"Grey Aengus" is Jim Petersen
Rewind back to 1990, early fall. It's nighttime at a buckskinner's camp. Jim and a
small group are gathered around the warmth of the campfire singing songs and
carrying on. A stranger pulls a most unusual-looking instrument from its case,
attaches a single leg to the back, and, balancing it on his knees, proceeds to
produce the most hauntingly beautiful tunes by hammering its strings with what
appear to be little wooden spoons. This was Jim's introduction to the hammered
dulcimer, an instrument that would soon become an obsession.
Upon researching the instrument and finding out how much one would cost, Jim
decided that building one would be the better option. Proceeding with plans by
Sam Rizzetta acquired at the local library, armed only with ninth-grade
woodworking skills and very few tools, he built his first instrument. (Hey, nobody
told him he couldn't do it.)
Three years later after teaching himself to play (hey, nobody told him he couldn't
do it), he was hired at the "Bristol Renaissance Faire" in southeastern Wisconsin.
It was there that he taught himself to play mandolin and later hurdy-gurdy. (By
now you would think somebody would have told him he couldn't do it.)
"Grey Aengus" now plays at many little weekend "Renaissance Faires" throughout
the Midwest, occasionally doing studio work for other musicians and playing for
special events and gatherings. His repertoire is heavily laced with the
compositions of Turlough O'Carolan, the renowned 17th century blind Irish
harper, his absolute favorite composer, followed closely by Robert Burns the
well-known Scottish poet. (go ahead ask him).
Jim also plays the hurdy-gurdy and has recently renewed his high school romance
with the guitar, working on developing a small repertoire of traditional
Irish/Scottish/Celtic songs. Jim's thought on the idea is "Hey, you don't really
need a good voice to sing 'Trad'. Besides, nobody told me I couldn't do it."
So, the next time you're out at the local Renaissance Faire, check to see if "Grey
Aengus" is on the schedule, then sit back and relax…you'll be sure to have a good
time. (Nobody's going to tell you you can't.)