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Words: Ballard MacDonald

Music: James F. Hanley

Arr: Connie Allen



            The composer of Indiana, James Hanley, is equally well known for his later tune, Second Hand Rose, while lyricist Ballard MacDonald had many songs to his credit, including Beautiful Ohio. These two artists apparently cooperated on Indiana in order to try to capitalize on the popularity of a song written 20 years earlier by Paul Dresser, entitled On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.  In the lyrics we see references in both tunes to the “new-mown hay and candle-light seen through the sycamores” of Indiana. The melody line of this tune even borrows a refrain from the earlier tune.


            Unlike Wabash, a slow love ballad, Indiana was written for dancing, and its spirited tempo fits nicely on the dulcimer, together with several lovely color chords made possible by the 1-3-5 tuning.


            The arranger of this month’s selection is Connie Allen, a well-known dulcimer personage, living in San Diego, CA.  Connie is one of those players who rise to the challenge when hearing, “you can’t play THAT on the dulcimer”. She built her first instrument in the 60’s and played privately until the 90’s, at which time she was exploring various tunings, in search of chromatic melodies. Then Rob Brereton presented a 1-3-5 workshop locally, demonstrating what that tuning could do. Connie was hooked, and after several weeks of practice her fingers became accustomed to the new chord shapes in Rob’s arrangement of Blue Skies.


            She finds arranging in 1-3-5 tunings very satisfying, enabling her to play torch songs, Dixieland tunes and “swinging sing-alongs”. One of her dulcimers is tuned permanently to F-A-C and the other to C-E-G. Lately, Connie has added a separate fourth string, with the tuning usually being C-F-A-C. This gives a fuller sound and makes it possible to alternate bass and chord-melody, in the style of Elizabeth Cotton.


            Connie feels that Indiana is a natural choice for this tuning. She learned it from her playing partner, Bill, who plays chord support using an old-style, five-string banjo; he even plays it in her favorite key, F!  By adding the dulcimer melody and vocal harmony, the combination became a rollicking arrangement that may be heard on their 2003 CD release The Waves We Left Behind.












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