In Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired Stagolee, John Henry, and Other Traditinal American Folk Songs (Cornell University Press, 2015), Richard Polenberg describes the historical events that led to the writing of many famous American folk songs that served as touchstones for generations of American musicians, lyricists, and folklorists.
Those events, which took place from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, often involved tragic occurrences: murders, sometimes resulting from love affairs gone wrong; desperate acts borne out of poverty and unbearable working conditions; and calamities such as railroad crashes, shipwrecks, and natural disasters. All of Polenberg’s accounts of the songs in the book are grounded in historical fact and illuminate the social history of the times. Continue reading
Buffalo based musician and teaching artist Dave Ruch is seeking information on Franco American musicians and singers, past and present, from the Northern New York area.
Ruch is researching French American musical traditions for an upcoming project with Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY). Past collaborations between Ruch and TAUNY have included the “W is for the Woods” website on traditional Adirondack music, and the Emmy-winning “Songs to Keep” project. Continue reading
The emergency passport request of Robert and Margaret Perkins was granted, and a long, difficult journey began on the heels of what had been a very trying time. Besides the recent separation, their last year in Darmstadt had been spent in poverty-like conditions. Germany’s inflation rate had skyrocketed, driving up the price of everyday items. Robert and Margaret were forced to live on meager supplies and with little heat during the cold winter. They witnessed a food riot. All about them, men, even partially disabled, were conscripted into the military. Women were forced to fill the manual labor jobs normally held by men. And everywhere, soldiers marched off to war, spouting hatred for England and America, and confident of victory. Continue reading
Imagine the drama of the moment: in a courtroom, Edward Perkins battling against the city of Beacon, New York, desperate to win on behalf of his poor family. The charge? They had been cold-heartedly evicted from their apartment by city officials, and for several chilly, rainy June days, he had searched for new housing.
Meanwhile, Edward’s wife and son suffered and his daughter fell ill, presumably from the terrible living conditions. The damages sought (in 1915) were $15,000 from the city, along with $30,000 from the police chief who had deposited all the family’s belongings on the sidewalk. The $45,000 total was equal to $1.1 million in 2015. Continue reading
Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading
The Museum of the City of New York will present Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, a celebration of the City’s role as a center of the folk music revival from its beginnings in the 1930s and 1940s to its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as its continuing legacy.
The Museum of the City of New York is presenting HIP-HOP REVOLUTION: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper, an exhibition that shows the historic early days of hip-hop culture and music, with its roots firmly in New York, and how it evolved towards the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Bringing together for the first time the work of three renowned photographers of the hip-hop scene, the exhibition shows the birth of a new cultural movement – with its accompanying music, dance, fashion and style – as it quickly and dramatically swept from its grassroots origins into an expansive commercial industry. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” radio program, David Fiske of Saratoga County with stories of two 19th century hangings in Ballston Spa. In the second half of the show I talk with pianist Stan Wiest who has tales about life on the road as a musician in the 20th century.
Listen to the whole program at “The Historians” online archive at http://www.bobcudmore.com/thehistorians/
John Philip Sousa, “The March King” who composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, unsuccessfully courted a woman from the Mohawk Valley and remained a close friend of hers through the years.
Jessie Zoller was born in 1856 in the hamlet of Hallsville in the town of Minden. Minden historian Christine Oarr Eggleston said Jesse was the daughter of egg farmer Abram Zoller and his wife Alma Tuttle Zoller. After the Civil War, Abram Zoller held a high post in the U.S. Treasury and his wife and daughter were living with him in Washington. Continue reading
I’ve learned so much about the history and culture of my state (NY) and local communities in which I reside (Buffalo NY and Piercefield NY in the Adirondack Mountains) through the traditional music of these places.
Similarly, my interest in local and state history has informed my understanding and appreciation of the music of our forebears. Before mass media came into the home, you got your music as you got your food – from someplace local, mostly. The newspaper, perhaps. Travelling shows, yes. But also from people in your community. Family members, neighbors, coworkers. What did they sing about? And what can those long-forgotten songs tell us about a community? Continue reading