Jean Ritchie 1922-2015

jean ritchie 1s

My pretty Saro:
Now is the cool of the day.
High hills.  Shady grove.

Like many growing up in the 1960’s, I spent hours in my room listening to music and trying to learn to play guitar.  I don’t remember the spark for my interest in folk music, but Jean Ritchie was among those singers of traditional American songs that taught me their words and melodies.  She often sang her ballads a cappella, but she also used a mountain dulcimer as an accompaniment to her voice.  I loved the sound of it, and eventually I bought my own.

jean ritchie 2s

Oh little sparrow,
Riddle me this:  black waters.
The unquiet grave.

When I heard she had died a few weeks ago, I pulled my dulcimer out of the closet for the first time in many many years.  I had to look up the tunings, but once it was in one of the minor modes of Aolian, I surprised myself by remembering how to play “Shady Grove”.

jean ritchie 3s

Jean Ritchie came from a large rural Kentucky family known for its singing, and one of the gifts she left for us were the songs and hymns she learned as a child.  I still love those Child Ballads.  Her simple and direct renditions are among the best.

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9 responses to “Jean Ritchie 1922-2015”

  1. createarteveryday says :

    Beautifully done, and I love the verses you included also. I’m impressed you can play so many instruments! And amazed you remembered that tune. I’ve played (well, not great, but … ) Blackbird countless times on guitar, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pick it up and rattle it off at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • memadtwo says :

      Master of none, sadly. I occasionally play the piano, that’s about it these days. I gave my guitar to my daughter long ago. I would love to say I’ll get the dulcimer out more often now, but…well, you know how it goes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kirkistan says :

    Very nice! I love the detail of the clothing and instrument and expression.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. memadtwo says :

    It amazes me how in sync we are. I spent hours learning the guitar and listening to “The Folk Box”–remember that? I still know a lot of Child ballads and still love all that stuff. Oh yes, and I have a dulcimer, also, missing one string at the moment, but it’s a great instrument.


    • memadtwo says :

      It is…and I do remember the Folk Box. We should make time for some music. I haven’t played any piano in ages. Although Caroline seems to play when no one else is home, there’s always sheet music open and ready and the bench is out. Time, time, time…

      Liked by 1 person

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