"Hearts of the Dulcimer" is a beautifully crafted, feature-length documentary. The film had its California premiere in Pacifica at the Pedro Point Firehouse, October of 2013.
Its world premiere was held in April of that year in Arkansas. Along with additional California screenings in Berkeley, Half Moon Bay, Scotts Valley and Caspar, the film has presented in: Batesville, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Douglas, Alaska. It had its recent European premiere in Longniddry, Scotland.
The Pacificans behind "Hearts of the Dulcimer" are husband-and-wife filmmakers Patricia Delich and Wayne Jiang. The couple met over the mountain dulcimer and turned their love for each other and the dulcimer into the critically-acclaimed film.
In "Hearts of the Dulcimer," the viewer travels across brook, hill, mountain and time to meet dulcimer music makers. Within this journey, the audience is introduced to one of the pioneers of the contemporary fretted dulcimer, Joellen Lapidus. Living in Big Sur, the musician and composer built dulcimers with sound holes carved by the nature or emotions that inspired her including: birds, butterflies, seahorses and tears. Her dulcimers were discovered by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell at the 1968 Big Sur Folk Festival and in the Delich/Jiang film, archival footage highlights the artist's love for the dulcimer she bought from Lapidus.
It was Mitchell's 1971-released record "Blue" that helped reestablish the dulcimer. On what is known as "the greatest relationship album ever" (Jack Hamilton, The Atlantic), Mitchell played the "Lapidus" dulcimer on four songs: "All I Want," "Carey," "California," and "A Case Of You." This immediately created a renaissance for the plucked American instrument whose origins can be traced back to the Shenandoah Valley/Southern Appalachian region in the 1800s.
Mitchell and her team discovered the Delich/Jiang documentary, and the couple's subsequent podcast, and their response has been enthusiastic. It includes links to the filmmakers' work on Mitchell's website and Facebook page.
The Delich/Jiang podcast was developed early this year and as of this writing there are five episodes. Episode one features folklorist Lucy Long and luthier Ben Seymour discussing the mountain dulcimer's predecessor, the German scheitholt. Episode two offers two Joni Mitchell stories, the first told by Joellen Lapidus, and the second is told by a hitchhiker picked up in Canada by Mitchell in 1971. Episode three continues the exploration of the scheitholt, and episodes four and five travel a dulcimer journey with folksinger, songwriter and musician, the late Richard Fariña.
"We decided to do the podcast because we realized we had gathered so many interesting stories that we couldn't put in our first film, but we wanted to share them," Delich said. "Making a film takes many years. We didn't want to wait to share these stories."
Some of the future podcast episodes could be their own. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the couple met a stranger on the street who recognized them as the "Hearts of the Dulcimer" filmmakers.
"We had a moment of feeling like Steven Speilberg," Delich laughed.
Delich and Jiang were also invited to meet and play with people in the UK dulcimer community. In Ireland, they visited with Richard Fariña's relatives. The day before this interview, the couple met with master dulcimer builder Howard Rugg in Santa Cruz - featured in their documentary - to discuss his latest experiments with dulcimer innovations and followed that with a dulcimer concert in Scotts Valley.
The couple's ideas for podcasts are many and come through both their personal connections in the dulcimer world and research. Their podcast audios are precision clear and their interviews are enthralling.
Both husband and wife still play the dulcimer as often as they can and Jiang, who is also a professional fine artist and designer, teaches group and private dulcimer lessons here in town.
"Our passion is to explore the dulcimer's past, present, and future, and its many fascinating facets in our podcast and films," Delich said. "We want to share the incredible talents of the builders and players we've met and tell their stories. We are living in a time when the mountain dulcimer is going through a lot of changes. Both builders and players are pushing the limits beyond its Appalachian roots to unexpected musical genres such as jazz, blues, classical, and Middle Eastern. It's an exciting time for the mountain dulcimer and if our film and podcast efforts inspire people to play the dulcimer, it's all worth it."
Film events, DVDs, dulcimer information and podcast are available at: http://dulcimuse.com.
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