What began more than a decade ago as research into a traditional German stringed instrument has turned Davenport into one of this country’s zither centers.
“We have developed into the largest zither ensemble in the country, and we have become ... the hub of zither activity in the United States,” said Anne Prinz, one of the 10 members of the Davenport Zither Ensemble.
The local group will be a part of the third North American Zither Gathering next weekend in Davenport, an event that will be capped March 12 by a public concert.
“The tradition of the zither is big here,” said Prinz, who said it came to the United States with the German immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“It was a very popular time for the zithers in the German-speaking
countries, so they bought the zithers with them,” she added. “In Davenport, they had a very big club here that had over 100 members during that time-frame. That history came here with it.”
Interest in the instrument here was revived about 2000, when Prinz’s father was doing research on the instrument for the German American Heritage Society in Davenport, having seen numerous pictures of people playing zithers.
“It’s kind of an interesting little thread that kept it alive,” said Prinz, who began playing about three years ago.
The zither has hit it big again in his homeland, said Tomy Temerson, the guest performer and teacher for the conference.
“In Germany, the origin of the zither, it has undergone a renaissance, or new birth,” he said. “The young people are interested in playing traditional instruments. Composers and arrangers are making new music for the zither and jazz music for the zither. For the young generation, they like to play it now.”
Temerson is in the Quad-Cities for two weeks for performances, including one at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Bettendorf Public Library, as well as to conduct four workshops.
The Saturday night concert at St. Ambrose University’s Galvin Fine Arts Center will include Temerson playing with the various groups, as well as a video camera focused on his hands while he’s playing.
Temerson, 38, has been playing the zither since he was 9 years old. He is considered one of the five top zither players in the world.
Prinz said one of the topics to be discussed will be how to get young people in America more enthused about the instrument.
Attendees are coming from Wisconsin, New York and Florida.
“It’s exciting for us that people are coming from all over the United States to play here,” Prinz added.
IF YOU GO
What: Grand Zither Concert
When: 7 p.m. March 12
Where: Galvin Fine Arts Center, St. Ambrose University, 2101 Gaines St., Davenport
How much: $10 in advance at the German American Heritage Center, 712 W. 2nd St., Davenport, and at the door