Nonsuch Dulcimer Club: The First Eighteen Years (Also see the Club Event History)
The first Nonsuch Dulcimer Club was launched at Glebe House in Cornwall in Spring 1990, but unfortunately the club remained in mothballs. A chance meeting between Janette Hughes from Nottingham, and myself from Oldham in July 1992, resulted, after a lot of hard work on Janette's part, in a weekend gathering at Cromford in Derbyshire in November 1992. At Cromford the original club was dissolved by the existing archive membership and the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club as we know it, was set up. We managed to fit everyone into Cromford for one more weekend in 1993, but then had to move. From 1994 - 1996 the annual weekends were held at Hope, also in Derbyshire, which we again outgrew. Since 1997, annual weekends have been held at Launde Abbey , Leicestershire; this year (2009), will be our 13th event at this venue. At these weekends we have hosted workshops by tutors from all over the world, and featured music from many cultures where hammered dulcimers are important instruments. The success of the weekends has been due to an ever growing list of club members who have been very generous with their time and organising skills, giving us year after year a very high quality event packed with workshops, talks, demonstrations, one to one tuition on request, and the opportunity to purchase books, instruments and those essential instrument spares.
Noting that the Dulcimer Players News in the USA catered for dulcimers of both types, by 1995 the club included mountain dulcimers. John Shaw and Roger Nicholson organised events for mountain dulcimer players, offering club members the opportunity to meet and listen to performers including the legendary Jean Ritchie.
In some years there have been additional weekend events during the Summer. These have included a weekend in Stockwell hosted by Matt Fox (1993), a day at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket organised by George Monger (1994), a Welsh and Early Music weekend at Atlantic College in South Wales arranged by Irene Stewart (1995), three camping weekends at Roger Frood's Dove Workshops near Glastonbury, 1997 - 2000), and a week in Ireland at the Boghill Centre in Co. Clare (1998). In the midlands, Sally Whytehead has organised concerts featuring major English and international artists such as Geoff Smith and Viktoria Herencsar.
In 2001, club member Alan Corkett organised a dulcimer house party at Halsway Manor with David Kettlewell (whose definitive 1982 research on the Dulcimer in the British Isles can now be read on his website), and Jenny Coxon. From 2003 - 2009, Jenny Coxon and Eric Woulds ran the successful Winter Warmer weekends at Ascot Lodge in York, with tutors from the UK, the USA, Northern Ireland, and Germany; the event may be replaced with something similar at a different venue in future years. Club members have also hosted dulcimer meets at several folk festivals, including Sidmouth, Cornwall, Holmfirth, Redditch, Accrington and Fylde. In 2006 the English Country Music Weekend held a ‘Dulcimer Special’ event at Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire; featuring (amongst others) club members Fred Woodley, Jenny Coxon, Sally Whytehead and Chris Coe. In 2005 & 2006, Northern Ireland club member Dick Glasgow organised the Causeway Dulcimer Festival (relocated from Cork), to celebrate dulcimers in Antrim with traditional players Nat Magee and William Rea.
Thanks to the hard work, dedication and expertise of all our committee members past and present, and others who have given generously of their time, to date (May 2009) we have produced 64 issues of Nonsuch News, (39 of which were edited by Kath & Neil Corbett), 14 Members Directories (produced by Sally Whytehead and Dave Clifford), and 1 Dulcimer Makers Directory. The varied and entirely voluntary contributions of so many individuals have contributed to the continuing success of the club and the solid foundation on which it stands.
We have informal and formal links with like-minded individuals and groups of people all over the world, and through our website (designed and maintained originally by Peter Collinson, then for many years by Dave Clifford) we are continually making new contacts and answering enquiries. The Cimbalom World Association (CWA), founded in 1991, holds biennial congresses to share dulcimer information and expertise. Nonsuch member Sally Whytehead is on the CWA committee, and initially hosted its email and internet facilities; CWA now has its own website. Member Dick Glasgow, set up the European Dulcimer Players’ Forum at ; and in the last few years, internet sites such as Myspace, youtube and Facebook have enabled like-minded enthusiasts to communicate, and share ideas, information and music; Kerensa has set up a Facebook Nonsuch group on behalf of Nonsuch, and Dick Glasgow has a Facebook group for the Dulcimer Players’ Forum. Joining these groups is free, click here.
Overseas visitors have appeared at our weekends, gatherings, workshops and concerts, usually centred round regional groups of the club; Nonsuch members have attended dulcimer events overseas, some contributing their playing and teaching skills; this has developed individual friendships through dulcimers worldwide.
All this activity has encouraged dulcimer makers to continue developing their skills, and we have been fortunate to have access to the expert advice and practical help unstintingly given by Roger Frood, Fred Woodley and John Crocker. Makers Roger Frood (Dove), and Martyn Banks (Oakwood), have given a year’s club membership to buyers of their instruments.
Jim Couza was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club, and his playing has influenced many people who have gone on to own dulcimers and have a go. Sadly Jim died in 2009 (For more on Jim see Memories of Jim Couza), but a tribute event is held in August each year (See Events Page.
Club services to the membership include Nonsuch News, our quarterly newsletter, an annually updated Members’ Directory, an Instrument Loan Scheme, a small travelling Library, and a comprehensive website.
© Jenny Coxon. May 2009.
(Updated Sally Whytehead April 2012)
(See also my article The Dulcimer - Rocketing to Relative Obscurity published in Living Tradition magazine June 2008.)