Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Now, this is an interesting site - from Canada, not Britain - which might also be of interest to Americans: http://link.library.utoronto.ca/minstrels/

 

 

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Thanks for the link Rob. Another facet of the site people might be interested in is how they bring in dancers to personally interpret primary source descriptions of Juba's dance: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/%7Ew3minstr/artistrespond/index.html
I found the singing interesting. I listened to Buffalo Gals, first sung from a published score for piano and soprano, which I thought was hilarious, and then grew to like, and then an interpretation by a minstrel group, which I didn't like. The banjo player was playing on a steel-strung banjo in modern clawhammer style, and the whole thing seemed too self-conscious. I found myself prefering the 'parlour' performance, despite its absurdity. The first was authentically false, the second falsely authentic! YMMV.
Here's a link to a youtube video of a 2006 production of the play "Master Juba" by the Greenwich and Lewisham Young People's Theatre: "Master Juba was a new play from the writer & installation artist Michael McMillan, based on the true story of William Henry Lane, the father of black British dance, whose legacy to the performing world is tap dance. "

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe389fTa4FA

The video shows a dance off between Lane and John Diamond, the greatest black and white dancers of their day and stars of the minstrel stage. Unfortunately, the audience of the production is the modern youth of England, so the music is techno. I would prefer a few banjo walkarounds myself--more authentic and far less appealing to the youth of today. But it looks like an enjoyable show nevertheless.

Brian
"Authentically False / Falsely Authentic"
Fabulous turn of phase and a perfect description to boot!
I like the idea of this (Juba) project. I'll have to take a closer look at it.



Rob MacKillop said:
I found the singing interesting. I listened to Buffalo Gals, first sung from a published score for piano and soprano, which I thought was hilarious, and then grew to like, and then an interpretation by a minstrel group, which I didn't like. The banjo player was playing on a steel-strung banjo in modern clawhammer style, and the whole thing seemed too self-conscious. I found myself prefering the 'parlour' performance, despite its absurdity. The first was authentically false, the second falsely authentic! YMMV.
I was sinfully proud of that phrase. I'm not always so clever!

I've written to the creators on their Feedback page, saying I have rsearched the Scottish newspapers from the period and found a review of a solo performance by Joe Sweeney, and an ensemble performance by Briggs, Pell and Juba, in Edinburgh, where Christie's Minstrels once played ten nights in a row to sell-out crowds. It was all happening here in my town! Here is the pdf, just in case you missed it the first time round.
Attachments:
Towns in Ontario got a lot of visits from the "brand name" minstrel acts in the mid-19th century as well as performances by home-grown entertainers in the field. Back in the early 80s I did a lot of digging into grassroots music of that era - mostly with an eye to developing a repertoire for "folksingerly" performances at museums and such. In the theatre department of the Toronto reference library there was (and still is presumably) an amazing collection of playbills from the 1840s to the 1870s with detailed descriptions of what you could see at dozens of these shows. There were lots of banjo players on offer along with other wonderful-sounding performances like "Double Leaps over Various Objects" and " the laughable farce of "Sausages Made By Steam". - "The house will be kept comfortably warmed and strict order kept - God Save The Queen".

I transcribed or photocopied them all - however 27 years and several house-moves later I'm unable to lay my hands on the file at the moment. I know they''re here somewhere. I'll post some of them them when I find them.

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