ECA Thanksgiving weekend concert features Hands Five

Elation Center for the Arts presents Hands Five, an award-winning string band from New Mexico, in a special Thanksgiving weekend concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse.

From the lilt of melodious Scottish fiddling to the syncopated percussive splendor of the hammered dulcimer, Hands Five performs a spirited repertoire of old-time American mountain music, Celtic and French-Canadian dance tunes, new-time music (new tunes and songs in an old-time style), and Hispano-American tunes to enthusiastic audiences throughout the Southwest.

The shimmering sounds of the hammer dulcimer ring forth from the hands of Peter Esherick. A full resonant sound that allows even a simple melody to take on a beautiful richness, the hammered dulcimer plays an important role in the music of Hands Five.

Although the hammered dulcimer has a long tradition in American music — going back at least to the early 1700s — it’s an instrument with which many Americans are unfamiliar. It has a trapezoidal frame and an incredible number of strings stretched over a sounding board. The strings are played with little wooden mallets.

Originating in ancient Persia, the instrument spread across North Africa and was brought into Europe by the Spanish Moors during the 12th century A.D. Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance it was popular in both Eastern and Western Europe. Today, versions of the hammered dulcimer are played throughout the world.

Esherick first encountered the hammered dulcimer at Harvard University in the 1980s. “A street musician was playing a hammered dulcimer and I became mesmerized,” he says. “I must have spent hours, leaning against a bank building wall in the cold wind, just listening.”

The experience inspired Esherick to take up the instrument. After developing his technique, he took on the challenge of playing in an ensemble. “Playing with Hands Five has been a real joy as well as a real learning experience,” he says. “The band has given me the opportunity to find ways to be more creative. You have so many more options with a band, to vary the overall sound of the music you produce.”

Esherick, who also plays guitar and banjo, is one of the principle organizers of the annual Albuquerque Folk Festival. And — in his other life — he’s a physicist. “Music winds in and out of my life,” he says. “It sticks with me and adds a special dimension to my world.”

Other members of Hands Five include Bruce Thomson, fiddle; Erika Gerety, bass; Gary Blank, percussion; and John Brinduse, guitar (see next week’s edition of The PREVIEW for a profile on another band member).

In the good old days, families and friends got together to have fun with music and dance. Those days are still alive and well in Pagosa Springs. Join us two days after Thanksgiving for a special holiday celebration at the Hands Five concert.

Advance tickets are $12, available online at elationart.org and at Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Tickets at the door are $15. Young people — 18 and under — accompanied by parents, will be admitted free of charge.

You’re welcome to help us continue our tradition of the wonderful concert intermission social, by bringing a dessert to share if you wish. Volunteers are always appreciated.

Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave. in the Vista subdivision of Pagosa Lakes. Take U.S. 160 to Vista Boulevard; turn north on Vista, then left on Port. The clubhouse is at the end of Port in the PLPOA complex.

Elation Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that provides cultural arts programs to the community of Pagosa Springs.

For more information, call 731-3117.