Airs From Who Knows Where Liner Notes

We recorded this CD in 1995, when we were a band of six. In 1996 we lost our dear friend and superb hammered-dulcimer player, Susan Zimelis, to leukemia. Throughout her illness, music was a comfort to her, a soothing balm to her family and friends, and an inspiration to the many musicians who filled her hospital room day and night, playing the tunes she loved most.

We miss her, and carry her memory with us as we play. This CD showcases her artistry on the hammered dulcimer, which was cherished and marveled at in the many musical spheres in which she moved. Here's to Susan! Long may her strings ring!


Karispers Polska/Gärdebylaten/Walla Fjord • trad. Scandinavian

Three happy tunes from northern lands: the first is popular in New England to accompany the hambo, a Swedish dance; the second is a Swedish walking dance; the third hails from the Shetland Islands.

An American Army of Two • Diane Taraz and Jim Gleason • LISTEN

During the War of 1812, as British ships blockaded the coast and raided coastal communities, the teenaged daughters of a Scituate lighthouse keeper saved their town through musical subterfuge. When they saw a barge of Redcoats approaching, Abigail and Rebecca Bates hid with their fife and drum behind the dunes and made such a racket that the Lobsterbacks mistook them for a Yankee encampment. This song celebrates their courage and invokes the tune they played: Yankee Doodle, whose ancient melody was known as "the air from who knows where."

Moran's Hornpipe/Raftery's Favorite/The Friendly Visit • trad. Irish • LISTEN

We found the first two tunes in the last collection of Capt. Francis O'Neill, titled Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody, published in 1922. O'Neill collected Moran's in Chicago and noted that it was a favorite around Listowel in County Kerry; he learned Raftery's from the playing of Edward Cronin of Limerick Junction in North Tipperary.

The Factory Girl's Come-All-Ye • trad. New England

Like all good work songs, this one from the mills of Lewiston, Maine, includes a great deal of complaining about the conditions and especially the boss's incessant nagging. The girls who sang this in the early 1800s rose before dawn to work a 14-hour day and sent most of their earnings home to the family farm. Versions have traveled as far west as Texas and south to the Carolinas.

The Diamond • trad. Scots • LISTEN

This song probably dates from the mid-19th century, inspired by the hardy Scots who hunted the whale in the Davis Straits, between Greenland and Baffin Island. One of the ships toasted, the Resolution, was crushed in the ice in 1834, a common fate in these dangerous waters. The song dwells not on the hardships but on the joy of a full hold, and the departing sailors promise their tearful lasses that when they return they'll rip up the bedclothes in celebratory ardor.

Message in a Bottle © Nancy Koch • LISTEN

Nancy composed this waltz 20 years ago and decided it had a vaguely nautical feel; hence the vaguely nautical title.

Katy Cruel • trad. New England • LISTEN

Sung in the colonies before the Revolution, this song tells the troubles of the once-popular Katy, who may have been a camp follower. It's one of the earliest ballads that seems to have originated on this side of the Atlantic, though the last verse appears in several English songs. Thanks to band alumna Betsey Hartford for teaching it to us.

The Easy Winners •  Scott Joplin, arranged by John Berger

This gem of melodious syncopation was the first of Joplin's works that he published himself, in October 1901 (most of his compositions were published by John Stark & Son). In this orchestra-style arrangement, the guitar and dulcimer handle the left-hand piano part, and the flute and accordion generally take the right.

The Children's Hour • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, melody by Diane Taraz

In Longfellow's beloved poem about his daughters ambushing him in his study, he compares their flurry of kisses to the experience of the 10th-century Bishop of Bingen, who, according to German legend, took refuge in a tower in the Rhine river to escape a horde of mice sent by God to devour him in retribution for his cruel misdeeds (an obscure reference even in Longfellow's day). The Cambridge house still stands, with the study preserved as it was when Longfellow heard "the patter of little feet."

Tous les Bourgeois de Chartres/Le Carillon de Dunkerque • trad. French

In Longfellow's poem "Evangeline," about the exile of the French from Canada, these tunes are played at the wedding feast.

Suzanna Martin • trad. New England

Martin, 67 years old in 1692, was hanged as a witch on July 19th of that year. Her main "crime" seems to have been standing up to her accusers and laughing at the fits they threw in the courtroom. An exasperated Cotton Mather described her as "one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of the World." We found this version, sung by Patsy Margolin, on a recording titled I Long to Hear You, produced by Peter Johnson, who encouraged many of us to develop our talents.

Mulloy's Reel/The Drunken Tinker/The High Reel • trad. Irish • LISTEN

The titles of these reels unfortunately fit the stereotype of the inebriated Irishman, but they go together so nicely we can't resist. Mulloy's (Ríl Uí Mhaolmhuaidh) is found in Breandán Breathnach's Ceol Rince Na hÉireann (Cuid 1), #138.

Tiree Love Song • trad. Scots

We learned this lovely song from an Eileen McGann tape at the suggestion of Alex Liazos of the El Tremedal Coffeehouse in Watertown, Mass., in honor of the marriage of two friends who met at a Gloucester Hornpipe & Clog Society concert. Matchmaking is just one of our sidelines.

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