MORRIS – Steve Endlsey has a method for choosing the wood he uses before beginning a project. It might not be scientific, but it works.
“I pick up the wood, stand it on its end, and thump on it,” Endlsey said.
If it resonates, he uses it.
Endlsey was at the 29th annual
Gebhard Woods Dulcimer and Traditional Music Festival on Saturday at Goold Park.
The festival brings in enthusiasts from mostly northern Illinois, but organizers said that it can draw from seven states sometimes. Cars in the parking lot had license plates from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The two-day festival is put on by the Hammers and Noters Dulcimer Society.
So what is a dulcimer? There are two varieties, and while it may not be as well known as a guitar or drum set, it has a long history and influences many modern instruments.
Dave Lindsey, a dulcimer maker from Oklahoma, said the hammer dulcimer is a precursor to the piano. It’s played using a pair of hammers to strike a series of strings pulled across the dulcimer. By striking different strings at different places it produces different notes.
“It’s kind of like playing piano with two fingers,” he said.
The festival began in 1988 and for the first two-and-a-half decades was held at Gebhard Woods State Park. In 2013, the park flooded, washed out the aqueduct and drained the ponds in the park, said Donna Tufano, president of HANDS. The festival had to be canceled that year, but moved to Goold Park the following year and has been held there ever since.
The festival is a chance for dulcimer enthusiasts to spend time together and share. Endlsey explained how he makes the images on the back of the mountain dulcimers – using a process called bookmatching, he’ll split a piece of wood down the middle and open it up, creating a symmetrical pattern with the wood grains. He showed off one where the grains opened into a heart shape.
“Only twice have I found wood that matches into a heart like that,” he said.
The festival included vendors and live musical performance throughout the two days. Early Saturday, the wet weather meant the bands had to go acoustic, but they were expected to plug in later in the day.
There were also workshops throughout the day, teaching different aspects of the instrument and music. The festival will celebrate its 30th year in 2019.
“We love it,” festival coordinator Steve Karlovsky said.