Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming' for hammered dulcimer

 Here is a fairly simple arrangement of the great Christmas carol ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ ('Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen') that I’ve played on hammered dulcimer (and sometimes bowed psaltery --- it's in the key of C, so it's all on one side of the psaltery!) for a quarter of a century and recorded on my album Incarnation.  If you’re a hammered dulcimer player, perhaps this can be something you develop for your own playing during this wonderful season!

When I made the video today, I decided to use the bright-toned wooden side of my hammers, and it sounded pretty nice --- but then when I recorded it again with the suede sides, it more fluently spoke the language I was looking for.  So what you hear here is the suede, piano-like sound.

Michael Praetorius’s famous arrangement has an exquisite harmonic structure that choirs often revel in --- but to be able to do that counterpoint justice on a hammered dulcimer would require at least a duet, so I decided long ago to make this a spare interpretation that echoes some of those voice movements of Praetorius’s work.  I leave plenty of room for the dulcimer’s ringing tones to contemplate the profundity of the carol, yet never let it lose its overall progress through time.

In the video you’ll notice a range of movement in my body language.  Sometimes I bring the hammers down parallel to the strings rather than swing them from my fingers, and sometimes I use a dramatic ‘follow-through’ motion in which my hands fling themselves upward after striking the strings.  These are intuitive actions that I feel will make the strings and wood vibrate in a way that expresses that moment in the progress of the piece.  Every moment counts!  (Yet every player's body language differs, and some people get just as much coloring from much less demonstrative action.)

And there is a large range of volume as well --- some notes very loud, some very quiet; and I try to carefully craft the relative volume of the melody and harmony at every point.

This particular arrangement is in two octaves of the same key, C major, and I’ve committed it to print, so you can view that here in .pdf form if you’d like to explore this approach: a-Lo-How-a-Rose-Eer-Blooming.pdf

In the video's text area, please note that I've included source information and an English translation of all five verses.

May you have a blessed Christmas season!

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