The best day yet. I sold 7 books--7! Not bad when the buyers don't know me. :)
Tina, Cindy, and Bob did well too, I think--the weather was wonderful, the crowd never stopped, and I barely got time to walk around and buy my birthday present to me.
(I know--the Featherweight was an early birthday present. But this was one too, since my birthday's next week.)
I have been looking at these for years. Probably close to eight or so years, even if I count the years that I didn't go to the RenFaire.
The first time I saw someone play a bowed psaltery was at the Wagonmaster's Holiday in Bethel. It was probably 1996-7 at the height of my Celtic music I-wanna-be-a-musician phase. I had two harps--Pakistani harps (that actually sounded good, believe it or not), zithers, a ukelin, a couple of violins, an absolutely lovely bowl-backed mandolin that I never learned how to play, ocarinas, keyboards, and various and sundry other instruments. At that time, I just knew I wanted to learn to play something. Instead, I tried to learn how to play everything.
I can play any melody after hearing it a couple of times. I was always bad at the accompaniment. That's why I never managed to play the harp effectively. Also, the harps were big and bulky and heavy--my wire harp had 32 strings. I tried to teach myself to play the fiddle, but I couldn't get far without lessons or some sort of help. I liked the tin whistle, and I still have my antique one, which I still play on occassion, but I really just wanted something that I could play without a lot of trouble.
So anyway, I saw this reenactor playing a bowed psaltery. I was interested immediately, but the guy was rather rude and standoffish (not exactly the right attitude to have if you're busking, I'd think) so I didn't approach him because of that. I didn't see another one until the RenFaire that year (this was back when I still went every year and sometimes twice--back when it was $12 to get in, I'd imagine) but I was full-up on instruments and I told myself I wasn't allowed to buy another one.
Fast-forward, and I don't have many instruments left. I have a zither, my little zither that sounds pretty no matter what you play (one of these--they are really very good instruments), a couple of tin whistles, some ocarinas, an antique church organ, a keyboard, and the tiny antique zither that needs some new strings. (As an aside, I may just bring that one to the RenFaire next time and show the psaltery maker, since he could probably tell me what gauge of strings is on it.)
I sold my harps and the mandolin on ebay when I needed the money, and kind of got away from Celtic music. I still listen to some of it, but I don't seek out the Celtic music afternoon on the local NPR station or the Thistle and Shamrock like I used to. But there was alway something in the back of my mind that I'd really like to find an instrument to play--one that I could play well, even, and take places, like the craft shows, etc.
I thought about dulcimers, especially hammered dulcimers, I thought about another harp; I thought about everything, but I couldn't make up my mind.
Every once in a while, I'd look at bowed psalteries on ebay, or in catalogs, but I guess it wasn't the right time to buy one, because I never acted on my urge. And I was intending to wait today, too. But I went to look at them again, and I just couldn't wait.
The one I chose has 24 strings--flats and sharps on one side and regular notes on the other--and is the mid-sized version. It will do for me for a while, I think; I can play Greensleeves and Amazing Grace already, but it will take a bit of practice to get used to the bow. I wanted a plain one--not one with a fancy soundhole, although he did have a cedar one that was nice.
I am planning to make it a case tomorrow--I definitely want to keep the dust away, and it will be safer in a case when I'm not using it. (I'm considering making one for my loom as well--that will keep curious kitties away if I move it up to my bedroom like I want to do.) I'm thinking a quilted case would be nice. But we'll see.
It has a wonderful sound. It has a Baltic birch soundboard and cherry sides, and a walnut thingy for the strings (I can't remember what it's called.) It's strung with piano wire, so that should be easily obtained, and I have a nice bow with rosin and everything.
Well, not quite everything.
It needs a name. I name all of my instruments. (Well, at least the ones I plan to play, that is.)
I want something simple, yet elegant. Not necessarily Celtic.
I thought about naming it after Emle, or naming it Anna. But neither name is growing on me.
If it helps any, my 1918 Singer sewing machine's name is Lydia. I haven't named the others yet.
Any suggestions? If you suggest a name and I like your suggestion, I will gift you with oh, a free mouse for your kitty, if you have one. :)