5.03.2006

Music of the Catskills

As I mentioned in a previous post (the one on wolves), I recently acquired a number of copies of old New York Folklore Quarterly journals from the 1940s and 1950s. Much of what they write is centered on NYC doesn't really apply to us here (though it is interesting); but there are a few gems hidden away. One is an article entitled "Music of the Catskills" by Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Cazden from the Spring 1948 edition.

The authors were summer camp music instructors in the Catskills who attempted to integrate local musicians into their program, in the process, they came to learn a great deal about folk music in the hills and valleys.

They focus their article in particular upon two individuals: George Edwards and Etson Van Wagner. They publish a song "Lather and Shave" and give two versions of it, one by each of the singers. It's fascinating to see how different people in an oral tradition adapt a song to their liking. I've decided to put up their two versions and my own (since I'm a fiddler and neither one was fully suited to a fiddle). Today I will put up Etson Van Wagner's version.

"[Van Wagner was] an independent farm who lived on the steep slope of Red Hill. An opinionated rebel who flaunted his support of Roosevelt and Lehman in a slidly REpublican district, Van Wagner took as easily to shooting bears as fiddling. He would intersperse his sprightly ballads with talk about his youthful wandering, the purity of his spring water, and what he thought of the international situation; then, after executing a jig or two, he would go on to tell us about his apples and how ladles are made...Van Wagner's melody is in bright major, with a more delicate symmetry rising at the nd, and with a longe rmore lively refrain. It was sung with meticulous diction in a light, clear tenor." (pg 33-35) I hope you enjoy a resurrection of Van Wagner's "Lather and Shave."


5 comments:

Bob Lusk said...

Nice to see your site. I knew Herbert and the two Normans. Much of the music can be found at this site: sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/ . Just enter "@Catskills" in the search engine. Do you mind if I put a link to your site here on my link page?

Thnaks - Bob Lusk
boblusk@hvc.rr.com

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Sheldon Forsyth said...

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