The following article was published in the Kechi Lamp March 2016 paper. Special thanks to David Dinell who took the photographs and wrote the lovely article!
SPRING SOUNDS: Dulcimer group entertains Over 55 Club
A part of Appalachia culture came to Kechi for a recent musical presentation and, judging by the smiles in crowd, was much appreciated.
Members of the Great Plains Dulcimer Alliance performed during a meeting of the Over 55 Club at City Hall’s Community Room, playing a variety of songs for about 30 minutes.
The alliance came at the invitation of member Sandra McConnaughhay, who heard them before and thought the players and the audience would enjoy the presentation.
“I think everyone had a good time,” she said after the performance in front of 20 people.
For club president Dan Smith, it was the first time he heard the group — and he was impressed.
“It was really good and they were quite entertaining,” he said.
While the group of Kechi seniors often takes in field trips, during the winter months, it schedules programs at City Hall.
The alliance had been scheduled to play at the club’s January meeting, but adverse weather forced it to be postponed until the next meeting in mid-February, which turned out to be an unseasonably warm and spring-like day, ideal some said, for the pleasant music.
In fact, the stringed instrument’s name comes from the Latin word dulcis, or “sweet,” and the Greek word, melos, meaning “song” or “sound.”
A club member, Ron Dorsey, discussed the songs and their histories during the presentation.
One of those songs was well-known to most, as it was “Ashokan Farewell,” made famous through its use in Ken Burns’ Civil War series on PBS-TV.
The alliance has been active for more than three decades now and counts about 70 members with a handful part of the original group.
Other than the uniform black T-shirts, there’s almost on formal structure. It’s so causal that Dorsey doesn’t even know many people will show up to a performance until it’s time to play.
“Sometimes we get three or four, sometimes, 20. You just never know,” he said with a laugh.
But once the tunes start, the alliance members get serious, looking at their song sheets — which are set on wooden stands — with the intensity of Carnegie Hall musicians.
The group’s instruments include a guitar and mandolin, but most were playing some form of a dulcimer.
Although the roots of the instrument go back thousands of years, in America, its popularity can be traced to the Appalachian Mountains, where they quickly became widespread because of their low cost, attractive sound and ease to learn and play.
A simple song can be taught in fairly short order, although the instrument also has the capacity to challenge experienced musicians with complex arrangements.
For many, the attraction is the history and lore of the instrument, along with the traditional tunes it handles so well, including “Black Mountain Rag.”
One group member, Valerie Parker, played a hammered dulcimer, as opposed to the simple Appalachian dulcimer others had. The hammer in this case referred to the mallet devices she used to create the music.
Dorsey said new members are welcomed at the group, either novice or experience acoustical musicians. For more, go to www. gpdaks.org