Summer concerts with movie music




Summer time, and orchestra concerts become less formal. Band concerts, too. Here in Greensboro, City Arts sponsors a series called Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park (MUSEP). Even though the Fourth of July was on Wednesday this year, music by the Greensboro Concert Band at the fireworks was part of the MUSEP series. That, my own orchestra’s upcoming concert, and the outdoor concert by the Eastern Music Festival’s student orchestras got me thinking about movie music. A brief glance at history The concept of “classical” music didn’t exist until the nineteenth century. Neither did the concept of a … Continue reading

Kid Ory and the tailgate style of playing trombone




Born Edouard Ory on Christmas day 1886 near New Orleans, the future jazz great Kid Ory would have been classified “octaroon” before the Civil War. His father was white, of French ancestry. That explains the French spelling of his name on his baptismal certificate. His mother was the daughter of a Hispanic and an African American, so he had one black grandparent. Under racial segregation, however, he was simply regarded as black and educated in the local black school through fifth grade Kid Ory’s early career Kid Ory was born and raised on Woodland Plantation in LaPlace, Louisiana and began his … Continue reading

Slave music and the Civil War




Since the American Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery, no survey of Civil War music can be complete without careful attention to slave music. Slave music didn’t arise from the war, of course. It had existed in one form or another for the entire two-century history of slavery. The war itself, while it was in progress, had little effect on slave music. Afterwards, when the slaves received their freedom, most of them were anxious to leave slave culture, including its music and performance practice, behind them. Slavery as an institution In the course of the American Revolution, … Continue reading

Carousel: June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II




As a kid who hated snow from the first time he held a snow shovel in his hands, I immediately loved “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” when I first heard it. It’s an exuberant welcome to the beginning of summer, a fulfillment of the promise that May only started to keep. The song was first introduced as a rousing production number in Carousel, the second stage collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Their first, Oklahoma, had been so successful that they could simply assume that their next project could not measure up. So how did they go … Continue reading

Now running on Broadway: musicals




I grew up on musicals. My sibs and I used to sing selections from Broadway and Off-Broadway shows in the car when we were on trips. When we get together, we still sing the same songs. All of them have children, at least three of whom have had parts in high school productions of musicals. So those of us approaching codgerdom have learned plenty of new songs. In the years since learning all of those great musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Irving Berlin, and others, I have read so much about the death of the American musical … Continue reading

Annie and Evita: two Broadway revivals




Two classic musicals, Annie (1977-1983) and Evita (1979-1983), return to Broadway this season. Since their original Broadway runs, both musicals have been frequently performed by local and regional repertory companies, community theaters, colleges, and high schools. Annie Popular poet James Whitcomb Riley issued “Little Orphant Annie” in 1885. It must have remained popular for some time, because Harold Gray based his popular newspaper cartoon strip Little Orphan Annie on it. The strip debuted in 1924 and, according to a poll in Fortune, was the most popular strip by 1937. Like Al Capp with his Li’l Abner,, Gray used the strip … Continue reading

George Frederick Root’s Civil War Songs




Chicago was the musical capital of the North when it came to production of great Civil War songs. The firm of Root & Cady employed two composers (the founder’s younger brother George Frederick Root and Henry Clay Work). Between the two of them, they composed all of the best-selling songs in the firm’s catalog and probably more big hits than any other Northern composer. George Frederick Root was born in 1820 in Sheffield, Massachusetts to a musical family. He studied piano with George J. Webb and, in 1845, moved to New York to establish a career as church organist and … Continue reading

Christmas posts on Musicology for Everyone




Now that we have finished observing Thanksgiving, it’s the right time to start thinking forward to Christmas. I have some more posts planned for the coming month, but here are things I have published over the last two years. I switched from Blogger to WordPress in the mean time, so chances are that bookmarks and any existing links to these posts won’t work. The following, of course, are up to date. Beloved Christmas Carols Chanticleer sings “In the bleak midwinter” The Christmas song  Good Christian men rejoice  O come all ye faithful  O come o come Emmanuel O holy night  … Continue reading

Edward Mack, prolific composer of Civil War marches




Of the 412 marches related to the Civil War in the Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection, 26 are by E. Mack. I never suspected that 6% of the collection would be written by someone I had never heard of. I was not surprised to see so many unfamiliar names among march composers, but I never thought the composer of the most marches would be such a cipher, and I never thought one man would write more than twice as much as second most prolific composer. George Root’s 12 contributions (mostly arrangements and not original compositions) include three … Continue reading

American shaped notes tune books and the fasola tradition




When William Little and William Smith published The Easy Instructor (Philadelphia 1801), they started a spate of shaped notes tune books over the next half century or so. Perhaps the best known today is The Sacred Harp (1844). The traditional singing style associated with these books is known as the Sacred Harp style. The four shapes correspond to four syllables (fa, sol, la, mi) that form the theoretical underpinnings for the way these tunes have long been taught. Anyone who knows “Do, a deer” from The Sound of Music knows that there are seven syllables. Where did this fasola come … Continue reading