Music of the Appalachians...
To begin with---I opened up GP with tears on my cheeks over this hours-long PBS series following the hardships and music of many of our ancestors, which aired on our local station--
--and there is Don's post waiting, labled 'Music'.
Don, I tell you sure as can be, we are connected from somewhere before this time---this has happened too many times to be a coincidence.
I've always said you were my brother.
Well, to get back to my post, I had to just tell you guys this series they showed today has been fascinating, even though I haven't even been able to see the whole thing.
It showed poverty beyond belief, which was better than the poverty these folks were escaping from across the Atlantic.
They had the clothes on their backs and great courage to see whatever dreams they had, to be planted in this new land.
They brought their music with them from their homelands and sang songs handed down through the years; songs made up as a gift for a meal or a night's lodging, songs of murder and deceit, and of course, songs about broken hearts and ruined dreams and now and again, songs of happiness and joy.
As a child, I would spend summers with my grandmother and we would travel all over upper New York State, where she, as a county historian would record many, many old folk ballads straight from the mouths of ancient folks living in old, old little houses in the middle of who-knows-where.
('The Lass of Glenshea', 'The Wedding', and 'In the Days of Old' were a few of my favorites)
These ballads had straight-forward tunes, while the lyrics rang out with a clarity of echoes from the mountains and moors of countries left behind. My grandmother sang them clean and true to me with her exquisite voice during our travels in her little Studebaker.
When my Mom moved my brothers, sister and me from DC to Virginia in the late 50's, most of the music we heard on radios down here was 'country music'.
Mom loved classical music and whistled pieces daily as she worked.
As a family, we were pretty much looked upon as common city-slickers and were not given much more than the time of day by the locals for quite some time.
(Until the regulars learned she was a great Poker player!)
When a dirt-poor girl at school invited me to spend the night at her house, my mom said OK. No one else had exteneded any invitations.
The trip to her house was somewhere around Boswell's Tavern, on Purcell's Farm, a spot in the middle of no mans' land, between Charlottesville and Richmond, where her Dad worked as farm help.
We went through cow fields and cattle gates had to be opened and closed until we reached the provided-for old shack of a house with a rickity front porch facing the sunset with a small setting of trees charming their way around the immediate yard.
We had dinner---fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy---a feast for me---we lived on the short-order stuff at my Mom's restaurant; this was incredible food these 'poor' people were eating! (the chicken had been killed for dinner---glad I didn't see it...)
The most intresting thing was, that after dinner, they put the radio in the front window and in the fading light of nowhere, they had some religious service on with hootin' and hollerin'---I'd NEVER heard anything like that before!
You never heard anything like that up North! It was a little scary, actually.
After that, they listened to some country music show with banjos, guitars, fiddles and mandolins; my first real experience with the music these folks related to and loved as part of their own identity.
The strangeness of it was mellowed by the happiness of this family gathered around and enjoying a good time, after a day of hauling water and doing chores.
My 12 year-old heart found respect for them, all on its' own, not because Mom said it was worth respecting, but because it WAS worth respecting, regardless what background any of us had come from.
If any of you out there get to see the series, 'The Appalachians', or any series from the past regarding your geographical area, take time to watch.
We're only here because of THEM and their courage to start anew, leaving so much behind, but never their heritage, their hope or their beautiful music.
I'm getting teary again remembering I had the joy of hearing, 'Oh, Bury Me Beneath the Willow' once again.
One of my most favorites.