Margaret MacArthur

I first heard Margaret MacArthur perform when I was a teenager. I had just begun learning to play the dulcimer and she was one of the first players I had the chance to hear.

She performed at The South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. I was probably 17 at the time.

Margaret demonstrated a rare virtuosity on the dulcimer. She would play intricate counter melodies and harmonies to her voice. Her style was very understated yet extremely elegant.

A few years later I was hired to play at a festival for the first time. Margaret was also performing there. From the moment I met her I considered her a friend.

I would see her on occasion throughout the 1980’s while touring. I was always happy when we were both booked at the same festival. In those days touring was as much about seeing friends as it was about playing music.

059da3dfcc92b6deccdc449cf8c54599I found myself thinking of Margaret today when I came across this photograph of myself playing one of her dulcimers while staying at her house. I was gigging in the area and she put me up for the night. Judging by the picture I’d say that must have been in the early 1980’s

Margaret had a fascinating collection of historic dulcimers and related instruments. It was like being in a museum where I could touch and play everything!

She told me that a lot of her style and technique on the dulcimer came from playing zither. Margaret had great left hand technique; lots of hammer ons and pull offs. slides. etc.

The last time I saw her was at a concert she gave in East Lansing, Michigan a few years ago. She was just as vibrant, creative and alive as she had always been.

Margaret passed away May 23rd, 2006.