MORRIS – Mother and daughter Frances and Gae Schabacker of Rochelle were among the first to claim their seats at the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival on Saturday morning.
The temperature remained pleasant at 9 a.m., with a breeze moving through the tent of the main stage, but the Schabackers were prepared for the temperatures to rise to the mid-90s, as predicted for the afternoon.
“I’m a little worried about the heat,” Gae said. “We have battery-operated fans and an ice cooler in the car.”
The two have attended the Morris festival for the past five years, spending Saturday night in a local motel and attending both Saturdays and Sundays to hear all of the performers. They love all of the musicians, but two in particular.
“We like the variety,” Gae said. “There are a couple of performers we really enjoy – Max ZT (with House of Waters) and Ted Yoder.”
Max ZT, or Max Zbiral-Teller, is an international hammered dulcimer performer with what is described as a high-energy, unorthodox style. He and two other well-known musicians, Moto Fukushima and Ignacio Rivas Bixio, make up House of Waters and are always a big draw at the dulcimer fest. This year, the band closed Saturday’s stage and also played a set Sunday.
Donna Tufano, president of HANDS of Illinois, the nonprofit organization that sponsors the festival, said Max ZT is well-known in Morris.
“Max has been coming since he was a kid,” Tufano said. “He is really a phenomenal player. I would love some high school percussionists to come see him.”
Musician Diane Ippel, a former Morris resident now living in California, returned to town to play a set at the festival Sunday morning. Ippel was the founder of the dulcimer fest and always returns to give the event its backbone, as well as to perform and lead workshops.
Ippel said the festival was always held at Gebhard Woods until the flood knocked out the I&M Canal at the park. Last weekend, it was held at Goold Park, which Ippel said was not quite as large or scenic as the former location, but still a very nice venue.
“It’s a little bit smaller,” she said. “There’s a little more bleed between the stage and the workshops, but this is a beautiful park. It has a lot of trees and ample shade, and even with the construction for the stage going on, there is still plenty of room.”
Ippel said one of the things that kept the festival strong over the years is the closeness among those involved. Be it veteran performers, multiyear volunteers or new musicians just learning an instrument, the atmosphere always has been like that of a big family, Ippel said.
Jeanne Sikora of Belleville came to the event as a participant. She said she acquired lap and mountain dulcimers several years ago but never mastered them. This past year, she rediscovered her love of instruments and the genre.
“I want to share music,” she said.
“I want to fulfill that void and
that dream. I’m focusing on the hammered dulcimer.”
Sikora was planning on participating in some of the many workshops offered at the festival.
The workshops at Saturday and Sunday’s event included Beginner Guitar and Ukulele, Bowed Psaltery for Beginners, Sing with your Strings, Interpreting Banish Misfortune on Hammered Dulcimer, Groove Improvisation and Barn Dance Basics.
Performers on the stage included James Bond-Harris, Cynthia Shelhart, The Lindseys, Bill Robinson and Friends, Mike Anderson, Sharon McInnis Broyles, February Sky, Butch Ross and Sarah Morgan.