The sound of musical strings filled Red Ridge United Methodist Church on Friday. Instead of musicians playing harps, guitars or pianos, the sounds were made by a rectangular instrument called the dulcimer.
The Lake Martin Dulcimer Club held a workshop in Dadeville with performers Larry and Elaine Conger on Friday. The Congers, of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, taught beginner and intermediate classes then put on a performance.
“Even if you don’t have any musical kind of background, dulcimer is an instrument you can play without having any prior musical experience at all,” Red Ridge UMC pastor Vicki Cater said. “Most of us, our experience is turning on the radio or CD or streaming it from Pandora.”
The dulcimer has a long rectangle shape with three to five strings and can be played with a pick. It is lightweight and was created in Appalachia, according to Chuck Stanfield, who was at the workshop for his wife.
The dulcimer is easy to carry and was used by traveling preachers and pioneers to continue to play music after coming to America instead of lugging around pianos or organs. Created by Scottish and Irish settlers, dulcimer’s sound is similar to a bagpipe with drone sounds, according to Stanfield.
Every dulcimer has a different sound because they are slightly different variations. Stanfield said dulcimers are still widely played with Methodist churches.
“You can’t put an organ on the back of a horse, but a dulcimer fits very nicely on the back of a horse,” Stanfield said. “The (Lake Martin Dulcimer Club) players are simply generous, charitable group of people and they like to do things for other people.”
Cater participated at the workshop last year and played in Friday’s beginners lesson again as a refresher.
“You can play at your pace; you can play the notes; you can play the chords; or you can just strum,” Cater said. “It’s very versatile depending on your skill level so you can find your middle ground as you learn.”
Cater said Elaine Conger was patient with the students. Cater liked playing because the notes were simple and looked more like numbers for the dulcimers.
“You can play a multitude of chords which is just two notes,” Cater said. “So it’s fun and you get to meet lots of different people from a lot of different places.”
Lake Martin Dulcimer Club member Jackie Wilbourn said the group began the workshops after receiving a lot of interest from the community. Wilbourn began playing a few years ago and has continued with the hobby because it gives her a sense of relaxation.
The club practices at the Tallapoosee Historical Museum in Dadeville every Friday. The group has also had performances at Dadeville Healthcare Center and The Veranda nursing homes, Pennington Park and multiple churches including Great Bethel Baptist Church and Red Ridge UMC.
“(Nursing home residents) never get out,” Wilbourn said. “They enjoy it and they sing along. We try to play music they can sing along to particularly hymns.”
The group started with four members two years ago and now has 20 members including nurses, teachers, dentists, accountants and more.
About 25 people attended the event includeding club members and people from Montgomery, according to Wilbourn.
Wilbourn said anyone interested in playing can attend the club’s practice every Friday or go to beginner’s class at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the history museum.