Houston Early Music
A Lone-Star Legacy
Saturday, October 3, 1998, 7:30 p.m.
Moores Opera House
The Liberty Blue Grass Boys
With Readings by
Inprint and Blaffer Gallery
Special Parking Information:
Houston Early Music has been advised that, due to a football game at University of Houston, entry and parking arrangements for the concert have been changed. Entrance #16, referred to in our earlier communications, is blocked. Here are directions to the free parking area for the concert:
1) Exit the Gulf Freeway at the Cullen Exit. Turn South on Cullen.
2) Turn left (east) at the first light, which is Elgin.
3) Proceed east on Elgin. Turn right into a small entrance to the campus.
4) Proceed a short distance, turn right again into a large parking area. You will see Moores Opera House near the west end of this parking area.
We will try to put up some signs directing traffic to parking for Moores Opera House. The campus security guards directing traffic will also be able to assist you.
REMEMBER: FREE PARKING IS AVAILABLE FOR CONCERT PATRONS!
||Liberty Blue Grass Boys|
|Turn of the
Sacred Harp Hymns
|Sacred Harp Singers|
|Excerpts from Distant
||Shirley Marks Whitmore
The Artistic Director of Houston Early Music wishes to acknowledge with deep gratitude the assistance of Dorothy Rosenberger, Ruth Milburn, Chester Rosson, Rich Levy, and Roger Wood
Early Conversations Lecture Series - "Spirited Journeys"
The "Early Conversations" lecture and gallery tour for this evening is cosponsored by the Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston and features Chester Rosson who is Associate Editor of Texas Monthly Magazine and a director at The Texas Music Museum.
The state of Texas is fortunate in possessing a rich and varied folklore and music. This has emanated for Americas most diverse ethnic environment and from one of Americas most diverse geographic regions. When white settlers from the South, accompanied by slaves, came to Texas, they found Hispanics in possession, and before them there were the Indians. There were violent confrontations on the frontier between Indians, Anglos, Mexicans, Germans, Swedes, Cajun French, and Afro-Americans but there was also interaction, a borrowing of culture and sharing of custom. Music was the catalyst for that interaction. These racial groups, modified by and adapted to conditions of life in Texas, produced some of the richest folklore and music known in America.
After Texas achieved its sovereignty from Mexico in 1836, four identifiable musical traditions were present: the folk and religious music of the Indian tribes; religious hymns and spirituals brought by Texans of the Catholic and Protestant faiths; a European classical heritage imported to Texas from the urban centers of the United States; and folk music rooted in rural sounds of the American South. The early Scotch, Irish, and English settlers were soon joined by immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe. As these settlers moved into lands previously inhabited by Native Americans and ruled by Mexico, they formed a musical melting pot. They blended their music and spread it at dances, after round-ups, and at Christmas and other special occasions. The musicians gradually incorporated English ballads, Irish jigs and hornpipes, Black spirituals, and the music of the vaquero into a distinctive Texas style. Tonights program focuses on the music and folk tales of Anglo and African-American settlers, showing how they reacted to their environment and expressed their feelings of joy and their most deeply held religious beliefs.
Texas fiddling traditionally has been passed down from one player to another, from one generation to the next. Lovers of music attended contests, performances, and jam sessions to listen and learn from others, incorporating various styles and textures into their music. Texas fiddling evolved from many different sources. Some of its deepest roots lie in the Scotch-Irish music of immigrants who arrived in this country by the mid-1700s through ports in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. These musical traditions gained a fresh infusion in the 1840s and 1850s when approximately 1.5 million Irishmen fled the famine, came to the United States, and moved West bringing their old tunes, clogging, square dances, and jigs with them. The Anglo settlers arriving in Texas primarily from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia introduced the southern string band (consisting of guitars, banjos, and fiddles), as well as the ballads and marching songs indigenous to England, Scotland, and Ireland. One of Texas early settlers, Davy Crockett, in addition to his life as a politician and soldier, was also a fiddler. At the Alamo, Crockett with his fiddle challenged a bagpipe playing Scotsman named John McGregor to a musical duel to see who could make the most noise. Tradition says that Davy Crockett composed The Eight Day of January, one of Texas oldest fiddle tunes. His fiddle was so important to him that the inscription inside reads: "Feb. 14, 1819, Franklin County, Texas. This fiddle is my property. Davy Crockett." His fiddle, his rifle, and his knife can all be seen at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
The schottische heard on this concert was composed for the dedication of the capitol in Austin. This evenings performance marks the first performance since the day in Austin when it was originally heard. The only known copy of the music is in the possession of the Texas Music Museum at Austin.
Settlers in the Southwest celebrated, preserved, and passed down their pioneer experience through music. They wrote new lyrics to tunes that were hundreds of years old. Many old English ballads received new lyrics, creating ballads with Texas themes. The tunes Pretty Polly and Barbara Allan on tonights program are examples of British ballads that came to Texas largely from Virginia. The folklorist Child recorded thirty-six variants of Barbara Allan, many of which have been heard in Texas, including an astonishing African-American version in which Barbara Allan came to be known as Boberick Allan, a Texas boy!
Protestants began arriving in Texas in the 1820s and their religious music soon dominated social life. The pride of every congregation was their choir and competitions among various denominations have been documented as early as 1831. There were sacred music societies formed in Austin and Houston in the 1840s; one such nondenominational organization, the Sacred Harp Singing Society is still in existence and still produces unique and eloquent religious folk sounds. In 1802, William Little developed a system of denoting the tones of a scale by assigning them different shapes such as triangles, squares, etc. Thus, a piece of music could be read two ways: by a notes position on a staff or by its shape. This allowed those with little musical education to "read" music and to understand how a piece of music should sound. A hymnal was produced called the Sacred Harp which became immensely popular across America. Hymns from this hymnal such as Redeemed, the 95th Psalm, O Who Will Come and Go With Me speak eloquently of the Protestant Religious experience.
The largest body of Texas folk music came from the Anglo and black communities and
one of the greatest contributors to American folk and popular music has been the black spiritual and gospel song. The first Texas folk song to achieve national recognition as well as lasting popularity was originally written and sung by Texas slaves. The Yellow Rose of Texas, was a slave ballad inspired by Emily Morgan, the young black girl who supposedly distracted General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Although black and white Protestants borrowed heavily from each other, there were distinct differences in the lyrical content of their hymns as well as in the usage of song as part of the worship service. The black churches infused a great deal of African tradition into their music, and of course, the slave legacy was omnipresent in shaping the philosophy and mood of the sermon and the supporting songs. Whereas white Protestants sang to the glories of God and the blessings of life on earth, the black Protestants asked the Lord for help to make to the next world. Sacrifice, patience, and hope for a better day dominated the lyrics of the black religious community. That hope gave rise to the energy, emotion, and excitement that years later formed the basis of ragtime, jazz, rhythm and blues.
Of all of the Texas composers at the turn of the century, none rivaled a shy, young man from TexarkanaScott Joplin who was the one individual primarily responsible for linking the Texas folk heritage to the commercial popular music of the twentieth century.
Born in 1868, three years after his parents were freed from slavery, Joplin led a renaissance in musical structure that created a new fascination with southern society and brought a new respectability to the music of black America. Musically, ragtim is defined as the syncopation of African rhythms in combination with the European system of tone and scale. The term originated fromt he concept of "playing in ragged time."
Treemonisha, an opera composed in an effort to gain recognition as a serious songwriter, was not received favorably at the time and soon thereafter, Scott Joplin died.
The blues began in 1619 when the first African slave steopped onto the Virginia shore. Throughout the next three hundred years a musical, social, and cultural tradition evolved in the American south that emerged as the most unique and distinctive sound of the twentieth century. African musical styles, dominated by elaborate rhythmic structures and a heavily accented beat, were eventually A"Americanized" by the experiences of black mena nd women. The blues were the emotional and spiritual outlet that became a source of strength for those who had no power, of pride for those who had no identity, and of hope for those who had no future. The slaves who first came to East Texas in the 1820s brought with them the Afro-American musical heritage indigenous to the other southern states. With the exception of the Mississippi Delta region, no geographical locale was as rich a spawning ground for the country blues as Texas. The early blues artists were influenced by Negro spirituals that had developed through generations of slavery which addressed the whole range of human emotions and relationships. The second major influence on the blues was the work experience of southern blacks. Most were agricultural workers. Although no longer legally bound to the fields by slavery, the black Texans plight was still one of poverty. Work songs provided release from the physical demands and boredom of the fields. Thirdly, prison experiences contributed to the blues with the chain gangs in various Texas prison farms producing endless verses proclaiming the despair of prison life and the hope that soon it might end.
Midnight Special, originally composed by Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter is a document of the history and culture of Texas and Houston. It mentions specific people such as the sheriff and places such as the prison farm in Sugarland and speaks of Leadbellys experiences which occurred before he was discovered by The Smithsonian and made all of the folk recordings with Pat Lomax. Leadbelly Travelled with and learned directly from "Blind Lemon" Jefferson, Americas first great legendary bluesman.
Fiddle - There are slight differences between the violin used in the performances of classical music and the fiddle used for folk music. Violins have a high arching bridge that puts each string on a different plane, making it easier for the violinist to play one note at a time. Part of fiddle musics distinctive sound comes from the unique harmony fiddlers get by playing two strings at a time. To make it easier to reach more than one string, they lower the arch of the bridge bringing the strings more nearly into the same plane and closer together.
Breakdown (also known as hoedown) - A North American style of music traditionally play for folk dances, especially square dances. Breakdowns are made up of interesting variations of a short, brisk, melody repeated over and over in 4/4 or 2/4 time. Western tradition says that when the pioneers wagons would break down, fiddlers lifted spirits and passed the time by improvising these tunes.
Jig - a lively, rustic English, Scottish, or Irish dance tune, usually in compound double or triple time.
Polka - A Bohemian dance that originated in the early 19th century and quickly spread throughout Europe. It was a dance in quick double-time, with steps on the first three half-beats of the measure and a hop on the fourth beat. The music bears some resemblance to that of the Schottische.
Rag - an early type of solo jazz popular from 1895-1920 (composed rather than improvised), having a highly syncopated style with a heavily accented tempo (known as "ragtime") and a melody consisting of many short, rapid notes. The most famous composer of rag music was the Texan Scott Joplin.
Reel - a dance (common in Scotland, England, and Ireland) for two or more couples. The music for the reel is rapid and smoothly flowing and generally in simple quadruple time.
Schottische - a ballroom dance similar to the polka and introduced into England in 1848 and known as the German polka.