Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Instrument of Note

The largest stringed instrument I ever saw belonged to a church in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The church was small and could not afford to haul an organ from the lowlands up the mountain roads, so instead the members commissioned a local woodcarver to make them an extra-large dulcimer. It was about as big as a regular church organ, with over four dozen strings , and it took half the church choir to play.

Now it’s a little-known fact that the more strings an instrument has, the more weight it will gain over time, due to the accumulation of notes that get caught in the strings. This dulcimer was too heavy to shake out on a regular basis, and after a year it became so crammed full of notes that even the male choir members could barely play it.

I was in the town at this point, and the choir director asked me if my Wondrous Wizard Water© could strengthen weak finger muscles so the men could play the church dulcimer.

“Certainly,” I said, “it helps strengthen anything you care to use it on.”

He bought two cases of Wizard Water© , which I thought was a wise investment. I learned later that he gave most of it to the choir, and what little was left he added to a whitewash that was painted on the church exterior.

A few months later a tornado ripped through that town. It flattened buildings on both sides of the church but -- except for some broken windows -- the church itself was left miraculously (I would say wondrously) intact. The only thing lost was the dulcimer. Church members said they found it in a field six miles away, split into its component parts – a banjo, a mandolin, a fiddle and a washtub bass. They recognized it because some of their sheet music was stuck in the strings. Taking this as a sign, a few members used the parts to form a gospel string band. Nowadays that church’s services are among the liveliest east of the Mississippi, and they get a good crowd at funerals, too.

“A bunch of separate string instruments are a lot easier to play than the single large dulcimer,” the choir director told me. “We don’t get in each other’s way as often.”

“Of course it’s easier, I replied. “You’ve got Wizard Water© to keep your musicians’ fingers strong and limber!”

“And,” I added, “the wind most thoroughly cleaned out those strings.”

copyright ©2010 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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