What's a psaltery? Find out here.
WANT TO GO?
The Psaltery Symphony
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: Free but must be reserved at front desk after 10 a.m. or through web address below.
INFO: westmaninstruments.com or 88-TAMARACK
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The second annual Bowed Psaltery Symphony, starting at 2 p.m. Sunday at Tamarack, has doubled in size since last year's debut, which means a whole bunch of people pulling horsehair bows across taut strings.
"Last year, we had 22 players, and this year we're having 44, I think," said Tish Westman, who with husband Greg makes up Westman Instruments, one of the country's leading bowed psaltery makers.
This year's show is a tribute to Turlough O'Carolan, a blind harper from 17th-century Ireland whose haunting Celtic tunes have been adapted for the psaltery, with its evocative violin and harp-flavored overtones and harmonies.
The handheld wooden bowed psaltery is played with a wooden horsehair bow, drawn across anywhere from 9 to 37 strings.
Inspiration for the free Tamarack event resulted from students complaining that when they returned home from their psaltery lessons they had no one to bow around with, said Tish.
"We decided to have a gathering," she said. "It's been very successful, with people coming from all walks of life. We have an oceanographer coming from Cape Cod. We have a business manager coming from Chicago. We have teachers coming from South Carolina, Ohio -- all over."
The Westmans have evangelized psaltery playing far and wide. They've long made a living from teaching, making and selling hundreds of the instruments at Tamarack, on the road and through westmaninstruments.com.
"We consider ourselves in the top 10 psaltery builders in the United States," said Greg. "We build a lot of psalteries. When we traveled full-time, we took a full woodshop on the road with us -- we took surface sanders, drill presses, routers, and built them on the road."
They've taught and sold the psaltery to many tourists and travelers who stop by Tamarack, where the two have been resident artists since 2001. In their crowded Tamarack woodshop, they fabricate differently sized and shaped 9-note, 25-note, 32-note and 37-note psalteries and hand-make and string horsehair bows.