Dulcimer Days: Upcoming festival highlights the beauty of traditional fold instrument

About 50 years ago, CarolLynn Langley saw a woman on television playing the mountain dulcimer. Langley was captivated by the instrument's sound and vowed to own one herself someday.

That day didn't come for many years, as Langley was busy raising a family, working on her farm and volunteering with 4-H. But finally, in the mid-1990s, Langley went to a dulcimer festival in Binghamton and bought her very own dulcimer.

Today, Langley, of Averill Park, is the president of the Dulcimer Association of Albany. On Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8, the group will host its 20th annual festival at Calvary United Methodist Church in Latham, where Langley looks forward to sharing the magic of the mountain dulcimer with others.

I just can't say enough about the instrument, she said. "It can sound like it's bubbling over with laughter, or it can move you to tears."

The mountain dulcimer is a traditional American folk instrument. Langley credits Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky woman she saw playing on television all those years ago, with "taking the dulcimer out of the hills and introducing it to the rest of the country."

Similar in size and shape to a violin, dulcimers typically have three or four strings. People lay the instrument across their laps and finger pick the strings with their right hands.

"It can be played very easily in its most basic form," Langley said.

"It's deceptively simple," agreed Lori Keddell, another member of the Dulcimer Association of Albany.

Those who have never played a dulcimer can find out for themselves how easy it is at one of festival's workshops for beginners. Participants will learn how to hold and strum the dulcimer, as well as play a tune by ear.

Langley noted that people don't have to worry about bringing their own instrument. Dulcimers will be available to rent for the duration of the festival.

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