When the March 2008 tornado felled the “Century Oak” which had long stood across from the Friends of the Southwest Virginia Museum to be raffled off at the 2008 “Gathering in the Gap” Music Festival. The dulcimer was in great demand, both for its superb craftsmanship as well as its historical significance. So great was the response to the instrument that Tom agreed to create another dulcimer for the 2009 “Gathering,” this one with unique oak leaf designs reflecting the mighty tree from which its wood came.
Mr. Dickenson has a personal connection to the Southwest Virginia Museum. His great-grandfather was one of the craftsmen who helped to build the Ayers Mansion, now the Southwest Virginia Museum. Adding to that great legacy, Tom and his family recently donated four benches to the museum that they constructed from the wood of the “Century Oak.” These benches display the unique character associated with oak and are adorned with carved motifs similar to those found in the original woodwork of the museum. The benches have been installed in the museum as places for rest and contemplation for visitors and have been dedicated in memory of Tom’s parents, Robert Vincent and Mary Sue Dickenson.
For the 2010 music festival, Tom decided to create a new instrument – a lap harp. Once again, he used wood from the “Century Oak” to build a one-of-a-kind instrument that is as beautiful to look at as it is to play. Small harps, often called shepherd or sacred harps, have been around since the time of the Old Testament. They are considered by many to be the most basic multi-stringed instruments ever invented; easy to learn and perfect for learning scales, chords, and musical keys. The 2010 Sacred Harp stands approximately three feet tall and can be set on a small table when not in use.
Tickets for the “Sacred Harp” are $2.00 each or three for $5.00. They may be purchased in advance of the festival at the following Big Stone Gap locations: Dr. Roger Bays’ office, Dr. Theresa Dunton’s office, The Post, and Black Diamond #3. They will also available on the day of the festival, Saturday, May 29, at the Main Stage concession stand. For additional information, please visit the Gathering in the Gap website.