Phil has released a new CD, seven tracks of toe-tapping old-time and bluegrass tunes and songs. With guitar, banjo, and bass accompaniment from wonderful musicians, Some Come to Tarry is a great listen for dulcimer and traditional music fans.
Few musicians play the hammered dulcimer. Fewer still sing while accompanying themselves on this fascinating instrument, whose name means “beautiful song.” Phil Passen does both.
Phil plays and sings traditional American and Celtic music. Can such upbeat dance music be called soothing? With rhythmic playing on fast tunes and sensitive playing on slow numbers, Phil’s music often elicits that word — “soothing.” And though it may seem contradictory, listeners also dub the music “happy” and “bouncy” as they tap their feet to the beat. The songs he sings include familiar American folk songs such as Red River Valley and The Sloop John B; old-time songs such as Sail Away Ladies and My Darling Nellie Gray; and contemporary folk songs such as Kilkelly, Ireland and Hot Buttered Rum.
Phil played for 500 people at Borders State Street store in Chicago for Maeve Binchy’s only U.S. autographing. He frequently performs for the Chicago Department of Aviation’s tourist programs at O’Hare Airport, where travelers often thank him for providing pleasure on a stressful day. And he accepted the challenge of playing in the World Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Lord of the Rings Symphony at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater.
Phil’s third CD, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp: Music of the Civil War on Hammered Dulcimer is a fascinating solo recording of music commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The hammered dulcimer was popular in the United States during the Civil War, and music of that era seems right at home played on this unique instrument. Many tunes and songs in this program are still familiar today, such as The Girl I Left Behind Me; When Johnny Comes Marching Home; Home, Sweet, Home; The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching. Others, such as Lorena; Lincoln and Liberty; The Battle Cry of Freedom, The Marching Song of the First Arkansas Regiment; Shiloh Hill; and John Brown’s Dream are less familiar but just as beautiful, rousing, and inspiring.
Phil’s second CD, with guitarist Tom Conway, is Cold Frosty Morning: Christmas and Winter Holiday Music. Beautiful melodies such as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring andWhat Child Is This; old favorites such as My Dreidl, Jingle Bell Rock and Here Comes Santa Claus; and contemporary songs such as Winter Solstice and Hot Buttered Rumare featured on this diverse and exciting recording.
Swinging on a Gate: Traditional American and Celtic Music, Phil’s first CD, was a “most popular” choice on Amazon.com. The all-instrumental CD, with Phil on hammered dulcimer and Tom Conway on guitar, features old-time American dance and fiddle tunes and Celtic music. Tunes include Twin Sisters, Bonaparte’s Retreat, Miss MacLeod’s Reel, and
John Ryan’s Polka.
Libraries, schools, receptions of all kinds, store openings, barn dances, parties, teas, weddings, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants — Phil plays all these in settings formal or informal, as background or foreground music, solo or with guitar or banjo accompaniment. He has consistently been selected as a “best of the best” by the Library Administrators Conference of Northern Illinois. Phil performs most frequently in the greater Chicago area, which, due to his poor sense of geography, also includes Indiana and Wisconsin.
Phil also teaches hammered dulcimer at workshops and music festivals.