A memoir by Robin Russell Gaiser
Digital, Print and Audio available now!!!
The bowed psaltery creates a high, haunting sound. I was surprised that one of my Hospice patients requested I play it for him over a long afternoon session. Often the psaltery's timbre is too neurologically stimulating for very ill or anxious patients. It can be too much for well persons!
How did today's audio clip of my bowed psaltery affect you?
Did you or your kids get these plastic recorders for school music class? I can recall hearing the entire assembly of children, including our kids, tooting away playing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on their recorders. They were thrilled.
If you look carefully, you will see our youngest child's name written on the side of this instrument, which has been lying in one of my instrument collection drawers since he was in fifth grade, a mere 26 years ago. I played a little of Dvorak's "New World Symphony, Largo" on his recorder during this audio take.
Do your kids. grandkids, even you own one of these school recorders?
Maybe you have heard or seen one of these. My late Aunt Nan sent me this Door Harp when we moved into our last house in Northern Virginia. Notice she had Dogwood blossoms painted on it--the State Flower of Virginia. Since our new home is in North Carolina I was delighted to learn that NC shares that state flower with VA.
I tune this instrument to a chord using my regular goose neck tuner. Great way to welcome guests with music!
Do you own a Door Harp? If not, have you seen one?
Pardon the out-of-tune strings but this Harp Zither or Guitar Zither, as it was coined in Germany, is well over one hundred years old and I was very careful not to push tuning since these are original strings you are hearing me play.
Sears began making this instrument in 1902, calling it a Zither #2. My great-grandmother Nora Thayer Duncan ordered one from the Sears catalogue and played it for her family as an accompaniment for hymn singing, usually on Sunday evenings.
My Grandma Char, her youngest daughter, granted my wish to inherit this treasure, recalling her mother playing it.
On her hundredth birthday ....... I surprised her by playing several of those old hymns on the Zither. There weren't too many dry eyes after that special music.
Do you see the shape of another more common instrument in the Zither? Ideas?
Starting July 6th, I am bringing you recorded music along with a photo and a story every other week about some really interesting instruments I have in my collection. I use certain of them for therapeutic music and will explain why they are effective.
For starters, I'll begin with my family's 115 year old Zither #2, as it is labeled. However, that is really NOT its name according to research I uncovered. Learn more. And of course, listen, too.
The music I gave him that day was the last sound he heard on this earth.
So how do I do it? I carry these patients, like Doug the lumberjack, in my heart, write stories about them and share the sorrow as well as the joy with you. The saying goes: sorrow shared, is sorrow divided; joy shared, is joy multiplied.
Share your stories!
I softly played harmonica over him, remembering the shy lumberjack who allowed me into his very private life.
I consider this a small miracle. Who knew that a harmonica could be an entre into a shy, withdrawn dying man's life. Have you had an experience where something drew you and another person together unexpectedly? Will you share?
I began playing the intro to "Amazing Grace" on my guitar then sang all five verses.
Do you have any songs that make you tear up, swallow hard? What might have made Doug become emotionally connected during this session?
The next week I brought my guitar and ventured into singing some country music for Doug. He remained relaxed, focused on the woods outside his window.
What do you think Doug is referring to?
The following week I knocked softly on Doug's door hoping this time I wouldn't frighten him.
I stayed "safe" during this session. How and why?
"When you comin' back?" Doug asked me.
Are you surprised at Doug's response? I was. Why?
I played several more camp tunes for Doug: "Golden Slippers," "I've Been Working' on the Railroad," "Oh, Susannah," and the like.
Help me out with some more "campy tunes" to add to my harmonica repertoire? What might you enjoy hearing?
When I saw the stately but haunting totems at Brockton Park in Vancouver, BC, I knew what I needed to do. Listen as you study these beautifully restored First Nations artifacts.