Dulcimer festival in Pilot Mountain through weekend

First Posted: 4/1/2009

PILOT MOUNTAIN It will be all about bowed dulcimers and music for three days in Pilot Mountain when the fifth annual Pilot Mountain Bowed Dulcimer Festival kicks off Friday night.
The three-day event will start with a performance Friday at 8 p.m. at the Quality Inn, followed by an all-day class from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Charles H. Stone Memorial Library. The final event will be a concert featuring musician Ken Bloom and friends at the First Baptist Church in Pilot Mountain at 316 W. Main St. The doors open at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10.
If there are people interested in seeing what a bowed dulcimer sounds like and does, there are many opportunities this weekend to check it out, said Bloom, whos been playing for three decades and has toured internationally. We will be jamming in the front room off the lobby of the local hotel here, on both Thursday and Friday nights. Many people are coming in a day early for the festival. The classes on Saturday will be held in the downstairs room in the library, here in Pilot, and people are welcome to come and observe if they would like as long as they dont disrupt the class.
On Saturday evening, Ill be doing the concert at the First Baptist Church across from the library. This is probably the best place to hear the instrument to the best advantage, and I hope that many people will come to the concert, he added.
Bloom said the bowed dulcimer, a fretted string instrument, has a long tradition, stretching back to the 15th century in Europe, but has not been well known because of how the dulcimer revival developed.
It began with Jean Ritchie playing for college kids in New York in the early 50s. She knew people who bowed the dulcimer, but thats not how it was played in her family. She strummed it and for about 50 years, this is how the dulcimer has been viewed, he said. I have spent the last 10 years redesigning the instrument internally to come up with a bowed instrument that has a tone that modern ears can enjoy. The number of people playing the bowed dulcimer has been expanding, and I am happy to say that each year we have more people attending the festival from farther and farther away. I hope that more local folks can come and enjoy this wonderful way to make music.
Bloom revitalized the European instrument and builds Bowed Dulcimer Pardessus, whose sound and look resemble a mini-cello. Hes one of the few making these authentic instruments.
I got involved in playing the bowed dulcimer from starting to build them back in the late 90s. I have been playing music since I was 10-years-old and performing professionally since I was about 16. I tried for decades to play the fiddle and failed miserably. Because of the more relaxed positions and the frets, I find playing the bowed dulcimer much friendlier, he said.
Bloom started the festival as an event to educate people about the instrument and teach them how to play.
The festival was started by me after I had been teaching classes at (Western Carolina University) once a year. I saw there was a need for at least one other event to teach this instrument so, with the help of Ben and Cammie Collier, we started the festival, he said. I have been building instruments for about 30 years now. My father taught me woodworking at a very early age and in my family, the thought was that if you wanted something, you went ahead and made it.
Along with his international travels, Bloom has recently played the concert zither, another stringed instrument, with the North Carolina Symphony. He performed on the theme of the TV show The Mod Squad, and he performs other instruments from the clarinet and bagpipes to the zither, and bazuki, mandolin and guitar.
For information about the festival, Ken Bloom or the bowed dulcimer visit www.boweddulcimer.com.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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