Christy takes place in 1912 Tennessee Smokies and is about a young teacher who is hired by a mission to teach school in the backwoods.
In the course of the two year series I counted four different Appalachian dulcimers, three played by three different characters.
The show rarely gives you a good long look at the Appalachian dulcimers though you can hear the characters strumming on them and singing. If I’m not mistaken there may be a little dulcimer music in the background occasionally, if you listen for it. (click on images for larger photos)
Dulcimer 1: In the pilot you can see/hear a lady (Fairlight Spencer) strumming an Appalachian dulcimer (presumably) on her lap as she is singing, but all you can see is the turkey quill she is strumming with. She is singing “The Mockingbird Song /Hush, Little Baby” as she keeps some children quiet during a medical emergency.
Dulcimer 2: In an episode (Amazing Grace), with guest star Judy Collins, you get a slightly better look at a dulcimer as she plays and sings “Down in the Valley”. Incidentally Judy Collins’ character is a blind lady and in reading Judy Collins’ bio I saw that her father in real life was a blind singer.
I had questions as to whether this was even a dulcimer that I was seeing as I didn’t see any sound holes (the screen capture is very grainy). Is it a mountain dulcimer, is it a prop, is it something else? When I asked Mark Richmond about it he showed me a photo of an old dulcimer without traditional sound holes but sound holes in the fretboard from Ralph Lee Smith’s pamphlet/CD, “Tunes of the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains“ . I’ve also seen a similar dulcimer in L. Allen Smith’s book “A Catalog of Pre-Revival Dulcimers”. Next I relooked at the pictures I took at the Museum of Appalachia and saw a few dulcimers with sound holes only on the fret board.
If you’ve seen the Archie Lee Dulcimer in my article about his great-grandmother’s dulcimer, it also does not have the “usual” sound holes either.
So the dulcimer on the wall in this episode of Christy could be a Virginia style mountain dulcimer with the sound holes on the fret board…
Dulcimer 4: The Wedding: Man plays dulcimer during wedding procession. Louis Hornbostel, and others, have told me that dulcimer maker Bill Taylor is the dulcimer player in this scene.
Even without the mountain dulcimers we enjoyed watching all the episodes and the scenery. The Christy series is available from Amazon.com on one two disk set (each disk is double-sided)
David Bennett <><
Gallery of photos