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Cornwall
Author: Albert d'Ossché
Date/Studio: 1989 Unknown, Edmonds, WA
Engineer: Unknown
Producer: Robert Force, Albert d'Ossché
Original Release: Double Dulcimer Magic (GM107)
Current Release: The Complete Recordings (BSR 158)

imageIn Cornwall, Albert's first instrumental composition for dulcimer, he discovered that the “voice” of a partial chord would gently lead him to the next one. In the composition he focused on the sound of the instrument, the flow of the tune. He let “weaker” chords hang in the air just a little longer to let them find their weight in the piece, then he would rush through the next several as he subtly readjusted the tempo for having let a previous one hang for a heartbeat or two.

That's the key-- a heartbeat or two-- not something you can easily teach. The gentle yet haunting result is what he called, “An etude for one of the last two covered bridges in the state (Connecticut).”

In the summer of '72 Al and I were living in West Cornwall, CT. Our front yard overlooked the Cornwall bridge, a functional, pioneer-elegant 172' red spruce structure that spanned the Housatonic River. That corner of the tri-state area (CT, NY, MA) had been a second home to Albert for many years. Old college friends hailed from nearby Sharon, CT. Albert and I taught special interest classes in dulcimer building, photography and filmmaking at the nearby Barlow School in Amenia, NY.

Many local folks played key roles in his and my lives during that time. Musical friends like Jake Bell (who wrote the Guitar section of In Search) and Gary Higgins lived in the surrounding communities. Mark Weinberg, who also taught at Barlow, grew up in the midwest listening to Motown and figuring out how to transfer sax licks to his banjo. He was a cornucopia of Woody Guthrie and Labor tunes.

Margaret Beaman and her dad, Gene, were the eternally hospitable, coonhound huntin', whiskey-drinking hosts of kitchen music. At their house was always a warm stove, food and a place to gather to play music. Bill Lockwood kept everyone's sound equal to the size of the crowd. Pat Malody, a former DC Public Health Nurse in the very inner city, kept us-- quite literally-- alive in some cases. Bill Wheaton photo-documented that fragile, transient era. Brad Davis, the Zerbo sisters and on and on...

Albert had a sense of the passage of time. That bridge was more than a bridge; it was a reflection on all of the dramas played out over the years in that very storied part of the county-- not an artifact from the past, but living proof the past is always with us. He thought like that. Coupled with his capacity for nostalgia and his earnest dedication and fascination as he sought to fathom and master the mysteries of the dulcimer, a timeless tune was born.

I can say that now because I have had the opportunity to be present over this past half-century as this simple, graceful tune has become a part of many new players' repertoire. Many don't even know who wrote it. Like the bridge, it is outliving its builder. I teach it at a workshop I call the Authentic Dulcimer-- simple chords, simple melody and a hard-to-define sense of Grace.

While Albert was composing the sweet, laid-back tune of Cornwall in the side yard, I was in the front yard experimenting with a driving, rock and roll “power chord” progression that was to become Wellyn. I still vividly remember that day. I rushed over to where he was playing and said, Hey, Flaco, I got a new tune!” He said, “Me too!” We played the beginnings of our new tunes for each other. Both needed bridges. The B part of both songs were co-written and are similar apart from tempo and the use of two-stop vs. three stop chords. Wellyn later got a C part.

The PDF tabs for this tune are of Albert's solo version as performed on the Pacific Rim Dulcimer Project. We later recut it as a duo for Gourd Music's release of Wellyn: The Double Dulcimer Magic of Force and d'Ossche'.

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