Zither players from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey convened for the 29th Sterling Zither Seminar. The seminar was hosted and conducted by Jane Curtis 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.

Our twenty-ninth, held on 13-14 April 2007, was one of the best yet. We met as usual at Greenspring in Springfield, Virginia, as documented by the accompanying photo.

Participants were Dave Kyger, Tony Walter, Kurt Maute, Elisabeth Lloyd, Jane Curtis, Jim Vorosmarti, Steve Dippel, Maria Skowronek, Karl Skowronek, and Tom Groeber. The inset shows Jo Schrimpe, who took the picture. The figure at the zither is the Greenspring mascot, Gertie Sue Valentine. Ed Spells dropped in for a short visit to see what awaits him when he begins zither lessons later in April. The number of descant zithers present, eleven, was increased to thirteen by one quint zither and one alto zither.

Aside from warming up with the Canon based on Willi Schäffler’s exercises for playing baroque music, we did only four pieces, fewer than usual but somewhat more difficult, making it possible to focus more deeply on each one. The Walliser Tänze provided three different rhythms and dance types: an easy little waltz, a short step dance with drone accompaniment, and a delicate but tricky schottisch. We omitted the bass zither from this five-part setting by Emil Holz but included the quint and alto zither voices, played by Jane Curtis and Tom Groeber. Part of the fun here was to remember our signals for making a smooth transition from 3/4 tempo to 4/4 tempo. Reviving Yellow Bird in our traditional solo arrangement involved some intense work on the three different syncopated bass patterns and fitting them smoothly with the three melody motifs.

The hardest music of the day was a duet setting of an eighteenth-century American song dedicated to George Washington in 1788: Beneath a Weeping Willow’s Shade (Francis Hopkinson, zither arrangement by Jane Curtis). The difficulties for both voices lie primarily in the very active and independent right hand, the unusual chord and interval sequences, the special coordination problems between right and left hands, and the need to keep the music relaxed and free-flowing while coping with everything else. The fourth piece, arranged as a trio, was a bouncing old schottisch from the 1870s or earlier: Schöffau, with its wonderful subtitle “Napoleon: reiss aus!” (Napoleon: beat it!). By the end of the day we had ironed out most of the tough spots and gotten used to the pattern of transitions from section to section and from section to coda.

A good time was had by all, and far from being daunted by the difficulties and the labor of overcoming them, we are considering more-frequent seminars. Stay tuned for developments, and make a note of our fall seminar scheduled for early November 2007.


Friday 13 April
1400-1730 Open playing. Go out for supper

Saturday 14 April
0900 - 0930 Canon (Willi Schäffler)
0930 - 1015 Walliser Tänze
1015 - 1100 Yellow Bird
1100 - 1130 Break
1130 - 1215 Beneath a Weeping Willow’s Shade
1215 - 1300 Schöffau: Napoleon, reiss aus!
1300 - 1400 Lunch
1400 - 1730 Repeat

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