Mountain dulcimer workshop at Apple River Fort Jan. 26

Online Staff Report

ELIZABETH, Ill. — Early settlers in this lead-mining area had to entertain themselves throughout long, cold winter evenings, and one musical instrument they may have used is the Appalachian dulcimer, often called the mountain dulcimer. This dulcimer is a hollow-bodied, fretted wooden instrument, generally with three or four metal strings. It is hourglass-shaped or oval, held across the lap, and played in a variety of styles with fingers or picks.

Nancy Garrett of Janesville, Wis., known for her dulcimer playing and teaching, will share the basics of this folk instrument Jan. 26 at the Apple River Fort Interpretive Center in Elizabeth, Ill. The Volunteer Corps at the Fort and the Apple River Fort Foundation will sponsor this special half-day workshop for players of all experience levels — or no experience at all.

My family all played music,” Garrett said, “but I couldn’t even hear whether the tune was going up or down.” That all changed when she saw dulcimers at a buckskinners rendezvous. “I ran my fingers over the strings and just fell in love with the sounds,” she said. “I decided then and there that if I ever became involved with music, I’d learn the dulcimer.”

When Garrett’s children were grown, she saw dulcimers at another rendezvous; this time she bought one.

I took about eight lessons in Madison, Wis., and then I found material on the Internet,” Garrett said. “The next summer, I attended a weeklong graduate-level workshop.” That was the start of Garrett’s dulcimer playing. Since then, she has started two dulcimer groups for adult players, and volunteers in the Janesville and Milton schools, teaching third- through sixth-graders about mountain dulcimers.

Space is limited at the Interpretive Center of Apple River Fort State Historic Site, 311 E. Myrtle, Elizabeth, Ill., so call (815) 858-2028 by Jan. 19 for complete details and costs.

Posted Jan. 16, 2013

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