Dusting off the dulcimer brings back memories
Published 1:09 am Saturday, February 10, 2018
I placed the case on the coffee table, flipped up the latches, and removed the instrument. I couldn’t help smiling as I ran my hand down the beautiful smooth wood. There are five or six dulcimers in my house, but this one had been my husband’s favorite.
If I close my eyes, I can imagine him sitting in his recliner with a dulcimer in his lap, strumming one of his favorite songs. Ever since we were introduced to dulcimers during a festival at Tannehill Historic State Park, he loved the instrument. While I lost interest in mine and pushed it aside after a few weeks, he kept his beside his chair. Every time a commercial popped up on television, he reached for it. He practiced the same song over and over—and over and over some more. That first year I sometimes escaped to the back of the house to shut the door to blot out hearing that song. After the next year’s festival, he was, as he said, “Ready to sit on the front porch with the big dogs.” There was no competition among those “big dogs,” just a joy in being together and making music.
He purchased our first dulcimers from a friend who made them with a kit. As he acquired more skills, he mentioned a more expensive brand some of the players had. Even though I urged him to order one, he refused, claiming it cost too much. One day I stepped over his dulcimer to close the living room blinds. When I turned back, my foot landed on top of the instrument. It was ruined. With a little prodding from me, he picked up the telephone and placed an order for his new dulcimer. He enjoyed many hours strumming folk songs, hymns and some contemporary music with that instrument. After his passing, it was a long time before I could open his dulcimer case.
Now it is time to gently dust it off, check the tuning, and begin practicing.
The person who invited me to present a dulcimer program at a club meeting was a bit surprised when I admitted I wasn’t much of a dulcimer player. I explained it was my husband who had been enamored with it. We attended annual dulcimer festivals for over twenty years. During those times, I took out my dulcimer, got enthused with it all over again, learned a song or two, but always pushed it aside several weeks after the festivals.
For a number of years, a dulcimer group met at our home weekly, enjoying the music and fellowship. I always stepped back, furnishing coffee, and just listening. Although I did not join in playing my dulcimer when there were group sessions or with several gathered at a campsite during festival time, I felt totally in place.
Now it’s time I started practicing for the club meeting. I’ve noticed nothing gives a dulcimer player more pleasure than inspiring someone to learn the dulcimer.
Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper industry.