Club News

Musical Meetings

Musical meetings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club are held every other Friday at 885 Clayton Street, between Carl & Parnassus Streets in San Francisco. Singing and jamming in three separate rooms start at 8:00 p.m. Snacks are provided through $1 food kitty donations or finger food contributions. Guests are always welcome, no one is expected to “perform”, and there is no charge.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Date July 6 July 30 August 3 August 17 August 31
Setup Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac
Bulletin Board Marisa Malvino Debbie Klein Yvette Tanenbaum Marisa Malvino Faith
Host/ess Marisa Malvino Paula Joyce Al Goodwin Morgan Cowin Judy Tergis
Host/ess Carolyn Jane Pazit Zohar Phil Morgan Marisa Malvino Phil Morgan
Singing Room Dave Sahn Melissa Sarenac Yvette Tannenbaum Melissa Sarenac Estelle Freedman
Theme Transportation Earth & air Communication Fire & water Work
Cleanup Dave Sahn Tes Welborn Paula Joyce Jim Letchworth John Kelly

Board Meetings

The SFFMC board meets on the second Tuesday of each month — potluck at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 8:00 p.m. All Club members are welcome to attend the potluck dinner and the Board meeting.

July 10: Phil Morgan’s house
August: No board meeting.

Next folknik Fold-In/Folk Sing: Sun., August 26, at home of Marian Gade

Club News

Chuck Poling is featured in the current KALW newsletter, which gives, among other details, a sketch of his life in Woodrow Wilson High school, which he attended in the mid-1970s. (“To say that Woodrow was a tough school is like saying Napoleon had a bad day at Waterloo.”) Now that KALW is located in what was Woodrow Wilson High, Chuck’s working there now is sort of a return to his alma mater, but more peaceful.

Chuck and Monica Oakes have moved from San Bruno, California to the town of Riverside in the Okanogan Valley in central Washington state. They are sorely missed by attendees at the every-other-Friday song swaps and jams in San Francisco. Please visit when you're up that way!

Shirley Baker has moved into Eden Villa, an assisted living facility at 2750 Geary (near Masonic Avenue) in San Francisco 94118. Although the address is on Geary, the entrance is around the corner to the right on Wood Street. Visiting hours are 10:00 to 7:30. Her phone number remains the same (415-673-6816). Calls, cards and visits are most welcome!


Marsha Townsend, SFFMC member and friend, died February 1 this year at the Coming Home Hospice in San Francisco. Her generous heart and cheerful helpfulness are missed.

Mark Spoelstra, known and loved by many in SFFMC and beyond, died following a brief illness at his home in Pioneer, California on February 25th. He spent two years as a conscientious objector working with migrant workers in and near Fresno, and, through becoming a regular attendee at the many folk music events held at Sweet’s Mill during that time, became friend and companion to fellow California musicians. His music lives on through his many recordings.

Howard Larman, for over 30 years co-host with his wife of the popular folk radio program “Folkscene” on station KPFK-FM (90.7), died in April of complications related to a car accident last June. The tremendously important and influential “Folkscene” program will be continued by his wife Ros Larman.

Folk Alley

Have you discovered Folk Alley ( Folk Alley’s mission is to bring folk music to the world via the Internet, reaching across the miles and the generations to provide global exposure for an art form with long-standing tradition and a loyal fan community. is a listener-supported 24-hour online music service featuring folk, traditional, Americana, Celtic, singer/songwriter, world, and acoustic music. It was launched in September 2003 and is produced by WKSU-FM in Kent, Ohio. Along with the hosted music stream and real-time playlist, the web site also offers a blog, music news, folk links, information on musicians, new releases, exclusive artist interviews, and more. WKSU is a service of Kent State University, host of the Kent State Folk Festival, the nation’s second longest folk music festival on a college campus.

The Folk Alley playlist is created by senior host Jim Blum and Folk Alley Music Director Linda Fahey, and features a distinctive blend of the best of singer/ songwriter, Celtic, acoustic, Americana, traditional, and world sounds.

WKSU-FM went on the air more than 50 years ago as a service of Kent State University. A National Public Radio affiliate, WKSU airs the best in classical music and public radio entertainment programming. Folk music has also played an important role in WKSU’s broadcast history, thanks, in part, to Kent, Ohio’s long-standing connection with the folk community, including hosting the Kent State Folk Festival for over three decades.

Registration is free. Folk Alley is listener supported and is a registered 501(c) (3) non-profit organization through Kent State University. receives financial and in-kind support from WKSU-FM. Listeners may donate at any time, including during seasonal fund drives.

For Sale

Lute Guitar, $500 or best offer to Nancy Borsdorf, 920 Robinson St., Oroville, CA 95965, (530) 534 8434. It's beautiful!

History of the Dulcimer


Everyman that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship.”

It is no wonder that King Nebuchadnezzar's decree was opposed, for the sound of the dulcimer makes one feel much more like dancing than “worshipping.” In fact, the modest revival of dulcimer playing in America seems due in large measure to the delightful manner in which dance tunes can be played on it. The hammer dulcimer is capable of a range of tones from a sort of music-box sound to powerful and percussive piano-like effects which can stand out in any band.

Although the plucked dulcimer (also called Appalachian or mountain dulcimer) shares the same name, the two instruments differ considerably in form, sound, evolution, and manner of playing. Both have strings stretched across a neckless soundbox, which identifies them in certain classification schemes as belonging to the zither form. The plucked dulcimer relies on the shortening (fretting or stopping) of strings to produce many pitches with one or few strings. Guitars, banjos, and fiddles work in this way. The alternative is to have one string or course of strings tuned to each desired pitch, as in the harps, piano, psaltery, and hammer dulcimer.

The name dulcimer comes from the Latin and Greek words dulce and melos, which combine to mean “sweet tune.” The meaning and the biblical connections no doubt made the word attractive to those who named the Appalachian dulcimer. All evidence seems to indicate that the Appalachian dulcimer dates back no more than 200 years and that Bibles refer to the hammered type. The true hammer dulcimer is a close relative to the psaltery, the chief difference being that the psaltery is usually plucked and the dulcimer is usually struck. Early varieties were rather simple, having relatively few strings, which passed over bridges only at the sides.

The versatility of the dulcimer was greatly increased by clever placement of additional bridges. Treble courses pass over the side bridges and also over a treble bridge usually placed between the side bridges so that the vibrating lengths of the strings are divided in the ratio 2:3. This results in two notes from each string in the ratio of a perfect fifth interval. Other ratios have occasionally been used. Many dulcimers have another bridge added near the right side to carry bass courses. The bass courses pass high over the bass bridge and low through holes or interruptions in the treble bridge. Likewise, the treble strings are raised at the treble bridge and pass low through the bass bridge. Thus, the treble strings may be struck near the treble bridge without danger of hitting bass strings, and bass courses can be played near the bass bridge without running afoul of treble strings. This arrangement triples the number of notes possible without any increase of size or consequent increase in distance from the player. Dulcimers of this sort began appearing in Europe during the 16th century and remained rather popular up to the 18th century.

The ancient origins of the dulcimer are undoubtedly in the Near East, where instruments of this type have been made and played for perhaps 5,000 years. Santir and psanterim were names early applied to such instruments and are probably derived from the Greek psalterion. Today the dulcimer is known as the santouri in Greece and as the santur in India.

From the Near East, the instrument traveled both east and west. Arabs took it to Spain where a dulcimer-like instrument is depicted on a cathedral relief from 1184 A.D. Introduction into the Orient came much later. The Chinese version is still known as the yang ch’in, or foreign zither. Though its use in China is reported to date from about the beginning of the 19th century, Korean tradition claims association with the hammer dulcimer from about 1725.

Although the early keyboard string instruments could have been derived from either psaltery or dulcimer, it seems logical that the dulcimer provided much of the inspiration for the piano. The dulcimer is capable of considerable dynamic nuance; a wide range of effects from loud to soft can be achieved, depending on the manner in which the player strikes the strings. Harpsichords were quite limited in this quality of expressiveness and the clavichord was severely limited in volume. The pianoforte was the result of attempts to overcome these restraints, and the solution was to excite the strings with leather or felt hammers as on the dulcimer. One early form of the piano even bears the name of a 17th-century Prussian dulcimer, the pantaleon.

The most elaborate of dulcimers is certainly the cimbalom, developed around the end of the 19th century in Hungary. This instrument is a mainstay in the music of the Hungarian gypsies and is used as a concert instrument. The cimbalom is equipped with a damper mechanism and has a range of four chromatic octaves. Most other dulcimers are tuned to a diatonic scale with ranges of two to three octaves.

Dulcimers were reasonably common domestic and concert instruments in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. No doubt they were first brought to the colonies from England where they were used in the street music of the time. Portability and simplicity made the dulcimer much more practical than the piano for many settlers. These attributes probably led to its association with the lumber camps of Maine and Michigan. It is still referred to as a “lumberjack's piano” in the North. As names for the dulcimer go, however, the American appellation “whamadiddle” must be ranked as the most colorful, with a close second being the German term hackbrett, literally “chopping board.”

It is interesting that in this era of folk instrument revivals, the Appalachian dulcimer, which never had a very widespread distribution in the past, is getting considerable attention from urban performers, while the once well-known hammer dulcimer has faded into relative obscurity. Occasionally, old dulcimers can be found in the Appalachians, Maine, New York, and in various parts of the Midwest.

Several dulcimer factories were thriving in western New York during the 1850s and 1860s. They employed salesmen who played and sold their instruments as far away as Missouri and into the southern states. Michigan has continued to nourish a persistent tradition of dulcimer hammering, and a club of players has been organized there. One Michigander, Chet Parker, has been recorded, and his fine playing of old dance and popular tunes is well worth hearing (