CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800 > Dulcimers in the Midlands & the North

Leslie Evans - social and musical background

"I first started with what they call a tubaphone - I don't think you've ever heard of one - it had wooden sides with holes bored through, same as this, you see, then it had tubes strung on string, a special sort of string, like a xylophone effort, there was about a double-octave, no half-notes and I learned that right-off by heart: I done me first concert on that, in the old Temperance Hall in Temple Street with an audience of about 400 people, with an orchestra, at the age of 10, and, of course, I went on from there, you see ... "

"Then there was a sort of a gap from there on, because I went sort of more for the stringed instruments, the autoharp - I had that for some time, a small one, then I went for the big one; we used to get them through the catalogues of these mailorder firms, you never see them much now. From then on I went on to the dulcimer, you see, and I practised hard on this, for six years, two hours a night, not weekends, just five nights a week, you know, mastering it; I was about 15 or 16 then.

"This friend of my father's had three instruments, and this was one of his best; he did say that it was made professionally by a piano firm, but we have no record, you see; this was the best of three, which he left with me to practise for a week, hoping that he was going to win, because he made a bargain that if I didn't play the instrument suitable to please him, he wanted £30 for it. Well, as luck had it, a week later, when he comes to visit me, to see what I'd done with it, I proved to him that I, well, I won the deal; so I had the instrument for £5, and from then on, I stuck at it ...

"Yes, I play the organ too; and the piano: I can keep a party going on the piano, for hours; ... no,no lessons. it's a natural gift... anything that makes a party ... "

He doesn't read music or sing:

"I might have got on better if I could sing, like these pop groups you see... My father didn't play but he could sing... if he was in a crowd singing you could hear him putting all the seconds in, so I've got that from him, and also my mother was an organist, and her brother too. This lady that I used to go about with, she called me 'the natural harmonist' ".

He had only ever owned the one dulcimer and was not himself a maker.