Today In Mountan Dulcimer History: 11 September 1937

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Today In Mountan Dulcimer History: 11 September 1937

Postby dbennett » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:57 am

Loraine Wyman (1885–1937) died in New York. She was born in Evanston, Indiana. Loraine was a celebrated American soprano, well-known for her concert performances of folk songs, some of which she collected herself from traditional singers in field work. Growing up Loraine was raised by her mother much of the time in Paris, France, where she developed an interest in French and British folksongs.

About 1909 she returned to America, settling in New York and the next year she began her concert career, singing a mixture of folksongs of various national origins, mostly French and British. The early stages of Wyman's American performing career coincided with a widespread awakening of interest in the folk songs of the southern Appalachian Mountains and she developed an interest in field work that permitted her to add American material.

In 1916 Wyman undertook a six-week journey through the Cumberland Mountains to collect Appalachian folk songs with her accompanist the composer Howard Brockway, to collect Appalachian folk songs. Wyman and Brockway began their efforts at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, who had been invited by co-director Ethel DeLong Zande. Wyman and Brockway covered 300 miles in Kentucky, "climbing mountains, fording streams, enduring superlative discomforts and ... rebuffs from the suspicious inhabitants..." In the end, they collected some eighty songs.

The field work Loraine conducted resulted in her editing two songbooks from this material: ‘Lonesome Songs’ (1916) and ‘Twenty Kentucky Mountain Songs’ (1919).

During her fieldwork in Kentucky, Wyman bought an Appalachian dulcimer. She demonstrated this dulcimer at a concert in 1916 playing songs from her Kentucky fieldwork. It seems she did not usually perform with a dulcimer as it is not widely reported in newspaper reviews of the time, perhaps due to the instruments natural low volume and maybe in 1916 suitable amplification capabilities might not have been not available.

In May 1917 Loraine was featured in Vogue magazine holding a dulcimer made by James Edward “Uncle Ed” Thomas (1850-1933).

During World War I she was involved with fundraising efforts in New York benefiting French soldiers and French musicians impoverished by the war.

Sometime before 1926 Wyman donated a dulcimer to the Bucks County Historical Society. From Volume V of, A Collection of Papers Read Before the Bucks County Historical Society, 1926, The Zithers of the Pennsylvanian Germans, by Dr. Henry Mercer, page 494: “...Figure 6 shows one of these so-called Dulcimores, kindly presented to the Bucks County Historical Society by Miss Loraine Wyman, authoress of “Lonesome Tunes,” who obtained it in 1915 in Kentucky. It was made (so says a paper pasted inside of it) by Mr. E. Thomas of Bath, Kentucky, from whom Miss Wyman bought it... According to the information from of Mrs. Luigi Zande of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan county, Kentucky, Jan. 24, 1922, it is still played in the mountains, by sliding a quill horizontally over the fretted string with the left hand, while striking the instrument with another quill, or, a leather plectrum or as shown in the illustration in figure 7, with a bow in which case the “Dulcimore: is either again laid flat on the table or rests with its lower end on the player’s lap and its upper (key end) projecting, as shown, upwards over the edge of the table...”

In his article "The Appalachian Dulcimer", Charles Seeger in Journal of American Folklore Vol. 71, No. 279 (Jan.-Mar., 1958), says of Wyman's instrument the "MS label on back of lower right sound hole reads: "Manufactured by J. E. Thomas Jan. 25 1918 Bath Ky.". Thus apparently this dulcimer wasn't collected during the Kentucky field trip but obtained afterwards (mail order maybe or a gift?). It would seem, at least to me, from this and the photos that Loraine had acquired at least two Thomas dulcimers. The Thomas dulcimer in the 1917 Vogue magazine photo appears to have heart sound holes and the Thomas dulcimer Loraine donated to the Mercer museum has round sound holes.

In 1926, Wyman married a wealthy New York obstetrician and medical school professor, Henry McMahon Painter (1863-1934). Upon her marriage, Wyman disappeared entirely from public life. When her husband retired in 1928 they moved to France, they lived for a time in an artist-colony village not far from Paris.

They later returned to New York, where her husband died in 1934. About three years later she died in New York in 1937 at age 51.
Wyman Loraine Vogue 1917.jpg
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Wyman Loraine.png
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