Banjo Friday returns, & it appears my fascination with the classical banjo style continues!
Today we have an odd banjo—one that is not heard much anymore, & that always had more of a heyday in Great Britain than in the United States. In fact the instrument, namely, the zither banjo, was first designed in England by banjo maker William Temlet, who began selling the instruments in the 1840s. Although the zither banjo has gone through various manifestations over the years, the current version owes much to U.S. violinist (& later banjo player) Alfred Davis Cammeyer, who designed the 5-string model most commonly seen now. Other innovations were made by the British banjo manufacturer, Arthur O. Windsor—& Windsor banjos are dear to me, since my regular old open-back 5-string is indeed a 1930s Windsor "Popular" model. One of the main characteristics of the zither banjo is its mixture of gut & steel strings. While Cammeyer's version had 5 strings, there have also been 6 & 7 string versions of the zither banjo. Interestingly, even the 5 string models generally use the 3-on-a-side guitar tuners, which means one tuner is "just for show"!
The performer is Rob MacKillop, who we heard on an earlier Banjo Friday post, when he performed some 91th century popular pieces in the classical banjo style. As I mentioned at that time, Mr MacKillop is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist who is not only a banjo virtuoso (all varieties), but is also a master classical guitar player & lutenist, & who branches out into the ukulele, the vihuela & the medieval guitar! Mr MacKillop has published a book entitled Early American Classics for Banjo, which contains arrangements of pieces similar to these. You can find out more about this & more of his ventures into classical music on the banjo at his website dedicated to this subject.
“Ballad #1” is a piece composed by none other than Alfred Davis Cammeyer himself. At this link, you can read Cammeyer’s own account of how the zither banjo got its name, & much more. Rob MacKillop notes this is one of Cammeyer’s “easier” pieces,
Image links to its source at www.zither-banjo.org