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Looking Past "The Third Man": Tomy Temerson Leads Zither Concert April 5 at St. Paul Lutheran Church PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Wednesday, 02 April 2008 02:33

   Tomy Temerson

   For contemporary American audiences, the zither begins and ends with the soundtrack to the 1949 film The Third Man - which famously featured the instrument in its opening. (See the credits at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4JpDUMXBqo.) The tune was a number-one hit in the United States in 1950.

 

But the stringed instrument has a rich history in Europe and Asia and dates back more than two millennia.

 

And at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, master zither player Tomy Temerson will lead a mass zither concert at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2136 Brady Street in Davenport. The German American Heritage Center is promoting the event as "the largest zither concert held in the United States in 50 years," promising 30 zither players from 10 states. A $10 donation is suggested at the door.

 

The 35-year-old German - who said in a phone interview that he comes to the United States every three years - will also perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 3, at Mojo's coffee house in the River Music Experience.

 

Temerson said he began playing the zither at age eight, taught by his father. He was initially attracted by "the special sound, and the possibility to play a melody and a complement together. ...

 

"It is a very difficult instrument to learn," he added. "You have two playing areas. One area is with the left hand - the melody. And the other is with the right hand - the accompaniment."

 

The piano also allows a performer to accompany him- or herself, but Temerson said the zither is a more intimidating instrument for the beginner, because the player must create the tone (as opposed to the keys creating it), and because it takes time to build up the necessary callouses. (The piano, incidentally, is technically a keyed zither.)

 

Temerson trained to be an electrical engineer and worked at a stock exchange before pursuing the zither full-time. He said he makes his living performing concerts and at hotels, restaurants, and cruise ships.

 

While the zither is rarely heard in this country these days - there is a Chicago Zither Orchestra (http://www.myspace.com/chicagozitherorchestra) - the instrument is enjoying a renaissance in Germany and Austria, Temerson said, with classical music being written for the zither orchestra, and with young people picking up the instrument.

 

Composing for zither, he said, is "very fashionable now in Germany."

 

   And, he said, the solitary potential for the zither is one reason it appeals to a new generation: "In the modern world, people, and especially the young people, they want to have something from the past, something they can do on their own."


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