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by Roy Harris
Roy Harris, one of this country's leading com­posers, discusses the homemade music Ameri­cans like to sing.
My dad was a singer. Actually, he was a farmer but he was also a singer of folk songs. He was a bull-necked man who could break a new hickory ax handle with one stroke, but he had to sing. I can remember him coming home in the dusk after a long day of spring planting, hum­ming some old sweet song over and over again; or, sitting on the porch on a summer evening smoking his pipe as he did so humming a cadence as old as the cricket song that went with it. It was a special knack of his—that humming and smoking along with it. The number of his tunes seemed endless but once he settled on one he seemed perfectly con­tent to be taken over by it for the evening.
Most of all, I remember a turning point in our family life. Folk song was part of it. It happened on the evening that the big flood played itself out. It was a dark gray over­hung March evening. Dad had been reckoning the ruin which rampaging flood waters had brought upon us so swiftly. We dreaded his return. How relieved we were when he came in at dusk with two freshly killed chickens for one of Mother's chicken dinners with homemade dump­lings. He lighted up the whole house and the fireplace; then sat rocking in front of it, singing soft and low, "Oh Bury Me Beneath the Willow." It was not a sad song, as I look back on it, but it was a sweet, fearless song of destiny, a folk song from a folk singer, deep in rumination.
They say there are over 12,000 of these collected folk songs down in the Library of Congress, tunes from the val­leys and plains, from the rivers and mountains and cities, from the days and nights of the years of our people, telling the story of our nation, swiftly crystallizing into maturity.
"Reprinted from House & Garden, Vol. 106, No. 6, December Copyright 1954, The Conde Nast Publications Inc."