Today in Mountain Dulcimer History: 14 January 2004

A dose of mountain dulcimer history throughout the year

Today in Mountain Dulcimer History: 14 January 2004

Postby dbennett » Sat Jan 14, 2017 7:02 am

January 14, 2004 folklorist and dulcimer player Anne Grimes (1912-2004) died at age 91 of natural causes at her home in Oberlin, Ohio. Anne Grimes was a journalist, musician and historian of American folklore. In the 1950s she traveled across Ohio collecting and preserving folk songs, collecting over 1,000 ballads and folk songs, which she tape-recorded, researched, and sang.

Besides her ballad and folksong interests Anne was known for playing the mountain dulcimer and for her large dulcimer collection of rare and vintage mountain dulcimers instruments. In Appendix D p.84 of "The Story of the Dulcimer"(1st Edition- 1986) Ralph Lee Smith writes, "The first really substantial collection of old dulcimers, as opposed to scheitholts, was assembled in the years following World War II by Anne Grimes... This important collection not only illuminates the history of the dulcimer in the mountains, but includes instruments, found in Ohio..."

L. Allen Smith's book, "A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers" includes 28 instruments from the Anne Grimes Collection. On page xiii in a footnote to the preface of his book, he acknowledged Anne Grimes as an authority on the dulcimer, "Anne Grimes is responsible for much fieldwork in Ohio and has influenced the work of many folklorists since the 1950s."

Anne later donated her collection of 31 mountain dulcimers, plus some other instruments, to the Smithsonian Institution.

She served as a dulcimer judge from 1961 to 1993 at "Dulcimer Days," a national competition held in Roscoe Village, in Coshocton, Ohio, a festival she helped found. Roscoe Village is a restored 1830s Canal Era town.

Many people have been intrigued about photos of Anne Grimes holding her dulcimer upside down. The explanation for this unusual style of holding the dulcimer is given in her book, "Stories from the Anne Grimes Collection of American Folk Music" in which she interviews as part of her research numerous elderly Ohioans who had an old folksong to share or play on a folk instrument . On pages 112-113 Anne writes in her interview with Jane Jones McNerlin who, "...surprised me by holding her dulcimer pegs-down against her shoulder in an inclined position. So far as I knew, this instrument was played that way nowhere else." Jane told Anne that was the way her father and grandfather played the dulcimer. Anne speculated that unusual way of playing “might have been an outgrowth from the playing of the obsolete bowed Welsh instrument, the crwth." Anne went on to say that she adopted the McNerlin style of playing "for some performance pieces... but I never met or heard of another dulcimer player who played that way." BTW her book is a good read and comes with a CD.
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David Bennett
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