For lo, near a score of years, has it been my honor and joy to play for the pleasure of the Queen and her court at the Ohio Renaissance Festival, in the merry village of Willy Nilly on the Wash, not a far trip from London. This fair, which one may find near the town of Waynesville, a good two days’ travel by horseback south of the town of Columbus, Ohio in the New World, is held for an eight week’s span centered, near enough, upon the autumn equinox. Visitors to our fair may there experience the thrill of the knight’s battle on the jousting field, sample the wares of many fine merchants, be entertained by numerous and diverse thespians and jesters, as well as hear the very finest mountain dulcimer music of 1572.
Numerous of the visitors to our faire have asked from whence comes the dulcimer. Some few of them, seemingly doubting the very evidence of their eyes, have boldly said to me that the mountain dulcimer is not used in present day (1572) England! How some people will doubt even what can be heard and seen! The fact of the matter, however, doth soothly be that it is a very rare instrument here in England these days, perhaps even unique. During my travels on the continent I did see and hear in the Vosge mountains of France, a fair and lovely instrument that the mountain folk there call the, “Epinette des Vosges.” I did immediately become entranced with this instrument and upon my return to to my home here in England I did have a fine luthier by the name of “Sir Rockwell” build for me an instrument to my specifications, allowing for the best my poor memory could do. I’ll mark that ’tis not a true and exact replica, but ’tis near enough, and has a fine tone for all it’s not a very epinette. I have found it to be an excellent and jolly instrument for composing, arranging, and improvising none the less. I have called it a “Mountain Dulcimer” as a reminder of the majestic Vosge mountains, and from the Latin and Greek, meaning “sweet sound.”
I also play a more common instrument, the plucked psaltery. The one I play, however, is one of my own design and construction, thus you may find it not familiar to your eyes. Thou mayst see a picture of it to thy left. To increase the number of tones available I did fashion for it a bridge dividing all the strings into two parts, and placed just so, so that there is an interval of a perfect fifth on the same string from one side of the bridge to the other. In this manner, on an instrument of but 12 strings, I have 20 tones available from A to B two octaves up. This instrument shall be featured on several tracks of my recording, Shaker’s Fancy, which will be available in just 424 years, in May of 1998.
The Ohio Renaissance Festival will be held beginning the first week of September through the middle of October, during weekends of that time. I know not if fortune shall again smile upon me, and I shall again walk the grounds of the Fair, playing my music for the pleasure of the Queen, her court, and the guests to our village. That is, in sooth, my wish. Fortune willing, perhaps we will meet one day upon the grounds of Willy Nilly on the Wash. Make thyself known to me and I’ll gladly play thee a tune.
Thou shalt find diverse links to Renaissance Festival related websites here.