One of the many casualties of the COVID-19 outbreak is the cancellation of the International Zither Gathering.
The event would have brought zither players and aficionados from around the world to Washington this month.
If you are unfamiliar with the term zither you should read Missourian Feature Editor Karen Cernich’s March 11 piece on the Schwarzer Zither Ensemble or better yet, check them out live at the Washington Historical Museum and learn all about this unique musical instrument, when the museum reopens.
We recommend both if you are interested in history — especially the history of Washington.
That’s because Washington is synonymous with zithers, a stringed instrument that was popular with German immigrants who settled in this area.
One of those immigrants, Franz Schwarzer, opened a zither factory in the 1860s which would become world-renowned in the ensuing decades because of the quality and craftsmanship of the instruments produced there.
In fact, the instruments were so good Schwarzer earned the nickname “the zither king.” He put Washington on the national and international maps at least among zither fans.
A group of local residents has honored Schwarzer’s legacy by forming a zither ensemble, learning the unique and difficult to master instrument and performing recitals.
The ensemble practices weekly at the Washington Historical Society Museum, which has done a wonderful job of telling Schwarzer’s story and promoting all things zither.
The ensemble is growing in number while at the same time serving as a living and audible history lesson.
It’s a great story that we are sure Schwarzer would be proud of. Check out the ensemble and the Washington Historical Society Museum when it reopens. You won’t be disappointed.