A Little History
It was the week after the 5’th annual “Menucha Mountain Dulcimer Festival” that we were invited, and graciously hosted by Denice K. and her husband for our first get together in their home.
“I’ve dusted off my old bridge chairs, had my husband mow the lawn, and bought a Costco apple pie!” Denice said in her invitation email.
Several of the folks already knew each other from classes with Sally Smith, a Certified Music Practitioner, experienced dulcimer and ukulele teacher and gifted player in the Portland area. Playing mountain dulcimer since the 90’s, her love of playing, passion and teaching inspired this and other mountain dulcimer groups to form.
We open our meetings with several songs suggested by Sally to use as ‘warm-ups’; Bile Them Cabbage, Little Liza Jane, Old Joe Clark, and Gray Cat (on a Tennessee Farm). We fondly know them now as, the B-L-O-G.
Growth, Festivals, Concerts, Performing
The first year, we tried a little of this, and that, began looking at Christmas songs, tried out using a ‘capo’ and talked more about picking and strumming. We were already thinking about moving from Denice’s, and talking about the 6th Annual Columbia River Gorge Mountain Dulcimer Festival to be at Menucha.
2015 came and we continued to poke our way through our preferred songs and ‘grew’ the list by adding tunes such as Rocky Top, Sadie At The Backdoor, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and many more. We continued to enjoy ourselves and Denice continued to snack us at every meeting! We borrowed songs from other dulcimer groups making our list even larger. And we adopted a motto, “joyful NOT painful”!
Those of us who attended the dulcimer festival at Menucha that year brought back with them styles and technique from the distinguished dulcimer teachers and players providing us with more opportunities to encourage each other.
Some of us began attending other workshops and festivals heald throughout the year; at the Wallowa Dulcimer Gathering, the Bing Futch workshop, and a workshop in Hermiston Oregon with Heidi Muller.
2016 flew by quickly! For many, it was another wonderful Columbia Gorge dulcimer festival at Menucha. As a group or individually, we went to concerts given by performers like Neal and Coleen Waters, Heidi Muller and Bob Webb, and Claudia Schmidt. During January, Heidi Muller and Bob Webb came to Portland teach and workshop and give a concert. We came away with new information on finger-picking and flat-picking, ‘the ‘Zen of rhythm’, ‘chord shapes and capos’, all to be shared and tried at our meeting.
Several of us were able to see Stephen Seifert perform on the mountain dulcimer with full symphonic orchestra live in Hood River. September brought us the The Tumbleweed Music Festival.
In October, we finally made the move from Denice’s home to the Milwaukie Center swapping the coziness and treats Denice always had on hand for more room and snacks of daily home-made soup and sandwiches, specials and pastry available at Pete’s Café at the Center.
Since we made the switch to the Milwaukie Center, we’ve seen even more change. We remain very fortunate to have Sally continuing to look over our shoulders. Patricia Delich & Wayne Jiang, the creators/filmmakers of “Hearts of the Dulcimer”, a documentary telling the story of the mountain dulcimer, and dulcimer players themselves move to Portland Oregon bringing talent and technique to their own local group, and ours.
We share what we learn, from different teachers, the workshops we attend, festivals and from meetings with other groups. We grow slowly in numbers. And now, we can pretty much agree, we finally “rock” the BLOG!
June 2017 makes it three years now that we’ve been strumming and picking together! We’ve attended workshops, festivals and have even performed several times as as group. But please know this, we remain individuals who continue to play at differing levels of accomplishment, style and speed of learning. If you are a new player or old timer, all are welcome!