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Celebration of Strings: A Hammered Dulcimer Showcase

By Staff | Mar 17, 2017

The hammered dulcimer is alive and well in Shepherdstown and will be showcased Friday, Mar. 24 at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church.

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 25 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 dulcimer showcase featuring two fine players, Jody Marshall and Steve Schneider, both accompanied by multi-instrumentalist, Paul Oorts. In addition, special guest artists, Scandinavian fiddlers and nykelharpa player, lydia ievans and Andrea Larsen are featured.

Andrea and lydia have been playing Swedish-style fiddle together for the past decade, and have recently returned from an intense 2012-13 academic year studying in the center of the nyckelharpa universe, at the Eric Sahlstrm Institute. Much of their shared repertoire comes from central regions of Sweden, with a smattering of Norwegian and Danish and beyond, and their original compositions.

lydia ievins (pronounced EYE-vinz*) plays five-string fiddle and nyckelharpa for Scandinavian and English Country dancing. Her absolute favorite thing about playing in either genre is the boundless opportunity to create rich harmonic lines. As an avid dancer herself, she infuses her playing with rhythmic clarity and sensitive phrasing to produce eminently danceable music. Her duo album Northlands with Bruce Sagan features a collection of original tunes inspired by Scandinavian traditional styles. lydia is pleased to have been awarded a bronze Zorn medal in Sweden for her playing in the Uppland tradition.

For almost two decades, Andrea Larsen’s passion for Swedish folk music and dance has led her to perform across the northeast United States and in Sweden. She has fiddled for Christmas Revels in New York and Boston, toured nationally as a soprano with the Waverly Consort, and performed with Orion Longsword She teaches violin, voice and fiddle styles from her home studio in Virginia.

Growing up with a jazz musician for a father, a mother who loves to sing, and a drummer for an older brother who introduced her to the music of the Beatles, Jody Marshall absorbed the strains of many different musical styles – from swing-era standards and Dixieland jazz to pop, rock and folk. So began an eclectic love for music that continues to nourish her imagination today.

Jody began singing harmony with her mother when she was four years old, and couldn’t wait till she was old enough to take piano lessons. But it wasn’t until much later, when she began playing the hammered dulcimer, that her musicality found its true voice. Now she is well known for her lively and expressive style, as well as for her creative arrangements of both solo and ensemble pieces. In keeping with her varied musical tastes, she is equally adept at playing Celtic jigs and reels, Renaissance and medieval dance tunes, classical music and other genres. She delights in finding and adapting pieces that sit well on the dulcimer but aren’t normally heard on the instrument, mining material from the likes of J. S. Bach, BBC television shows, the Allman Brothers and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. Jody is also an innovative piano player with a style all her own, by turns driving a powerful rhythm for a rollicking reel or softly lilting a gentle waltz.

Steve Schneider’s reputation as a master of the hammered dulcimer is embodied in his technical skill, eclectic repertoire, musical sensitivity, and innovative style. While earning his masters degree in music therapy he heard the hammered dulcimer by chance, and he got his first dulcimer in 1984. Since then, he has used the hammered dulcimer in his recordings, composing, performing and music therapy work.

Steve has played hammered dulcimer on soundtracks for movies, television, commercials, recorded books and in a Tony-award-winning Broadway musical. He has taught and performed in numerous festivals from coast to coast, and is a regular columnist for Dulcimer Players News. Described as “innovative and talented, combining precision with expressiveness and creativity.” Steve’s repertoire explores the musical boundaries of the hammered dulcimer, including classical, Brazilian, Chinese and Eastern European music.

Paul Oorts, a native of Belgium, is adept at musette accordion and many things with strings. His instrumental versatility and knowledge of many different styles of music have made Paul the accompanist of choice for many hammered dulcimer players and a valued member of several dance ensembles.

He plays English and contra dance music with Goldcrest and Cabaret Sauvignon, and traditional French music with Ensemble Tympanon. As a member of the Rigatoni Brothers he researches and performs Italian- American mandolin in trio music.

The concert takes place at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church on the corner of King and Washington streets. Admission is $20 adults, $18 seniors, $15 SMD members, and $10 students. For more information call Joanie Blanton at (304) 263-2531, email updf@earthlink.net, or see the web at www.smad.us.