Zither players from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey convened once again for the 30th Sterling Zither Seminar. Jane Curtis served as host for the event and also led the zither enthusiasts through the seminar program, which spanned two days. The seminar was held at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, VA. This entry includes Jane Curtis's report on the event and the program for the zither pieces played during the seminar.
The thirtieth Sterling Zither Seminar was held the weekend of 2-3 November 2007, completing the fifteenth year of our semiannual seminars. Gathering together at Greenspring in Springfield, Virginia, were Elisabeth Lloyd, Jim Vorosmarti, Steve Dippel, Dave Kyger, Kurt Maute, Tony Walter, Maria Skowronek, Karl Skowronek, John Snyder, Don Tsusaki, Bill Kolb, and Jane Curtis. It was exciting to walk into a room and see twelve zithers on twelve zither tables, awaiting twelve zither players.
We again focused on just five pieces, beginning with the Pastorella in C by Baroque composer Valentin Rathgeber. On the printed page the music for this two-voice arrangement looks very easy, but the alternating voices, the echoing of phrases, and the timing and fingering requirements offer some problems in continuity and smoothness. The Bourrée in D Minor by Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang’s father) carried us into the 18th century. This lovely and animated work, set for two melody instruments and guitar by Gottfried Rieder, was played here in a trio adaptation by Jane Curtis. The independent right-hand in all three voices, the coordinating demands of simultaneously playing staccato in one hand and legato in the other, and the need to carry the dance rhythm are the main tasks we faced in pulling the voices together to produce a more-polished result.
Two contrasting pieces brought us into the 19th century. We played the folk dance Der Maridl ihrer in our own four-voice arrangement. The easy first section is followed by a more difficult second section and Trio, We did some good work on hammer-ons, position playing, and coordinating the four voices, and by the end of the day achieved a spirited play-through. In contrast to its lively and strict tempo, the popular Viennese song Im Prater blühn wieder die Bäume, played as a solo, focused on relaxed interpretation, Viennese style, and the careful fingering necessary for smooth legatos.
Our American music this time was a jolly march from the American Civil War: Jaybird, restored, completed, and set for three zithers by Jane Curtis from an old family notebook. The tune itself, played by Zither 1, is very sprightly, with lots of sixteenth notes, demanding some innovative fingering, firm hammer-ons, and strong accenting. Zither 2 and 3 represent the banjo and tuba respectively and are much easier. Zither 2 plays only staccato chords, which need to be set correctly and firmly, while Zither 3 plays contrabasses only and must strike them cleanly and be very familiar with their position. The effect gives a good impression of what the music originally sounded like, with the lively high melody (originally played on the piccolo) filled out by the bright plunking of the banjo and underlain by the rough low tones accenting the beat.
In general the music this time was perhaps a little harder than last year’s, but in general the players worked a little harder than last year too, and everyone was pleased with the results. Tired as we all were at the end of the day, we declared the day well spent and enjoyed that rousing play-through of Der Maridl ihrer at the end. The local players (nearby Virginia and Maryland) are planning to meet once a month to prepare a program to play for an audience. Another new student has joined our local ranks recently, Tom Leoni of Alexandria, and we look forward to having him at our next seminar on 11-12 April 2008. Make note of the date and join us if you can.