Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
APR
16

The folk hymn 'Behold the Lamb of God' for solo hammered dulcimer

The folk hymn 'Behold the Lamb of God' for solo hammered dulcimer

Back in the late 1980s when I was excitedly collecting melodies from old folk hymn books, especially George Pullen Jackson’s scholarly books and the actual shape-note hymnals such as The Original Sacred Harp and The Southern Harmony (in those the tune is in the tenor, by the way), one of the hymns that really caught my attention was ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ --- and I made a ‘lead sheet’ for it in a singable, playable key. 

But I’ve never made an arrangement of it for hammered dulcimer until now, when I turned the camera on and explored ways of making it sing on the instrument without the words but with the words in mind.

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APR
04

How I arranged 'There Is a Fountain (Cleansing Fountain)'

How I arranged 'There Is a Fountain (Cleansing Fountain)'

It seems as if everyone who knows the old Appalachian folk hymn ‘There Is a Fountain’ loves it, with its Civil War manner of simplicity and sentimentality.  The refrain that repeats the last line of each verse for a lingering contemplative moment is a dear American musical statement.

I certainly join with the throngs who are endeared to this piece.  And all my life I’ve heard it performed, at times as a beautifully quaint folksy instrumental, or as a formal congregational hymn, or a sweeping operatic showpiece, or a Bluegrass gospel number, or a jazz improv, or an Indie acoustic pop song, or a fundamentalist inspirational solo…

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SEP
16

'Wondrous Love' on the hammered dulcimer with drones

Some Appalachian folk hymns have a powerful, stark, droning nature; perhaps the most well-known and effective of these is ‘Wondrous Love’, and it’s included in many modern hymnals with hollow harmonies reminiscent of the old shape-note books.

How does one arrange for this strong Dorian-mode melody when playing it solo on the hammered dulcimer?  I’ve always loved the shifting minor and major chords in some versions of it (see one possible set of modern chording in the lead sheet I’ve included here: Wondrous-Love-in-Edor-F.pdf), and it certainly is compelling when played as a melody only, solo a capella --- but I’ve opted to do only the stark, harmonized sound when I play it solo, and usually I play only one verse, letting the hymn be an introduction to another, contrasting, piece in a medley.

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