Monday, March 16, 2015

"Lee's Waltz" -- a mountain dulcimer tune for this week's Prairieland Strings session that deserves wider recognition

At our last session of the Prairieland Strings, we played a lyrical melody written for Appalachian dulcimer called "Lee's Waltz." It's not just a dulcimer tune, tho'. It lends itself to jam sessions, to ensemble arrangements like the dulcimer and tin whistle duet embedded below, and especially -- did I mention this already? oh let's mention it again -- to jamming. We hadn't played it in quite a while, and several of us didn't know it when the tune was called the other night. But it practically played itself!

It's a favorite in the mountain dulcimer world, and it deserves wider exposure.

So let's play it again at our "third Thursday" session from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 19 ... along with "Walking in the Parlor" (click here for a video and more) and whatever else we call as we go around our circle.

Here's a video that shows Doug Felt, who wrote the tune for his wife Lee, on dulcimer, and multi-instrumentalist Guy George on pennywhistle) on stage at the Buckeye Dulcimer Festival Concert in 2009. Listen for Guy's improvised countermelodies floating above the melody line as they go through the tune a second time:

"Lee's Waltz" is a grand tune, and it stands on its own musically. But it's also a tribute to the Felts, and, in a way, their gentle humor and love of the music. Lee and Doug were fixtures on the dulcimer festival circuit, where they sold Lee's dulcimer bags, music stands and a variety of accessories. So those of us who knew them -- and we all knew them -- were saddened to learn of Doug's death on Oct. 2, 2014.

"We had wonderful celebration of his life including family and many music friends," Lee reported on their website at "We did it exactly as he wanted. He would have been so pleased."

That web address is a characteristic touch of humor. The business they established is formally known as Thistledew Acres, but Lee makes dulcimer bags, and she became known as the Ohio Dulcimer Bag Lady. Doug, for his part, sometimes answered to Mister Bag Lady. Lee said the business will continue:

We promised him that we would continue the business, and we are. Daughter Toni Binkley, her husband Steve, and granddaughter Claire will help me continue the business. Steve is doing all the woodwork. Toni and Claire are helping me with the sewing so that I can continue to go to festivals.

Mike Thomas, who used to play with our groups in Springfield and has now become a snowbird, says Lee is carrying out that promise.

"Good to see you are still playing Lee’s Waltz," Mike said in a recent email. "Doug would have loved hearing it. ... Kathy and I did get to see Lee at the Mt. Dora (Florida) Dulcimer and Autoharp Festival a couple of weeks ago. She seems to be doing well. Her son-in-law is doing the woodwork she needs to have done and daughter the sewing so she can keep the Thistledew Acres business going."

Mountain dulcimer tab is available on line as a PDF file on the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association website at:

(scroll down and click on "Lee's Waltz").

Here's another YouTube version, as played by the snowbird Thomases, Mike on dulcimer and Kathy on autoharp. The cartoon effect, BTW, is Kathy's. "I was editing this video and thought this effect was kind of cool :)," she explained on YouTube:

And here's the song in its natural habitat, as played by the Village Strings dulcimer club at the Plymouth Farmer's Market, Plymouth, Mich., on July 26, 2014.

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