The Psaltery is a musical instrument with origins that date back at least 4000 years. It is recorded in the Bible in both the Book of Psalms and the Book of Daniel. The psaltery is played by holding the instrument in the bend of your arm and pulling a bow across the individual strings.
Dave started making bowed psalteries more than twenty years ago after his wife bought one and fell in love with the instrument. He has now made over 6000 and a special collector’s psaltery is made each time he reaches a thousandth mark. The bowed psaltery that Dave makes is a 24 note double back and a 36 note double back “tenor”. They are fully chromatic stringed instruments that are extremely easy to learn to play. Dave’s wife, Paulette, has written a 150 page instructional music book that comes with the psalteries so that anyone, regardless of their musical background, is able to play it right away.
Dave makes all of his psalteries by hand from scratch. He uses various woods such as walnut, birch, oak, cherry, maple and mahogany. Each psaltery is unique and no two psalteries are exactly alike. Dave’s psalteries can be easily identified by the individualism that he gives each psaltery from decorative scrollwork applied above or around the sound holes to floral and nature designs hand painted by Paulette.
Paulette hosts a Down Home Psaltery & Hammered Dulcimer Festival each year on the second weekend of June at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. As far as we are aware, this psaltery festival is the only existing psaltery festival of its kind in the U.S. The festival was born out of Paulette’s desire for psaltery players to have an opportunity to share their knowledge and different techniques with each other and to demonstrate to others just how easy the psaltery is to play. The festival started in 1996 and has grown steadily each year with bowed psaltery and hammered dulcimer players and other interested persons attending.
The festival is designed to provide workshops on the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. A “Showcase” and a Juried National Competition are the highlights of the festival and demonstrates the variety of music that can be played from classical to country to gospel. All psaltery players are invited and encouraged to attend. From jammin’ to learning, to sharing, it’s full of fun and you are guaranteed of a “Down Home Feeling”.
Dave and Paulette Lucas were the resident instrument makers at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park for the past twenty five years. As of August 2015 they decided to close their craft cabin at Tannehill in order to expand their time for building psalteries. You may now contact Dave and Paulette to make appointments for free maintenance of your psalteries Monday – Saturday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm at (205) 424-6970. Dave and Paulette also attend juried Arts and Craft Shows at various locations. Click here for a list of the Arts and Craft Shows that Dave and Paulette will attend this year.