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By Robert Force, Vocal and Mountain Dulcimer on
‘Robert Force - Did You’
ROBERT FORCE is a master of the American Appalachian Mountain dulcimer,
a modal scale zither dating back to the 16th century. He has been a
performer for almost 50 years. His book on dulcimer techniques and
styles, “In Search of the Wild Dulcimer”, published by Random House in
1974, sold more than 100,000 copies and, in the words of The San
Francisco Chronicle, "…helped set the standards for modern dulcimers."
Victory Music Review of Seattle reports, "His records, books, festivals
and appearances have literally influenced thousands of dulcimer
players." Robert has produced over thirty albums for other artists, has
a dozen of his own, written several books and performed widely in the
US, Europe and Central America. He has co-billed with such diverse
headliners as Doc Watson, Kate Wolfe and even Zsa Zsa Gabor to name a
The Sounder Magazine of Washington State sums up his contribution: "A player par excellence, Robert Force combines warmth, wit and musical ability into an experience that leaves the audience uplifted and thoroughly entertained." His unique style incorporates the instrument's traditional Appalachian folk roots while reaching out to embrace modern music. He is a cheerful, infectious, engaging performer who is as fun to watch as he is to hear. Many of his tunes have become standards for emerging dulcimer artists and are played worldwide.
In Robert’s words:
“My passion is teaching people to play and hear the dulcimer in a contemporary manner. To those who are in the process of discovering playing music for themselves, I ask you to take a good long look at the words, "Folk Music." This is the music of the people. Whether it is rock, reggae, country, raga, jazz or other traditional, all of these styles are music by people about people and for people.” What you choose to sing and play is important. You are the caretaker of culture.”
CATHY BARTON and DAVE PARA are well known for their dynamic performances that show off their multi-instrumental and vocal expertise. Their research and presentation of historic, traditional music draws audiences wherever they perform. Their more than 35 years of playing together have taken them to countless festivals, concert venues, schools and recording studios throughout the U.S. and Europe.
CATHY grew up in a military family and lived many places before coming to Columbia, Mo. In Hawaii she became interested in folk music and the ukulele and began a life-long appreciation of native cultures through the Polynesian Cultural Center. While in high school she learned to play the banjo. Her Humanities teachers at Stephens College encouraged her interest in folklore, and she received a master’s degree at Western Kentucky University. She also met Ramona Jones and worked with her for some summers. That friendship took Cathy to Nashville, where she performed on the “Grand Ol Opry.” But, it was the jam sessions with legendary old-time musicians that she enjoyed most. Cathy is recognized as a master of the frailing banjo style and has twice won the Tennessee Old-Time Banjo Championship. Cathy can also be credited for some of the growing interest in the Hammered Dulcimer in the Midwest. In the mid-1970s, she was one of the first to play it at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan., providing a number of current players with their first contact with the instrument.
DAVE took his sister-in-law’s guitar to classes in his Chicago hometown and rekindled his childhood interest in folk music. While attending college in Columbia, Mo., Dave lived at and helped manage the Chez Coffeehouse, a focal point of folk music in Central Missouri for 30 years. He started accompanying fiddlers, began playing in local string bands, developed a distinctive back-up guitar style, and met Cathy. Dave studied Journalism at the University of Missouri. After marrying Cathy in 1979, he worked at newspaper jobs in Western Kentucky and Central Missouri before focusing on a music career.
They started the Big Muddy Folk Festival in 1991 and later produced two albums of Civil War music. These albums gained wide respect among Civil War historians in the region and put them in demand for seminars and performances at national parks, re-enactments and historical meetings. They also formed the Discovery String Band, and produced a significant album of music related to the Lewis and Clark journey in 2003 in time for the commemoration of that event. In 1996, Dave and Cathy were invited as guest performers aboard the legendary Delta Queen steamboat, and for 13 years returned as guests for cruise themes such as the Civil War, music of the rivers, American folklife and Lewis and Clark on this and other historic boats.
Cathy and Dave continue to perform and conduct workshops with hammered and fretted dulcimers, banjo, guitars, autoharp and ‘found’ instruments such as spoons, mouthbow and leaf. Dave and Cathy continue to live in Boonville in an1859 Greek-revival house. Among other interests, Cathy continues her lifelong fascination and study of Native American culture, and Dave enjoys home brewing.
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