Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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The newer hymns of the Amish correspond to the spiritual tra­dition of the Pennsylvania German culture. This culture represents an interesting mixture of German—particularly South German—and British elements, including a special dialect of German that has grown up with certain elements of American English phonology. The songs of the Pennsylvania Germans are in part simply those of the German tradition, and in part based on tunes from the Anglo-American heritage. Thus the so-called Pennsylvania spirituals, folk hymns with German words, are really products of the spiritual re­vival of the early 1800's, which involved Methodists and Baptists in the English-speaking community, and the influence of Negro music and of Negro spirituals, all converging on the Pennsylvania German community. As a result, the tunes are of various origins: Some are those of secular German folk songs, a few are derived from early German hymns, some come from the white spiritual tradition ("The Battle Hymn of the Republic" appears with several sets of words). The Pennsylvania German spiritual is not, of course, a purely folk-loric type of music. Hymn books were printed and professional hymn writers contributed to it. But much of the musical material was and is identical to that which lives in the authentic folk cul­ture; and most of the tunes were, in contrast to the words, actually passed on by oral tradition and were performed at camp meetings without the use of books, and lived by means of variation and com­munal re-creation.
Just as the German folk culture lives on in the small towns of Eastern Pennsylvania, other Western European traditions can be found thriving in other rural areas of North America. Northern Michigan and Minnesota are repositories of Scandinavian and Finnish folklore. The southern Midwest and Louisiana are the homes of peo­ple who still sing, or at any rate can occasionally remember for a collector, the folk songs of France. Of course the eastern part of Canada, especially the province of Quebec, is rich in the folklore of French-Canadians. Much as the United States yields a repertory of English songs at least as large as that of England herself, the French-Canadians sing essentially all of the older French folk songs; and Marius Barbeau, veteran collector of the songs in this tradition, re­cords that for song upon song more variants have been found in America than in France. One group of individuals who particularly carried the French tradition is the voyageurs, French Canadians who

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III