What's a dulcimer?
Hammered dulcimer player Burr Beard, left, demonstrates the beautiful tones and workings of his instrument to Molly and Jack Phillips of Jim Thorpe, right, who attended his workshop as part of Summit Hill's first annual Hootenanny on Sunday in Ludlow Park.
One of the workshops at the first Summit Hill Hootenany was led by Jim Thorpe resident Burr Beard who is an accomplished hammered dulcimer player. Beard has traveled throughout the South and mid-Atlantic states featuring the hammered dulcimer in concerts with various musical groups.
His workshop on Sunday was to provide an introduction to the complexities and melodious sounds of this ancient instrument.
"The original hammered dulcimer is trapezoidal and played with hammers. It originated in the Middle East and there are versions of it throughout the world from China to Iran to Russia, Hungary and England," said Beard.
He described a similar instrument called a lap dulcimer which is smaller than the instrument he was demonstrating.
The lap dulcimer or Appalachian dulcimer was used in the eastern United States and was more similar to the German zither in its construction.
Beard said the dulcimer was known in Russia as the tsimbaly and in Hungary as the cimbalom or cymbal.
The Germans called it a Hackbrett while the English, Scots and Irish always called it the hammered dulcimer.
It's melodic tones are due to the number of strings the player strikes with his hammers or mallets. Beard explained how the board is sectioned into different tonal areas and each area has several scales of notes on it to allow for the range of melodies one can play on the instrument.
When the dulcimer was adapted in the Appalachians, Beard explained it joined the other stringed instruments including the fiddle and the mandolin to become part of the unique sound of the music from the folks living in this eastern mountain range. He said the banjo came along later and was introduced by African-Americans to the American music sound.
Beard gives lessons on the hammered dulcimer, but said his instrument was custom built from a company in Virginia and said that part of the challenge is to actually be able to get one from which to learn.
He concluded his workshop by playing several different styles of dulcimer music including Appalachian tunes, Scottish and Irish melodies so the people listening could get an understanding of the unique stylings of each culture.
"I love this musical instrument as its melodies always sound so magical," said Jim Thorpe resident Molly Phillips.