall. “Song-Ballets and Devil's Ditties.” Harper's 130 (May 1915): 901-914.
  3. Campbell, Olive Dame, and Cecil J. Sharp. English Folk Songs from the Southern Mountains. 1917. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger. 2008.
  4. Hamm, Charles. Music in the New World. New York: W.W. Norton, 1983.
  5. McGill, Josephine. "Following Music in a Mountain Land." Musical Quarterly No. 3, 1917. Smith 17-27.
  6. __________. "The Kentucky Mountain Dulcimer." The Musician Jan. 1917. Smith 14-16.
  7. "Miss Wyman Brings 'Lonesome Tunes' of Kentucky Mountains to New York." New York Herald 29 Oct. 1916. Smith 30.
  8. Smith, Ralph Lee, and Madeline MacNeil. Folk Songs of Old Kentucky: Two Song Catchers in the Kentucky Mountains, 1914 and 1916, with Arrangements for the Dulcimer. Pacific, Mo.: Mel Bay, 2003.

Monday, December 02, 2013

"Lefse, lingonberries ... Scandinavian hymns" -- and the a cappella choral tradition in the upper Midwest

In article by Philip Bryant, poet and a professor of English at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter: "Where I grew up in Chicago, we had great Gospel choirs. But we didn't have the choral music tradition Minnesota does." St. Olaf - F. Melius Christiansen
I suspect the impulse to do these Christmas concerts grew out of an immigrant sense of homesickness. It was a longing for the sounds of the old country, and it became even more acute during this, the coldest, darkest part of the year.

I can see how that music resonated with Minnesota's immigrant souls. Just like lefse or lingonberries, those old Scandinavian hymns buoyed the sagging spirit. They gave people the strength to face the cold winter night. And for a moment, at least, the music kept their homesickness and isolation on these frozen prairies at bay.

I don't think I have a single drop of Scandinavian blood in me. But, still, I felt uplifted as I passed by our chapel that frigid night. In the dark of winter, it's hard for any soul, Swedish, Norwegian or otherwise, to resist these beautiful voices, singing hymns full of praise and light.

Philip Bryant. "On frozen northern campuses, tradition of choral music brings warmth." MPR News [Minnesota Public Radio]. Dec. 2, 2010. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/12/03/bryant.

Egregious pun in an article by Lawrence Cosentino when St. John's University choir of Collegeville, Minn., performed in Michigan: "Giant sequoias soak up Pacific Northwest mist. Buffalo bulk up on Great Plains grass. How did vast choral reefs form in the heart of Minnesota?"

By the 1950s, the state was already uvula-deep in the a cappella choral tradition that began with the St. Olaf’s choir, founded in 1912 by Norwegian violinist F. Melius Christiansen. The St. John's chorus was originally organized in 1948.

“A hundred years ago, it was pretty novel,” Theimer said. “Now you look around and see all 15 private colleges in Minnesota have phenomenal choral programs.”

St. Olaf’s graduates seeded the state with strong high school music programs, nourished by the strong vocal tradition of the Lutheran church.

Lawrence Cosentino. "Out of the Maw of Minnesota." CityPulse [Lansing, Mich.] March 9, 2011. http://npaper-wehaa.com/citypulse/2011/03/08/#?article=1192703.