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Roger Nicholson

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

Rick shot me an email today in which he commented on the Jack Master's track from the "Merry Christmas from David" post; "As I listened to the first tune it reminded me of Roger Nicholson’s style of playing and the many English tunes and ballads he played."

Photo courtesy of Emma Katherine Nicholson
Roger Nicholson, one of the U.K.s most influential and innovative guitarists and dulcimer players. Courtesy of Emma Katherine Nicholson.

I've been meaning to write a bit about Nicholson, so perhaps now is a good time.

I had never heard of Roger Nicholson until I met Dan Evans (another friend of David's!) a few years ago. Dan first mentioned Nicholson as an important influence in the U.K. for both guitarists and dulcimer musicians. Dan even toured with Roger to the U.S. in 1997. During the research for Pluck, I learned that long before that tour, Nicholson inspired dulcimer players on this side of the pond as well, and David Schnaufer was among them. The more I listened to David's early music and watched his exacting standards become self-evident, the more I came to believe that Nicholson had a profound influence on David's early development as an artist and on his musical taste. Uncommon at the time David discovered Nicholson was the fretting of more than one string, plucking strings or exploring different tunings and genres of music. Also uncommon among Appalachian dulcimer players at the time was Nicholson's preferred repertoire that ranged from Medieval, Rennaisance and Baroque music to Eastern music, Jazz and Appalachian tunes. Nicholson was much admired in the U.S. at the time, and would collaborate with many of the Boom players such as Lorraine Lee and Neal Hellman.

Photo of her father courtesy of Emma Katherine Nicholson

Dan Evan shares his unique insights about Roger in his blog post entitled "Remembering Roger Nicholson"; if you're curious about this Brit who had so much influence on Boom players, have a lovely read at the link to Dan's website. You can also read a bit about how Nicholson's music and standards influenced David's in Pluck.

(Roger wasn't the only interesting person in the Nicholson family. His daughter told me,

Daddy was briefly a model too, he did it for a little while so he could save up for his first guitar. he taught himself to play, and then later, the dulcimer. My father's mother, Leopoldine Avico, later Nicholson, was an artist model and sat for one's of London's

most recognizable statues, at Selfridges, Oxford Street, London.

Daddy was her only child; I am also an only child. An American lady,

Lucy wrote a whole chapter on my Grandma and her sisters in her book,

Roger with daughter Emma Katherine Nicholson in 1976. Courtesy of Emma Katherine Nicholson.

I wonder how many dulcimer players today know the debt of gratitude we owe to Nicholson's influence? I know I didn't before Pluck, but I am certainly glad that I learned of him. You can listen to Nicholson's entire album, Nonesuch for Dulcimer, on youtube with its following tracks; the first time I listened to it, I was gobsmacked (as the Brits say) at his repertoire, his virtuosity, and his unique playing "voice", all of which David's playing would echo. Fortunately for David and all whom he has influenced, Nonesuch for Dulcimer was released near the same time David bought his first dulcimer; you can read about both events in the Odyssey section of Pluck.

A1 Nonesuch

A2 Medieval Garden

A3 In Good King Arthur's Day

A4 Gavotte In D

A5 Newlyn Town

A6 Howie's Tune

A7 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy

B1 Scott Medley

B2 Fugue For Dulcimer

B3 Layly Worm

B4 Spring Season

B5 Appalachian New Step

B6 The Sheep Stealer

B7 Shady Grove Variations

(For those of you who may have never experienced music on vinyl, the As and Bs above refer to the sides of the album, front and back, on which the tracks appear.)

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