Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

From the 1857 Sheetmusic

Views: 138

Comment by Tim Twiss on November 30, 2009 at 9:08am
Wild harmonization you have there.
Was it really cold, or was it just a cold ?
Thanks for the seasonal offering. Great!
Comment by Tim Twiss on November 30, 2009 at 10:43am
I meant "was it really cold, or just a costume"?
Comment by Elaine Masciale on November 30, 2009 at 1:15pm
Why, Tim, thank you for your kind comments. As to the clothing - well, you're supposed to imagine us sitting in a one-horse open sleigh, dashing along, while John merrily plays the banjo and absolutley no one controls the horse. My bells are meant to encourage the horse to run in tempo. (So, in reality, the outfits are costume, although you KNOW how that word gives a reenactor the creeps. Thanks goodness the fireplace, which is thermostatically controlled, did not come on while we were recording). John was stubborn and sacrificed authenticity by his refusal to wear mittens while playing.

As to the harmony, playing sleigh bells is a complicated and vastly underrated skill. How many bells to use or mute? Should you break into a gallop at points? Overwhelm the banjo? The choices are many and require the bell player to use his head, as you will notice in our outtake. Not to mention skill of smiling all the time WHILE playing....sigh. Sometimes the choices just "sleigh" me! :)
Comment by Brian Welch on December 2, 2009 at 9:23am
Wonderful! It immediately reminded me of a passage from an 1837 Ladies Companion article I recently found entitled "A Ball at the Far-West" (which in 1837 was, according to the article, "the New State of Michigan."--this one's for you Tim)

"It was a cold, clear, bright night; a few winters ago;
and the snow which thickly covered the earth reflected
brightly the beams of the moon. It was just the night
for a sleigh ride--and a sleigh ride the boys and girls of
Watertown were bent on having. Indeed, that night
had been selected by them, for a famous meeting, in the
manner of a convivial party, which they had been planning
for a week before-hand. So they all pressed into
the sleighs, tightly packed, the girls in the boys laps;
and old Sambo, with a fiddle, and Caesar with a banjo,
and Pompey with his jews-harp to supply the music.
There was every species of conveyance adapted by the
ingenuity of man to snow covered plains, from the
substantial double sleigh, capable of containing in its capacious
interior a family of “Varrmounters,” to the single
one horse jumper, formed of a sapling and a few boards--the
work of an hour; but warmly covered with the
skins of the bear and the buffalo. All were crowded to
the extent of their capabilities, with the mirth-seeking
inhabitants of Watertown.

Away they flew with the speed of the wind. Sambo
sawing at his fiddle, Caesar twanging at his banjo, and
Pompey re-enacting Orpheus, with a jews-harp in each
corner of his mouth--and all the voices in the company
echoing that spirited and soul stirring air:

“Going down Sandy Hollow 'tother aftemoon.
Going down Sandy Hollow 'tother aftemoon.
The first man I met was old Zip Coon”

And at the end of every verse, vociferating with wonderful
power of lungs, that tribute to Mr. Coon’s excellence
of character, contained in the words :

“Oh, Mister-Coon, is a very fine fellow,
Plays on the banjo down in Coney-Hollow”

I have a pdf of the full article if anyone is interested. Just can't post it due to copyright restrictions.

Comment by halisha thomas howell on December 3, 2009 at 8:54pm
those two instruments sound particularly joyful together....you've relieved much of my holiday stress


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