Oct 29, 2007

The Dolceola

Saturday, Tom and Bev Webster came down to my motel all the way from Maine. They had contacted me a couple of weeks ago to see if I could look at a musical instrument called a Dolceola which Bev had inherited from her late father. They wanted to know how much it might be worth and what it might take to restore the instrument. They had found me through another Dolceola owner in California, Greg Miner, who has a Website describing this rare instrument. Greg has a Website relating to his phenomenal instrument collection. When he was restoring his Dolceola, he contacted me. Therein lies an interesting story:

In September, 1997, I attended the Memphis Dulcimer Festival. On the program, I noticed that at 2:00 PM, Andy Cohen would be playing the gospel music of Washington Phillips , accompanying himself on the Dolceola. Since Ididn't know who Andy Cohen was, or Washington Phillips, or what a Dolceola was, Iattended this session. I was completely captivated with the music, the instrument, and the musician. Andy, his lovely wife Larkin, and I have stayed in touch and become friends through a common love for this unique instrument and its music.

I enjoy bringing old devices back to life. The Dolceola is no exception. Through Andy's connections, in 1998, I had the opportunity to restore a Dolceola for a gentleman in Montana. It was an enjoyable job, although one that tested my patience on more than one occasion. I even reproduced the decals that were applied to the originals!

The body of the instrument was badly cracked and had become unglued in a number of areas. The keyboard mechanism had, at some time during its long life, been submerged in water. That caused a lot of rust that had made much of the mechanism inoperable. Moths and mice had taken their toll on the felt parts of the action (but the glue remnants were still there to let me know where the felt had been). Many strings were broken, but I was fortunate enough to find a source of custom-made strings. And here's the result of 2 years' work... before and after:

Below is a picture of Andy tuning the Dolceola (Serial No. 2793) which I restored.

Andy and his wife Larkin have an online store, Riverlark Music, where you can buy a recording of Andy playing the "Dolceola Favorites." He's a fabulous musician!

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