Monday, November 30, 2009

I promote the Hammered Dulcimer whenever I can, especially in Co. Antrim.

Here's a video clip of me playing a couple of old Marches, 'Down the Brae' & 'The Halting March', in Carrickfergus Castle, Co Antrim, just last weekend.


Monday, July 13, 2009

New European Dulcimer website!

Dulcimer players will I'm sure be interested to learn that I launched a new website last weekend which promotes the Dulcimer players of Europe, the many forms of Dulcimer in Europe and of course all the European Dulcimer music too. 

Joining this new site is easy and once you become a member, you will have lots of fun setting up your own page, where you can post lots of interesting PHOTOS of your musical Dulcimer experiences and instruments. You can also entertain other members by posting MP3s of your own playing, impress them with your playing on VIDEO too and keep other members informed of forthcoming Dulcimer EVENTS in your area. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nikita was a big hit in the Springhill Bar, Portrush!

Well, before we went out to the session, last Thursday, Nikita treated us to a few tunes on his Hackbrett, in our kitchen.

Then Nikita took his Hackbrett along to the Springhill Bar & the punters really loved his playing. 

As you can see from the second photo, he also took his accordion with him.

Tonight in the House of McDonnell, Nikita took only his two Castagnari Accordions, as there's not much room for a Hackbrett around our tiny session table!


Friday, July 3, 2009

Hackbrett player visits North Antrim

Visiting musician, Nikita Pfister, will be with us for a few days at the start of July 2009. He lives in Lausanne, Switzerland where he plays and teaches the Swiss Hackbrett. He also plays Accordion and enjoys playing all sorts of music, including Swiss, Balkan, Irish & Scottish. It's going to be wonderful, to have the sound of a Hackbrett ringing around the Causeway Coast Sessions. You can learn more about Nikita's music by visiting his website.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I play the Dulcimer every week, in the Bushmills Inn, Co Antrim.

Dulcimer being Hammered in the Bushmills Inn

If anyone would like to see & hear a Hammered Dulcimer being played in County Antrim today, then you should visit the Bushmills Inn any Saturday night, where you will hear me play my Hammered Dulcimer along with our group Scad the Beggars at our weekly Session. 

The Causeway Dulcimer Festival

In front of Glenarm Castle at the Festival Launch.

In 2005, in an effort to raise the profile of the Co Antrim Dulcimer even higher & perhaps even kick start a revival, I organised the first ever Dulcimer Festival in Co Antrim, the 'Causeway Dulcimer Festival'.

This event took place in & around Bushmills over a weekend, with various warm up events taking place during the week before, plus classes, sessions, talks & concerts during the weekend itself.

Dulcimer players came from America, Scotland, England & mainland Europe too, to help celebrate the life of John Rea & the history of the Dulcimer in Co Antrim.

In 2006, funding was not to be had so a few enthusiast gathered & enjoyed a number of Dulcimer sessions over a weekend.

The Black Nun Fest, Ballycastle, Co Antrim

An old photo of John Rea in typical stooped playing pose.

In 2004, for my Black Nun Fest in Ballycastle, I was very fortunate to be able to ask an American Hammered Dulcimer player, Rick Davis from North Carolina, to help keep the Dulcimer flame burning in Antrim.

The Glenarm Castle Kitchen Concert

John Rea's Solo LP

In 2003, in memory of John Rea and also in an attempt to raise the profile of the County Antrim Dulcimer, I organised a concert in Glenarm Castle, the Glenarm Castle Kitchen Concert, which was attended by three County Antrim Hammered Dulcimers players, Nat Magee, William Rea & Barry Carroll, plus myself, now a Glens resident.

Barry Carroll

Barry Carroll 

Today, the best player in Ireland is still a County Antrim man, one Barry Carroll. Barry has also recorded a CD with Hammered Dulcimer & Uilleann Pipes. More recently was a guest musician on Sharon Shannon’s last CD.

Derek Bell of The Chieftains

Derek Bell

Another well known County Antrim Hammered Dulcimer player was Derek Bell of the Chieftains.

Although he called his Dulcimer a Timpan, it was simply a Hammered Dulcimer. He regularly used his Dulcimer both for recording & performing with the Chieftains.

John Rea of Glenarm

John Rea of Glenarm

The most famous Co. Antrim Hammered Dulcimer player of them all was John Rea of Glenarm. He started out on the Dulcimer at the age of eight, and says his brothers all got fiddles but he was too small, so he got the dulcimer! John worked on the tug-boat in Belfast Lough and lived on board a lot of the time, which I suppose gave him plenty of time to practice. Today people play the dulcimer with little wooden hammers but John Rea used hammers made of thick steel wire, wound with wool, which were his own idea.

John, in his day, was very famous. He performed on the TV, played with ‘The Chieftains’ and recorded two LPs.

In Scotland the players used to play a lot of old song airs, and of songs which were popular between the wars, but John Rea tended to play the old traditional tunes he learned from his dad’s fiddle playing. So Reels, Jigs, Marches and Strathspeys were more his cup of tea and a fine healthy mix of Scottish and Irish tunes he played too. 
John Rea, before he died, used to regularly play duets with his brother William Rea, and thankfully Willie is still going strong, as is Nat Magee, so the glens still ring to the sound of these two men playing their Hammered Dulcimers.

Blogger Mark Thompson had an interesting piece on John Rea recently.

David Kettlewell's History of the Dulcimer in Antrim

William Rea's Co. Antrim Hammered Dulcimer

Much of the information for this piece was gleaned from the pages of
David Kettlewell's wonderful Dulcimer website.
I did contact David by E-mail, & asked for his permission to use the information below, and he kindly agreed, saying so, because it was for a good cause. 

Although this instrument is relatively unknown now in Co. Antrim, some say it has actually been on these shores, in one form or another since, at least, the 18th Century.

In England it was very popular during the late 16th century and it seems likely that the hammered dulcimer was also being played in Scotland in the C16th, for there is mention of it in a Scottish poem of 1543, calling it a ‘dulsacordis’! It then probably travelled to County Antrim with the Scots, at least 4 or 5 generations ago.

The first player to be mentioned here was a Harry Coudy, who was a well known player in the 20’s. Then there was a John Johnson who only died in 1974. “He made four dulcimers, while Alec Magee of Larne made about a dozen instruments, many of them for young people, who apparently gave up when they found it too difficult; he was a joiner, took the measurements for his instruments from that of John Rea, and used autoharp pins from a music shop.”

Other more recent players included "James & Andrew Davidson of Buckna, Miss Katie Johnson of Owencloughy, William McMullan of Ballyclare, Thomas Taylor of Mullaghmore, Robert Gilbert of Kilwaughter plus others from around Ballyclare including Nat Magee ( Alec's son ), Mrs. Craig, Mrs. Doris Apsey, Jackie Apsey, Mrs. Woodside, William Mundel and Alec Rea of Ballymena."

Here is the link to David's site. 
Go to the section there on 'Northern Ireland'.