Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Early Music in the Ohio Valley

There's always that problem in historical re-enactment of trying to document what people actually knew, did, used, etc. When it comes to early music in the Ohio Valley, I found a very helpful little booklet ( in the Cincinnati Public Library), published by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, called "Folk Music on the Midwestern Frontier 1788-1825, by Harry R. Stevens, Duke University. To rediscover the popular music of the era, Mr. Stevens looked to the records, letters and journals of the period and listed any songs and tunes mentioned. He also combed through the newspapers of the day, Centinel of the North-Western Territory, the Western Spy, the Advertiser, Independent Press, etc. and found mentions of tunes used for ballads, toasts, music played by bands at public events or theater performances, and tunes used at dancing and singing schools and balls.

Apparently, the Cincinnati area, gateway to the west, was very representative of the times and tunes and a goldmine of information. Before 1800, Stevens identified at least 15 commonly known tunes there and he was able to identify a total of 62 tunes known by 1824, many of them folk tunes. I'll list some that you may recognize even today: The Vicar of Bray; Yankee Doodle; Gilderoy; God Save the King; Rose Tree; Rule Britannia; O Dear What Can the Matter Be; Roslin Castle; Erin go bragh; Paddy Snap; Hail Columbia; Daintie Davie; Auld Lang Syne; Old Oaken Bucket; Anacreon in Heaven ( not yet become the national anthem); Scots O'er the Border; Malbrook s'en va t'en guerre (The Bear Went over the Mountain); My Lodging's on the Cold Ground; Ye Banks an' Braes o' Bonny Doon; Larry O'Gaff; Marseillaise; Stony Point; Successful Campaign, Rural Felicity ( Haste to the Wedding); God Speed the Plow; Money in Both Pockets; Soldier's Joy; Flowers of Edinburgh; The White Cockade; On the Road to Boston; College (Sailor's) Hornpipe; Hull's Victory; The Wounded Hussar (Carolan's Captain O'Kane); Dusty Miller; Jefferson and Liberty; Scots Wha Hae wi' Wallace Bled; Paddy Carey; Garyowen; St. Patrick's Day; and Carolan's Receipt for the Making of Whiskey.

I'll pass along more information about the musicians and musical events mentioned in the Stevens booklet later. In the meantime, the tune playing on this page is Roslin Castle, a well known Scottish tune, also well known in the early Ohio Valley. It appeared in William McGibbon's Collection of Scots Tunes for the Violin or German Flute, of 1762. Roslin Castle is located near Edinburgh, and was built about 1304 after a battle in which the Scots wiped out the army of Edward I. Most of the castle was destroyed by Cromwell's troops in 1650, but its legends continued to inspire later writers and poets.

"Roslin Castle" is downloadable as GIF sheet music or as MIDI from the Sheet Music Page, Alpha List.