By Leo Kretzner

The 22nd Annual Harvest Festival of Dulcimers is this Saturday, October 1, in Costa Mesa (full details below). After a day of workshops, the evening concert presents a pair of performances featuring the very best of folk innovation and deep folk roots: Robert Force, pre-eminent west coast fretted dulcimer innovator of over 40 years, AND Cathy Barton and David Para, likewise seasoned professionals, from the heartlands of Missouri, on hammered dulcimer, banjo, guitar… and leaf. Yes, the leaf! Must be seen and heard to be believed!

When I saw Robert Force perform with Albert d’Osshe in 1978, like everyone else I was swept away by the energetic musicality of their dulcimer playing. Surely this folk group would be the next to cross over to mainstream fame – a tad optimistic on my part, but that’s how their music made you feel. Well aware of and indebted to older Appalachian dulcimer traditions, they beautifully extended those in fresh, new directions – including playing standing up, dulcimer slung over the shoulder. Radical!

Their co-written book, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, is an icon among the folk instructionals that proliferated in the1970s and ‘80s. They also founded The Kindred Gathering annual event, now well beyond its 40th year, which migrates up and down the left coast, and remains entirely about the folks who arrive and the music they want to play and hear. Robert continues to give high energy concerts rich in music, humorous history and personal connection. He is truly a musical force of nature.

Cathy Barton and David Para wear a colorful collection of musical hats, excelling on many instruments and equally so in vocals, yet also in the ringing authenticity they bring to songs both ancient and topical. They are working folk scholars not only of the music itself, but its origins, stories and personalities. They pour all this into their concerts, which are at once both exquisitely crafted yet as fresh and in-the-moment as a new joke between old friends.

Cathy and David continue to be at the top of their game, with a flowing stream of superb albums, a new one about every year. In the realm of modern renderings of songs with roots deep in time, they are among the very, very best I’ve ever heard.

But don’t take my word for it – you’ve gotta come and hear for yourself!

22nd Annual Harvest Festival of Dulcimers

Saturday, October 1, 8:00am – 8:00pm. Early evening concert begins 6

Presbyterian Church of the Covenant

2850 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA

Leo Kretzner has made a bit of mountain dulcimer mischief himself, also going back to the 1970s.