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Celebration of Strings: A Hammered Dulcimer Showcase

By Staff | Mar 7, 2014

The hammered dulcimer is alive and well in Shepherdstown; not only does the area boast two of the instrument’s most respected builders and designers, but also is home to the Upper Potomac Music Weekends, where hammered dulcimer players, fiddlers and other musicians share tunes and techniques and explore a range of musical styles over three days of workshops, concerts and jam sessions on Shepherd University’s campus and the surrounding historic buildings several times each year.

Each year one weekend features hammered dulcimer, and for over 20 years, the showcase concert has featured the best to be found on this instrument, and this year’s Celebration of Strings is no exception, with Randy Marchany, a fine player from the award-winning eclectic string band “No Strings Attached” and Andy Young from Chicago, both of whom will be accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Paul Oorts in a show whose eclectic repertoire will feature everything from a rich selection of Irish tunes, to bluegrass, French Canadian music and Parisian swing. An additional set featuring old-time fiddle, with our special guest Jane Rothfield, accompanied by her husband, guitarist and Scottish singer, Allan Carr.

Randy Marchany first started playing the hammered dulcimer in 1978, after being trained as a classical pianist. He began playing with local musicians from his home in Blacksburg and Roanoke shortly afterward and formed the high-energy string band, No Strings Attached, who have been touring internationally for over 30 years. He writes or arranges a fair portion of their music, which ranges in style from Old time and Celtic to blues, swing and beyond. One of his compositions became the theme song for the NPR program World Caf. A frequent teacher and performer, here and at many other festivals; his sense of humor, creative playing and engagement of the audience makes him a favorite with students and audiences alike.

Andy Young , from Chicago, performs Gypsy Jazz, Irish traditional, and Quebecois tunes on Hammered Dulcimer, Irish Flute, Tin Whistle, and Guitar. Andy Young has been entertaining audiences around the Midwest since the early 1990s. A percussionist since childhood, his style of playing the hammered dulcimer succeeds at balancing excitement and innovation with a respect for musical traditions. Andy’s performances and workshops infuse beautiful music with humor and insight to provide a deep understanding of the role of music in our multicultural and interpersonal world. Andy Young’s long-awaited new album, L’Accroche-Pieds, is a delight to the ears, blending Irish reels and jigs, crooked tunes from Quebec, and Gypsy tinged Parisian waltzes together into a cross-cultural feast. The music is at once unhurried yet filled with lift; upbeat yet mysterious. Guest musicians include All-Ireland champion and founding member of the Irish band Solas, John Williams on concertina and Gypsy Jazz guitarist Alfonso Ponticelli of Swing Gitan.

Paul Oorts was raised in Belgium, and during his college days, his favorite hangout was Muziekdoos, a caf in the cosmopolitan seaport town of Antwerp where all of the local folk musicians, buskers, conservatory students and touring performers would meet and play music together. This ecclectic musical atmosphere became a major characteristic of his playing as he learned to back up traditional Flemish, French, German, Irish and Scandinavian music on guitar and five-string banjo, as well as ragtime, old-time (Appalachian), Latin American and classical music.

While living in Italy, he performed with a prize-winning bluegrass band that was televised in 28 countries; but from the time he first reached America about a decade ago, until today, he has become one of the most requested accompanist for a whole range of musicians for his adept playing on the guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, mando-bass, bass, musette accordion and more. Fluent in six languages, and musical in almost every style, Paul has been recruited by numerous dance bands and has become the accompanist of choice of many dulcimer players. In his non-music life, he teaches language at the Peabody Music Conservatory in Baltimore, MD where he can often be found in his spare time, researching obscure traditional repertoire in the library there.

Husband/wife duo, Jane Rothfield (fiddle, banjo, vocal) and Allan Carr (guitar,vocals)bhave been playing their unique blend of traditional and original Celtic and Appalachian style music for over 30 years. Allan (from Aberdeen, Scotland) grew up surrounded by the rich traditional music of the Northeast of Scotland and is one of the finest singers from that tradition. Jane is an award winning fiddler, clawhammer banjo player and tune composer with deep roots in the fiddle traditions of New England, Scotland and the American South. They play roots music that is directly from the source while expanding on that tradition with newly composed songs and tunes. Great singing, hot instrumentals and with Allan’s humor, always a whole lot of fun!

The concert takes place at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church on the corner of King and Washington streets. Admission is $18 adults, $15 seniors, $12 SMD members and $8 students. For more information call Joanie Blanton at (304) 263-2531, email updf@earthlink.net, or see the web at www.smad.us.

For more information on this event photos and more, see the following web pages.

Shepherdstown Music and Dance: www.smad.us