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>>2. Waldzithersymposium Bericht von Doc Rossi (englisch)    

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Second Waldzither Symposium, held in Suhl, a small town in the middle of the Thuringia
forest of eastern Germany. It was organized by Martina Rosenberger.
There were about 70 people there (as far as I could tell), mostly from Germany, with a few from other European countries. I was the only non-European, but as I live in Italy I guess that doesn't really count.

For those of you who don't know, the Waldzither is a 19th-century cittern that continues to be played in Germany. There is a similar instrument in Switzerland, too. There are three sizes these days - a small one and a larger one, both tuned in G, and a mandola-sized one in C (by far the most popular). Each has five courses - four pairs and one single bass. C instruments are tuned C G C E G (low to high); G instruments G D G B D, the larger pitched lower than the C tuning, the smaller higher. The smallest instrument is about the
size of a mandolin, the larger like a mandocello or octave mandolin.
I gather that the larger one is a relatively new addition to the family.

Things started off Friday evening with a general meeting about what would be happening when. It was great to walk into a room full of citterns, many of them from the 1920s, and of citternists and cittern builders - most of them much younger! The average age of players is
relatively high, but there were quite a few younger players, too.
The Friday evening session was pretty informal, with some jamming and teaching and general exchanges and greetings. There were six different workshops on Saturday morning, including sessions on different playing styles - with fingers, finger picks, and a flat pick. I managed to stick my head into the following: Willi Schampera demonstrated techniques taught in tutors from the 1910s to the 1930s. This includes more or less typical fingerpicking but also playing almost everything with the thumb. A lot of the music he demonstrated reminded me of Sor's - well-constructed miniatures in an early 19th-century style, and actually not too different from other "parlor" music. Jean-Pierre van dem Boom demonstrated his Scruggs- based fingerpicking style with metal fingerpicks. Waldzither tuning is similar to the basic 5-string banjo tuning except that the fifth string is two octaves lower. I've been playing melodic style (Keith,
Trishka) cittern without picks for years, so I was quite interested to see and hear what Jean-Pierre was doing. He did it all on a C instrument. Uli Otto talked about older German songs and also showed how he has adapted the modern celtic style to this music and tuning, transforming it into something new. Joachim Rosenbrueck demonstrated some very flashy flat picking and shared ideas about how the waldzither can be used in contemporary music. My own session dealt with 18th-century right-hand technique and the use of campanelle.

After lunch a group of us got together to try out some new instruments designed and built by Steffen Milbradt. He made instruments in the three sizes I mentioned above with two different tops - one group had an arched top, the other had a three-piece top with joints angled to form an arch. There were no top braces on the latter instruments, the stress being taken up by the three-piece structure. All of the instruments were much deeper than traditional instruments - about 10cm. We all agreed that the three-piece instruments had more projection and a rounder tone than the arched ones. Compared to traditional designs, his instruments had a weaker bass, which I find is typical of arched instruments anyway. They did sound very good in an ensemble and were all quite playable, especially considering that they were also all prototypes. There were several other makers in attendance, too, so we all had a chance to try out their instruments as well as several from the early 20th century.

Saturday evening there was a concert with several different performers in several styles. I won't go into details but will only say that it was a great evening with a lot of fine music. German TV station 2DF (ZDF) taped the first half, and I gather that a snippet was broadcast last Friday evening. Another station (MDR) did some taping on Sunday morning, too.

Sunday morning began with a meeting about producing a modern tutor/ method book specifically for the waldzither. Steffen Milbradt then gave a talk called "Modern Waldzither construction as an instrument family." Finally, I led another session on 18th-century instruments and technique. Two participants actually brought 18th-century citterns with them, both of which were very nice. All-in-all it was a wonderful weekend and I'm looking forward to the next one in 2007.

We also talked about the international organization that I mentioned in a previous posting. There has been a lot of interest and I'll keep you informed as things progress.

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