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A Hammer Dulcimer Treat For Probus ’83 Club

Published on: 13 May, 2019
Updated on: 13 May, 2019

Report by Ian Mackrell

The annual ladies and guest lunch of Guildford’s Probus ’83 Club featured a real and rare treat – a talk about, and a musical interlude on, the hammer dulcimer.

The speaker and performer was Julie Beaven, a classically trained pianist who fell in love with the dulcimer family.

Julie Beavan showing her hammer dulcimer to the Probus ’83 Club audience.

She is now a multi-instrument professional musician, giving performances all over southern England, as well as playing with orchestras and mentoring rising musical stars of the future with, for example, the National Youth Harp Orchestra of Great Britain – yes, she’s a harpist too!

A few attendees at the lunch will have recalled the line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan “a damsel with a dulcimer”. None would have known what a dulcimer is, let alone seen one and heard it played.

It’s the predecessor no less of the piano and its origins go back to 11th century Persia, explained Julie to a captivated audience.

The dulcimer family is large and varied. Julie played on her 46-string hammer dulcimer, but other dulcimers she has in her 24-instrument collection, have more than 130 strings.

The pairs of “spoons” with which the dulcimer is played.

Names such as the Appalachain dulcimer, the courting dulcimer and the bowed dulcimer, all concur up something unusual and exotic. And that’s what a dulcimer is – no wonder Julie got hooked, and now shares her enthusiasm with an ever growing audience.

The typical music played includes folk and American old time tune. However, as Julie explained, every style of music can be played, mainly by using a different “spoons.” They are a pair of shaped, and very expensive, sticks, that are used to play the dulcimer. They are made of different materials, come in many sizes, and some have a special covering.

These differences, as Julie explained, and demonstrated, produce entirely different tones and textures to the music.

The dulcimer is not only most unusual – it is also very beautiful, coming in so many different shapes and sizes, and made of many different woods.

There’s even an organisation called The Nonsuch Dulcimer Club.

Guildford Probus ’83 is a monthly lunch club for retired, semi-retired and soon to be retired men from many walks of professional, business and executive life. Click here for more details on its website.

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