Saturday, August 28, 2010

Isaac Isaacs ~ 1st Hammered Dulcimer player in Ireland!

This may well be the first written record of a Hammered Dulcimer being played in Ireland!

A German Dulcimer player in Eighteenth Century Dublin

“Among the musicians to enjoy her patronage was a fashionable performer on the Hammered Dulcimer, a musical instrument rare in Ireland at any time. He was Isaac Isaacs, a German born Jew, who was first heard of in Dublin performing at Smock Alley Theatre during the 1767-68 theatrical season and billed as recently arrived from Dublin.”

Read more of how he received patronage of 50 Guineas a year for two years, from a Mrs Leeson. She used to take him along to play at parties & even on walks when she would ..

“have my groom, with the Dulcimer tied on his back, Isaacs playing on it, and another man on the violin, to play through all the walks”

Isaacs obituary appeared in the Dublin Evening Post, 5 May 1791:

“Deaths …. In Winetavern Street, after a few hours indisposition, Isaac Isaacs, a German Jew, well known to the pleasurable circles as one of the first Dulcimer performers in Europe.”

So it looks like the Hammered Dulcimer was being played in Ireland almost one hundred years before instruments like the Accordion, Concertina & Tenor Banjowere even invented & certainly long before instruments like Guitars & Bodhransbecame popular!

So why did the Dulcimer not become more popular or ever really become accepted as part of the Tradition, in most areas of Ireland? Were musicians just too lazy to tune all those strings, or was it because the instrument simply was not available?

We know that when the Concertina & Accordion arrived in Ireland, they were being mass produced & many were also cheap, so if only an Irish Luthier had taken a shine to the Dulcimer & started making them, who knows, we might have seen it become as ubiquitous as the humble Bodhran by now!

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