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Thirty-Fifth Sterling Zither Seminar

Zither players from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey convened once again for the 35th Sterling Zither Seminar. Jane Curtis, whose report follows, served as host for the event and led the zither enthusiasts through a well-structured seminar program, which spanned two days. The seminar was held at the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, VA.


Zither players from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia gathered once again on the weekend of 9-10 April 2010 for our thirty-fifth seminar. The pieces were chosen to show some of the many different rhythms and types that can be created using the same time signature – in this case three-quarter time.

Opening the workday on Saturday was the Maitanz Walzer, a traditional dance from the Rupertigau, adapted for three zithers by Jane Curtis. This is a true swinging waltz, embellished with some Ländler-like flourishes. It is not really difficult, but it does require precision and strong rhythm. Also in the realm of Alpine music is the Oberlandler Figurentanz, our next in line. Despite the 3/4 time signature, it could not be mistaken for a waltz. On the contrary, it has a lopsided camel-gait rhythm: strong accent on the first and third beats, always driving the motion forward into the next measure.

Our only solo was Georg Freundorfer’s dreamy idyll Bergfrühling (Spring in the Mountains), a beautiful piece but difficult to play well. The 3/4 tempo here is very open and free, rubato, not meant for dancing. The lively insert that picks up and swirls like a Viennese waltz for a few measures, is only a quick interlude before returning to the dreamy mood. We worked especially with fingering and basic familiarization, preparing the way for concentrated individual work by players wishing to spend more time with it.

The most unusual 3/4 piece of the day was Scott Joplin’s Pleasant Moments, described by him as a ragtime waltz, arranged for two zithers by Jane Curtis. It never varies from the 3/4 beat, but syncopation in one or both hands gives it the unmistakable feel of ragtime and of the easygoing nostalgia so often present in Joplin’s works. He specifically warned against playing his music too fast, so speed is not a problem here, but its unusual timing and the lack of a patterned right-hand accompaniment make it more difficult than the basic simplicity of its playing requirements would indicate.

Last but not least on the program was the Zwiefacher Unser alte Kat, in a four-zither setting adapted from Harold Oberlechner’s Zwiefacher. This is the easiest of the selections, but Zithers 3 and 4 get a good workout handling ledger lines; Zither 4 needs to become familiar with the contrabasses; and all four players have a good time putting it all together.

We look forward to our next seminar the second weekend of April 2010. For further information: contact Jane Curtis, at zitherlady@yahoo.com.


Friday 9 April 2010
1430 - 1730 Open Playing. Go out for supper

Saturday 10 April 2010
0900 - 0940 Maitanz Walzer
0940 - 1020 Oberlandler Figuretanz
1020 - 1100 Bergfrühling
1100-1120 Break
1120 - 1200 Pleasant Moments
1200 - 1240 Zwiefacher: Unser alte Kat
1240 - 1340 Lunch
1340 - 1720 Repeat


Standing, left to right: Tony Walter, Karl Skowronek, Jim Vorosmarti,
Kurt Maute, Richard Skowronek, Dave Kyger, Don Tsusaki.
Seated: John Snyder, Jane Curtis, Marie Skowronek.





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