Tuesday, April 10, 2012

H: Hammered Dulcimer

As I was going down...Grafton Street...

Not the title of the book by Oliver St. John Gogerty (he was going down Sackville Street, now O'Connell Street).

There's a song that goes "Grafton Street's a wonderland..." and so it is. A shopping street reserved for pedestrians in Dublin, Ireland and a street I've wandered down - and up - many a time. It's a favorite of buskers.

I've seen and heard several string quartets, in full recital dress, bagpipes and bagpipers, of the Scottish variety, a college student who would compose poetry on the spot, for a consideration, and, one day, I stopped by a young man as he sat in the sunshine playing an instrument I'd never seen, nor heard before.

I had to ask, curiosity getting the better of this particular cat. T'was, I was informed, a hammered dulcimer. The young man hailed from somewhere South in the US (it was a long time ago and my memory's not what it was once). I listened, and was enchanted.

While researching I've discovered that the hammered dulcimer is to be found across the world. Even so, it has remained for me, because of that fortuitous encounter in Dublin on a sunny morning, an American instrument.

So I was very pleased to run across a CD that contains music of Turlough O'Carolan (a blind, harpist and composer of the late 17th and early 18th century) transcribed for the hammered dulcimer. The performer is Joemy Wilson, who hails from New Haven, Connecticut.

The music moves very smoothly from the harp to the dulcimer.

Grafton runs from St. Stephen's Green down to Trinity College. At the end of the street there's a bronze statue, one of several works scattered about the city.

This one depicts Molly Malone. She's also known to Dubliners as "The Tart with the Cart." But, that's Dublin for you.


  1. I think it's probably the oddest instrument I've ever seen. Sort of like playing drums on strings. The music is beautiful.
    You have to admit, Molly is dressed like a tart. ;)

    1. I was most intrigued by the instrument - and your description of it is perfect.

      True, Molly is poorly dressed for Irish weather :D

  2. I googled it, it's sorta like a harp that's flat. Interesting. I saw someone in town today playing an instrument I hadn't seen before, it looked a lot like a BBQ kettle that he was patting with his hands.

    1. Indeed it is, Helen. It has some family connections with the piano also, given it's played by striking strings with a hammer, as opposed to being plucked like a harpsichord.

      The instrument you saw sounds even stranger.