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Thirty-Fourth Sterling Zither Seminar

Zither players from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania convened once again for the 34th 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.


What do Bavarian folk music, a stately Praetorius dance, Rudi Knabl, old Austrian dances, and Jingle Bells have in common? We found out at the thirty-fourth Sterling Zither Seminar in Springfield the weekend of 6-7 November 2009. From Maryland we had Jim Vorosmarti, Don Tsusaki, Marie Skowronek, and Steve Dippel; from Pennsylvania Kurt Maute and Tom Groeber; from Virginia Dave Kyger, Karl Skowronek, and Jane Curtis. Elisabeth Lloyd also made it for the playday on Friday afternoon.

We led off on Saturday morning with Praetorius’s Spanish dance L’Espagnolette, as arranged for three zithers by Gernot Sauter. For all its dignified 6/8 tempo and uncluttered setting, it requires careful attention to timing, to the little counterphrases in the accompaniment, and to bringing out the hidden syncopation that makes it move.

This almost classical music contrasts with our two folk pieces. Dr luschtig Achzgar arranged in three voices, sounds much like some of the early English sailors’ tunes: 3/4 timing with strong accent on the first beat, an open rollicking melody, and a cheerful air. Its sudden change to E minor in the second section requires alertness, and the flowing eighth note patterns in the third section require surety of tempo and fingering. The Alte Steirische Tänze, on the other hand, are gentle and measured, bringing to the mind’s eye some of the dances they accompany. They are not difficult to play, but they must maintain the lilting motion within the slow tempo.

Jingle Bells, in my arrangement for two zithers, has built-in motion through its lively tune and the further enhancements from Zither Two. This tune, with its jolly words, has been an American favorite for a hundred and fifty years, and it ranks among the all-time best sleighride and Christmas songs.

The last of our seminar selections was Rudi Knabl’s Der lustige Postillion, a snappy duet requiring lots of spirit. That means knowing the notes and fingering so well that they can be dashed off confidently at a good clip. We didn’t quite reach Rudi Knabl’s level of dashing off, but we did put in some good work on the tough spots that slowed our pace, and we managed at least a trot if not yet a gallop.

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


Friday 3 April

1430 - 1730 Open Playing. Go out for supper


Saturday 4 April

0900 - 0940 Alte Steirische Tänze

0940 - 1020 Dr luschtig Achzgar

1020 - 1100 Der lustige Postillion

1100-1120 Break

1120 - 1200 Jingle Bells

1200 - 1240 L’Espagnolette

1240 - 1340 Lunch

1340 - 1720 Repeat

From left to right: Dave Kyger, Steve Dippel, Marie Skowronek, Karl Skowronek,
Jane Curtis, Jim Vorosmarti, Kurt Maute, Don Tsusaki, Tom Groeber.




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