Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

In a performance, do you stand or sit? I have been sitting for a long time, even bringing my own stool to every job. Recently, I have begun to stand, and I like it a lot. It helps with my performance, and it is no harder to play the complex tunes. The easy singing chord type tunes are fun to move around a bit with also.

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I'm still in the 'bring along a stool' mode, whether I'm performing on the banjo or the guitar. I'm just more comfortable that way in a solo setting. I don't mind standing if I'm in the midst of an old-time jam.
I always sit, but I may start standing just for the heck of it.

Period accounts, of course, say that sitting was way more common- except, famously, Hiram Rumsey. Come to think of it, the 1860 illustration of Frank Converse performing in New York has him standing.
I almost always sit. I'll stand to play bones, but I'm more comfortable sitting. I've got a replica of a period folding chair that I bring along. A friend makes them.
I always picture Joe Sweeney standing. Did not most of the early circus performers stand...and tap their foot?
Virtually all of the cover illustrations of minstrel groups I've found at the Lilly Library show all of the performers sitting.
I always stood, until my knees got to the point where it was uncomfortable. Now I almost always sit, unless I'm only playing a couple of songs.
I am finding that whenI stand for a gig as a single, my performance is better. If I am able to hire a group, sitting is better. Also depends upon using a microphone or not. Anybody find pictures/documentation of the early circus performers like Sweeney? His illustrations always have him standing. I also understand that the foot or heel keeping time was almost an inherent part of the music.
I always sit. When doing Living History, in addition to my banjo, I am using other musical instruments as well. They include the parlor guitar, concertina, period tambo (that I sometimes use a drum with period drum sticks), jawbone and bones. It is much easier to reach them when I am sitting down. Also, by sitting I can keep the instruments closer to me which helps to protect them from tourists/visitors who think they have a right to pick my instruments up and play with them. I hope that none of you have had that problem. O yea, I also sit because I am getting old.

Chris Ownby

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