Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some videos on how to make, tune and bow a Swedish keyed psalmodikon, also an American psalmodikon by MusicMakers of Stillwater, Minn.

It's all in the bowin'. -- Don Pedi, mountain dulcimer player, Madison County, N.C.

Gisli Olsen, a psalmodikon player in Sweden and member of the Nordic Psalmodikonförbundet, has put a video up on YouTube demonstrating how he made a kind of psalmodikon that's played by pressing keys, similar to those on a Swedish nyckelharp, on the melody string. Fortunately for us in America, his captions are in English.

It's of special interest to me, because the video clearly shows how he holds the bow. And, as I learned from master Appalachian dulcimer player Don Pedi of rural Madison County, N.C., playing a stringed instrument is all in right-hand technique, it's all in the bowin'. A dulcimer isn't a bowed instrument, of course, but Don's specialty is playing southern Appalachian fiddle tunes note-for-note on the dulcimer.

Here's Gisli Olsen:

Olsen's Facebook post is archived at https://www.facebook.com/gisli.olsen/posts/1040644839340308. Some of the comments are valuable. They're in Swedish, but if you click on the link that says "See Translation," Herr Professor Google will translate it for you!

Playing a Norwegian-style American psalmodikon

For a couple of years now Musicmakers, a luthiers' in Stillwater, Minnesota, has been making psalmodikons adapted from the Norwegian version of the instrument and fitted out with "transposition sticks" so they can be played with a montain dulcimer. (More information on their website at http://www.harpkit.com/ and their YouTube channel, directory of videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0mbv9_4M4o).

Psalmodikons by Musicmakers are set up so they can be played with mountain dulcimers tuned to DAA, DGD and other popular dulcimer tunings, and a modified version of dulcimer called a Strumbly. On their YouTube channel, they have an instructional video:

How to Play the Psalmodikon. Some basic tips on how to play the Psalmodikon by Musicmakers. Buy a Psalmodikon or a Psalmodikon kit at www.harpkit.com.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Farewell to Tarwathie" -- a Scottish whalers' song (and Judy Collins hit of the 70s) for the Prairieland Strings

Chris Miles sings "Farewell to Tarwathie" at Whitby Folk Week in England

By request, we're going to play "Farewell to Tarwathie" at Thursday's session of the Prairieland Strings. It's a song I learned, and subsequently got very, very tired of, when Judy Collins covered it in 1970.

We meet from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at Peace Lutheran Church (formerly Atonement), 2800 West Jefferson, Springfield. Links to sheet music (dulcimer tab with notation and guitar chords) below.

In case you don't remember the song, it's the one where Collins was backed by a pod of whales singing in not-quite-harmony. (Link here to refresh your memory.) Nothing against whales -- I developed a taste for whale, which tastes like beef, and I even enjoyed muktuk, a Inuit treat of dried whale blubber, when I tried it in Alaska -- but I think animal sounds on musical recordings are distracting and cloying.

But even with the @#$%ed whales chirping and yowling in the background, it's a nice song with a grand melody, and I found a couple of interpretations on the World Wide Web that I do like. A lot.

One, embedded at the top of this post, is an a cappella performance by Scottish folk singer Chris Miles, a couple of years ago at the Whitby folk festival in England. She's Scottish, and sings in a broad Scots dialect (think Robert Burns), but she has quite a following in Ireland.

"She has been guesting at Derrygonnelly, Slieve Gullion and Inishowen for many years now and has appeared at Ballyshannon Folk Festival on more than one occasion," says her profile on the Innishowen Song Project website maintained by the Irish Traditional Music Association. "Her commanding presence and yet tender rendering of the big Scottish ballads is much loved by all who have had the pleasure of hearing her."

Certainly her style of singing "Farewell to Tarwathie" recalls that of the "big" Irish ballads.

Another is by Mick O'Grady, singing at the Cobblestone Pub in Dublin. His performance is very understated, but I love the way he plays the guitar, finger picking the melody in unison with his voice. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is allowed to get in the way of the music.

If O'Grady plays professionally, I haven't been able to find notice of it on line. But the Cobblestone Pub (more at http://cobblestonepub.ie/ is a fine pub with nightly musicians' sessions in Dublin north of the River Liffey roughly across from Temple Bar.

Dulcimer tab (lead sheets)

Lead sheets in D, with dulcimer tab below the staff and guitar chords above, are available in two locations on the web:


Chris Miles, by the way, is an MBE (Member of the British Empire), an honor she shares with Sir Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles, Sir Elton John, Sting and other luminaries. But she received hers primariy in recognition of her career as an educator, as John Moulden, himself a singer and scholar of considerable note at National University of Ireland Galway, reported to the Mudcat Café discussion group:

I'm very pleased to report that the Scottish singer, Chris Miles, from Kirkaldy in Fife, habituée of sessions in Fife, Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland, England and Ireland; she has a house near Tobercurry and attends many sessions and festivals in that area, and all over Ireland, has been awarded MBE for services to education and young people. (She was a Nursery School Headteacher [principal] and, until her recent retirement, an adviser to Fife County Council on Nursery Education.)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Songs for Östervåla 1 -- Vem Kan Segla Förutan Vind

Annual meeting of Nordiska Psalmodikonforbundet, Östervåla, Aug. 26-28.

ABC notation at: http://abcnotation.com/tunePage?a=trillian.mit.edu/~jc/music/abc/mirror/musicaviva.com/finland/vem-kan-segla-ls/0000

Vem Kan Segla Förutan Vind | Who Can Sail Without the Wind.

Solo in Swedish and English by YouTube user Roger Siver:

Siver Silver says: Me singing, in Swedish first, then in English. Finnish origin, Swedish text, Norwegian singing.

Sheet music (for four voices, in E minor) http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/images/sheet/trad-vem.pdf

Wikipedia (Swedish) https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vem_kan_segla_f%C3%B6rutan_vind%3F has this background:

Vem kan segla förutan vind? är en folkvisa känd från Finlands svenskbygder och det anses att den kommer från Åland. Den går i moll i 3/4-takt. Inledningsraden återfinns i femte strofen i en visa från 1700-talet, "Goder natt, goder natt, allra kärestan min" och i sin nuvarande form publicerades sången första gången 1909. Visan anknyter till en tematik som är vanlig i sjömansvisor – att skiljas från den man har kär.

Andra versradens slutord åror har sannolikt ursprungligen varit årar, bildat till substantivet [en] år, med pluralformen årar, som var vanlig i dialekter under 1800-talet framför allt i Finland.

Who can sail without wind? Is a folk song known from Finnish Swedish settlements and it is believed that it comes from Åland . It runs in the minor in 3/4 stroke . Introduction The line is found in the fifth stanza of a song from the 1700s, "Goder night Goder night, very sweetheart mine" and in its current form was published the song the first time in 1909. The song is linked to a theme that is common in shanties - to be distinguished from the to love.

Other versradens final words oars have probably originally oars, formed the noun [a] years, with the plural form oars, which was common in dialects during the 1800s, particularly in Finland.

A very nice choral version by Neue Wiener Stimmen of Vienna:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A different twist on a classic for hard times -- Dylan performs "A Hard Rain's Going to Fall" with the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra

Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra in Japan '94

00:00 A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
07:37 I Shall Be Released
11:17 Michael Kamen Interview
12:18 Ring Them Bells with Ry Cooder

ltk Lyrics at http://bobdylan.com/songs/hard-rains-gonna-fall/ on Dylan's official website, as recorded on the Freewheelin' album.

According to a Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Music_Experience, the performance was part of a UNESCO-backed concert starring Japanese and international musicians, including Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi, Joni Mitchell and INXS, staged in May 1994 at the eighth-century Buddhist temple of Tōdai-ji, in Nara, Japan:

UNESCO hoped that the event would be the first of seven annual concerts that would take place at some of the world's architectural treasures -- the sites it had in mind included the Pyramids, China's Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal -- but nothing came of the idea. ...

* * *

UNESCO hoped that a series of concerts would be able to use the appeal of rock musicians to widen the audience for the world's cultural heritage. The Tōdai-ji concert would also help to promote traditional Japanese music. It was important for traditional musicians to stand on the same stage with Dylan and Bon Jovi.

A review in Q magazine, paraphrased in the Wikipedia account, adds this:

The star of the show turned out to be Dylan who said as soon as he came off-stage that he had not sung so well for 15 years. Dylan opened with A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall which Q magazine said was "no ordinary version...[he] really opens his lungs and heart and sings, like he's not done for many a year...The only word for it majestic."

Sunday, April 03, 2016

road to lisdoonvarna

Road to Lisdoonvarna/Swallowtail Jig/Tripping Up the Stairs. Sykes Concert at Dartmouth College Apr. 2009. Clara Chew, Flute; Sophie Hood, Fiddle; and David Sicilia, Accordion

Jam Tunes & Resources, Colorado Dulcimer Festival http://www.coloradodulcimerfestival.com/jamtunes/ http://www.coloradodulcimerfestival.com/jamtunes/ Road to Lisdoonvarna / Bonnie Carroll http://www.coloradodulcimerfestival.com/music/lisdoonvarna.pdf


For an authoritative, but rather cranky, discussion by trad Irish authenticity police of whether it is a whether it is a slide (in 12/8 time) or a jig (6/8), go to the Session website at https://thesession.org/tunes/250. Discussion group member PHantom Button says, "Part of the problem with this tune, (here in the out-back of ITM that is,) is that it was used widely as a beginner tune, over played by a million screeching tin whistles, and dragged through sessions by novices adnauseam. It’s actually a very lovely and danceable slide that suffers from guilt by association."

http://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/ROA_ROB.htmhttp://www.ibiblio.org/fiddlers/ROA_ROB.htm ROAD TO LISDOONVARNA [1]. Irish, Slide or Single Jig. E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions). The melody appears in both single jig and single reel versions (see “Road to Lisdoonvarna” [2]). It was popularized in the United States by Grey Larsen & Malcolm Dalglish, who paired the tune with the similar “O’Keeffe’s Slide [1].” Sources for notated versions: Chieftains (Ireland) [Brody]; Laurie Andres [Silberberg]. Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, was formerly a spa town where Victorian society partook of the mineral waters that were thought to have healing properties. It is located north and inland of the famous coastline Cliffs of Moher, in the rocky region called the Burren. The town is more famous now-a-days, particularly for tourists, as the location of an annual match-making festival.

Mark Gilston - The Road to Lisdoonvarna on mountain dulcimer