Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tunes People Know ...

… and maybe you should, too!

We had a great mini-workshop here in the Triangle last Sunday afternoon. 13 Trapezoids gathered at the Community of Christ Church in Cary for 2-1/2 hours of intense instruction. Lots of arrangement ideas -- including the challenge of playing syncopated rhythms -- were applied to two popularly well-known tunes, I'll Fly Away and This Land is Your Land. The big advantage to choosing tunes that are familiar to the students is that the tune is already running in their minds. They are free to focus on learning selected new ideas rather than on figuring out what the tune is supposed to sound like. But there's another reason for working with familiar tunes.

The idea of doing workshops based on widely known tunes came to me while volunteering for Hospice. At the time, much of my repertoire was based on the old-time, celtic genre of music. I found that while my clients seemed to enjoy the music, they didn't know it. I had an "ah ha" moment when after playing a beautiful slow air for Mrs. B, she said, "That was real pretty. But I don't know it. Can you play Row, Row, Row your Boat?" Indeed, I could!

That's when I started asking my clients what they would like to hear. If they had a song in mind, and that song resided somewhere in my mind, I could play it. It might take me a few minutes of noodling around. It might not be a fancy arrangement. Guess what? It didn't matter!

Many hammered dulcimer players feel called to share their music with others. Nursing homes and churches provide excellent opportunity to do this. Consider your audience while making your play list. Are they members of the "greatest generation"? or the "beat generation"? or "generation X"? Learn a few tunes specific to that generation and sprinkle them throughout your playlist. It's perfectly OK to play the fiddle tunes and slow aires that we all love, but a little familiarity will go a long way toward entertaining the listener.

If you're looking to expand your nursing home playlist, check out this list of suggested tunes to get you started.

A big thank you to Viola Suddaby for managing information dissemination for the workshop. She facilitates the monthly Slow Jam, held 2nd Sunday of every month, 2 - 4 pm, Community of Christ Church, Cary. All are welcome to attend! Contact Viola to be added to her mailing list.

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