The 3rd Sunday Gathering

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Christmas Carols


The next meeting of the Third Sunday Gathering will be November 19th, 
3SG tuning and setup 1:30 to 2 pm; music 2 to 5 pm; pack-up 5-5:30,
in the basement community room of the Essex House,
1 East Main St., Ashland, Ohio.
That's downtown on the southeast corner of Main & Center Streets
Handicap accessible space -- no stairs necessary
picture of five story brick building
Mountain dulcimers and acoustic instruments that play well with mountain dulcimers are welcome.


guitar, Autoharp, mandolin, folk harp, hammered dulcimer, pennywhistle, bozouki,
harmonica, musical saw, spoons, bones, recorder, psaltry, bowed psaltry, zither,
any other instrument that can play softly enough so dulcimers are not overwhelmed.

NOTE: We play mostly diatonic tunes from the 1800s in the Key of D,
though you can expect an occasional more adventurous piece in G
3SG uses a song circle format.
Please note that this is not a teaching group.

 Shared music you bring to play at the Gatherings MUST be from the public domain
or songs for which you own the copyright.

picture of group playing music together
A recent meeting of the 3rd Sunday Gathering

Fond Musical Memories

picture of FID meeting at COA

What is a parlor band and how is it different from Parlour Music?

Back in the 1800s there was no such thing as radio, let alone TV or iTunes. People made their own music at home. Wealthier folk might have a piano, reed organ, or harp in the parlor and a cabinet full of sheet music which the daughters of the house had mastered and which might also be used by guest performers during formal house concerts which were a staple social event in larger homes able to offer comfortable seating for a good number of guests. According to Wikipedia, these formal house concerts, often quite posh and prestigious, featured mostly art songs and classical music and sometimes "dialect" songs or emotionally draining tearjerkers telling tales of poor souls who met very sad ends. According to Wikiipedia, these events were the epitome of "Parlour Music" with a "u". 

Another type of Parlor Music (without the "u" was practiced by those less economically blessed, such as my ancestors, who lived in one or two-room cabins. They often made their own music with homemade instruments like mountain dulcimers that they built themselves using pieces of scrap lumber that weren't big enough to be useful for anything else. Rather than accumulating libraries of sheet music, they learned songs from family members, friends, and at church or school and kept them in memory or wrote the words down by hand in their "ballad books" if they were able to afford writing paper. Whatever the economic level, there was almost always music in homes at that time.

As one of the most popular informal pastimes, families, neighbors, and friends would get together to play music once the work of the day was done. This "family" music was much different from the stage or dance music of that day or ours. In stage music and in dance bands, the entertainers stand or sit so all are facing the audience. Their purpose is to entertain others, usually for pay.

However, in the comfort of home, with no thought of any gain other than the pleasure of the moment, the musicians would sit comfortably in a circle so they could all see each other. Also unlike stage music which encouraged only highly skilled musicians, family music welcomed everyone who wanted to participate, no matter what their skills. The mountain dulcimer, with its drone strings, made it possible for the youngest child to feel a part of the activity by strumming along without fretting any notes at all as more skilled musicians played the melody and harmony notes. Some might sing while playing an instrument. Others might participate just by singing along.

A third difference between "stage" and "homemade" music was whether the music was "diatonic" or "chromatic". Chromatic music often contained unexpected or non-traditional notes and harmonies and was much easier to play if one had the sheet music. Diatonic music rarely included an accidental sharp or flat. The melody of a tune was confined to the eight notes of any given scale: for instance C D E F G A B C. These songs usually harmonized on only three chords such as C, F, and G7 or the relative minor and the chord changes were easily heard and followed "by ear". As time passed, chromatic music became more popular because of its potential for variety and inventiveness. The 3rd Sunday Gathering seeks through playing mostly diatonic music to recover the camaraderie and simplicity of an all-inclusive music that everyone can enjoy playing without a lot of preparation or practice.

Note: the traditional mountain dulcimer tuning during the 1800s was CGG. However during the dulcimer revival in the 1970s, the tuning was raised to DAA (and the later alternative DAD) as it seemed to produce a more robust sound and the chords of that key were easier to play on other fretted instruments such as guitar. Nowadays the most expected key for playing with mountain dulcimers is D with the basic chords being D G and A7. With a dulcimer capo and using the DAD tuning, the Key of G (with chords G, C, and D7) is also easily available. Nowadays some makers will build chromatic dulcimers, but there is a question of whether these are "real" dulcimers or just lap guitars. The advantages of the mountain dulcimer design over other fretted instruments (comfortable hand position, instrument lays in the lap, and sound holes directed toward the player) appeal especially to older musicians. I suspect the popularity of the chromatic dulcimer will grow as the population ages.

Another significant difference was that stage music was usually of shorter duration to keep the interest of a restless and critical audience. Homemade music preserved ancient narrative ballad traditions in which story songs might go on for many verses. Repeating the melody many times made it easier for the newer musicians to learn a tune by ear because there was opportunity for repeated practice each time the tune was played by the group. With the distractions of life in the 21st Century, many musicians have never developed the bardic tradition's amazing ability to keep long ballads and songs with many verses in memory. So today most parlor musicians have loose leaf "ballad books" in which they collect both notated music and the words to songs. Since the 1998 changes to the U.S. copyright law and subsequent strict enforcement, dulcimer notebooks tend to include only music in the public domain and the original compositions of the notebooks' creators.

Except for a few examples, today the printed or written music used while playing obviously differs between parlor and stage music. Most professional stage musicians are expected to memorize all their music. The few exceptions in stage music tradition include dance bands of the "big band" variety and classical orchestras that give extended complex performances for which legally printed music (or rarely these days, an under-the-counter fake book) is essential on stage.

Though some of our 3rd Sunday Gathering members are or have been professional stage performers, our parlor band is not a "performing group". We focus on the social and recreational aspects of playing music together. To say "we just wanna have fun" is an accurate statement of our motivation.

These days many of us play more than one instrument. Because of the characteristics of the mountain dulcimer, which we all enjoy, diatonic music comprises most of our collective repertoire even though chromatic instruments are now a part of our musical mix and we do include music in other keys than D. Instruments that combine well with mountain dulcimers include folk harp, guitar, mandolin, Autoharp, harmonica, tin whistle, wooden flutes and recorders, spoons, limberjack, standup bass or washtub bass, musical saw, concertina and other traditional Celtic instruments, kitchen band type rhythm instruments, etc. Due to the inventiveness of parlor band musicians, the list of instruments compatible with mountain dulcimers continues to expand.

Unlike bluegrass music which features various instruments showing off their fancy licks individually under the direction of a leader during a song, parlor music encourages all to blend, each musician careful not to overcome the collective sound throughout the song. Parlor music emphasizes cooperation, inclusiveness, and acceptance of all skill levels; though once in a while a particularly unusual instrument such as musical saw or an ability to get a specially lovely tone from some instrument will induce the group to back off and give that musician a chance to shine.

Are music lessons necessary? In today's world, yes! 3SG does not offer lessons, but free instruction and sheet music can be found on line. It is necessary to be able independently to keep one's instrument in tune with concert pitch by using an electronic tuner and to interpret simple notation and chord names when written or printed music is provided. Printed music is usually in the form of a "lead sheet" with the melody notated and with the correct chords above the notes, first verse below the notes, and subsequent verses as poetry under the score.

Some groups (but not 3SG) provide dulcimer tablature which usually requires much more sophisticated skills from dulcimer players. Members are expected to have the skills to read tablature and to play in several tunings. These groups are usually formed by a particular teacher and lessons are given at a separate time. 

Our group's "official" dulcimer tuning is the traditional tuning DAA in which "do" (as in "do re mi" is the third fret of the string nearest the player. This tuning provides the most available notes on the first string and lends itself to "one finger" single string melody playing. It's the easiest tuning, but not the best tuning for chording. That is DAD, but there is no reason why DAA and DAD players cannot play together, so a preference for the DAD tuning should not discourage anyone from playing with our group. DAD players will have to do their own translation of the music to their tuning because we do not provide DAD versions. However, we wil post a chart to help those who might not know how to modify DAA music to DAD tuning.

3SG has a collection of music. Copies are available for use during meetings only. A take-home copy is a flat $30.00 and contains all our music. No borrowing or trading is permitted. Rarely is more than the occasional single sheet of printed music shared for free any more due to the rising cost of printing. Some parlor music groups post their repertoires on line, especially if the music is in the public domain, so new users can print out their own copies. 3SG is in the process of following that practice.

A parlor band group is as much a social occasion as a music session. The day may also include a shared meal or pot luck, meeting at varying venues such as a park in the summer or somebody's back yard. Wherever we are, the musical instruments end up being a center of the day's activity and harmony ensues.

Memorable Moments with Treasured Friends

Friends in D played "stage music" at the Ashland Community Arts Center coffeehouse - March 2002
Dee,singing; Ed, harmonica;  Marji, dulcimer & harp; Kay, harmonica & spoons;
Marianne, Autoharp; Bill, guitar; Everybody singing -- in harmony

a picture of FID at the Mifflin School Reunion
Marianne w/Autoharp; Bill w/guitar; Mac w/mandolin; Kay w/spoons; Al w/snare drum; Marji w/harp
at the Mifflin Village School Reunion 2002

Friends in D at St. Mary's of the Snows
Left to Right: Marianne w/Autoharp; Bill w/guitar; Ed's chair; Joyce w/Autoharp; Bob w/dulcimer;
Mac w/dulcimer; Al w/snare drum & brushes; Kay w/harmonica & spoons; Marji w/folk harp
at St. Mary of the Snows Elementary School, Mansfield, Ohio 2004

History of 3SG, Friends In D, Leland Trace, and Marji Hazen's Parlour Band

Though you may never have heard of us, some of us have been playing music together for more than thirty years. Some of us began playing together as members of the Mansfield Dulcimer Club in the early 1980s.

When Marji moved to Columbus in 1985, she gathered some friends at her apartment once a week to play music. At first they called themselves Friends In D (a play on words since they played only tunes in the key of D), then Leland Trace when some members decided to try a few stage music gigs. After some shaking out, the performing  group, renamed Marji Hazen's Parlor Band played a couple or three years at the Ohio State Fair, also several years at Nickleby's Bookstore Cafe, and at other venues in the Capitol City, made a tape, and even were invited to Mansfield to play at the Richland County Fair and to Delphos for the Canal Festival. Pictures of those good times may come to the top of the pile one of these days and get posted on this web site. Right now, though, the only handy shots are from Ashland days.

Marji moved back to Ashland in the mid-90s and, with the permission of her partner in music, Gail Reed, immediately re-organized The Third Sunday Gathering which she and Gail had fostered all through their Columbus days together, first in Galena and then in Sunbury. For several years in the mid-90s, The Third Sunday Gathering met at Park St. Brethren Church in Ashland. People drove in from as far away as the Ohio River and Lake Erie to play with 3SG and we truly had some fine fine gatherings. Once all the local members were retired, the group decided to begin meeting on Tuesday afternoons at the Ashland County Council on Aging where comfort and convenience in the form of no stairs and doors that opened automatically were always available to us. The Tuesday afternoon group disbanded sometime in 2008 as members dropped out due to age and illness. We truly miss those who have passed as well as our faraway friends who are now too frail to drive all that distance to play music with us. They will always have a special place in our hearts. 

On Sunday, September 15th, 2013 five members of Marji Hazen's Parlor Band plus some friends met in Ashland for an approximately 20 year reunion as the last time we played together in Columbus was just after Christmas of 1993. After having such a good time playing music together once more, we agreed to try reviving the 3rd Sunday Gathering which is now scheduled to meet monthly (weather permitting long-distance travel) through 2014 in the community room at the Essex House in Ashland. For information, e-mail Marji Hazen or contact her via Facebook.

picture of 3rd Sunday Gathering playing the Hayesville Opera House

The 3rd Sunday Gathering plays stage music at the Hayesville Opera House 1998 

Who is Marji Hazen ?

This page last updated Monday, April 3, 2017