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Concert Preview: EMG presents the Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Association on First Tuesdays

February 1, 2010

Back to the old grind

Hurdy-Gurdy

Hurdy-Gurdy

Trinity Episcopal Church Sanctuary at 609 8th Avenue

Tickets: $25 general/$20 senior/$10 student available at the door

Unlike many other musical instruments, the hurdy-gurdy was invented around 1000 AD in Europe and spread out from there. With a fiddle-like sound-box and string-bridge, it used a rosined wheel to sound strings pressed down by keys like a toy piano’s,  while other strings kept up a continuous drone like a bagpipe. With a hurdy-gurdy, a minstrel could easily accompany himself; if he had an assistant to turn the crank for him, so much the better.

Although so primitive in construction, the sound of the hurdy-gurdy had a strange appeal for sophisticated musicians; composers from Josquin des Prez to Schubert wrote songs and dances imitating its dweedling drone, and long after its great days, Mozart and Haydn wrote little pieces for it.

Beginning around 1900, a hurdy-gurdy revival began, with folk artists using it along with other instruments of the people.  Seattle is a hotbed of crank-and-grind, with the Over the Water Hurdy-Gurdy Association representing most of the top local exponents of its art. Join them on Tuesday February 2 at 7:30pm for a tour of the repertory and a glimpse of the humble instruments which accompanied the simple pleasures of the people for nearly a thousand years.


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