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"ETHNIC" TUNES

 

I am including in this section any tunes which are outside the broad categories established for this site when the tunes are part of an immigrant tradition that is either non-English-speaking or are specific to a particular immigrant English-speaking group. They can and are played by people who both are and are not part of the ethnic group. The fiddlers represented here are largely Anglo-American, although that is a rather meaningless term. Their mixed ancestries include the typical Colonial New England-New York English mix found frequently in the state as well as the common 19th-century England/Scotland/Ireland immigrants to Ontario migration. There is also the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Indiana migration pattern represented here. Native American fiddlers include Bill Cameron and Luke LaFrenier, members of the Brimley and Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribes, and Dan Naganashe, of the Ottawa tribe. French-Canadians are probably underrepresented, but nevertheless include George Pariseau and Adelard Royer. Michigan had rural Irish Catholic settlements, and James Moran, originally of Mount Morris, in Genesee County, is a representative. The Eastern Upper Peninsula attracted many Protestant Irish who had earlier settled in Ontario and maintained symbols of identity (like the Loyal Order of Orangemen lodges) longer than elsewhere. Elmer House and Kenneth Smith are representatives of that migration. Germans settled in large numbers, and the collection includes a number of fiddlers and dulcimer players: Helen (Klumpp) Gross, August Hasted, Walter Meske, Al Hober, and Pete Seba. For Scandinavians, only Danes, who settled in numbers in Montcalm County, are represented: Frank Mattison, Merritt Olsen, and Russ Nelson. Finally, Poles, who had rural settlements in the northeastern Lower Peninsula and in the Thumb, include Gus Polk and Ed Kania.

This selection of fiddlers thus represents the general ethnic mix of the Lower Peninsula and some of the Upper Peninsula. One of the largest unrepresented groups is that of the Dutch of western Michigan, but that can be understood, given the influence of the Christian Reformed Church and its traditional opposition to dancing. I have had limited exposure to Finnish fiddling and largely have ignored the western Upper Peninsula, but it seems that here fiddling or dance traditions were less exposed to "American" musical and dancing practices, so they remained separate. Similarly, the dance music of the Czechs who came to the area between Lansing and Saginaw after 1900 to help develop the sugar-beet crop consists entirely of polkas and waltzes that were popular at the time of emigration, played mostly on button accordions. Much the same could be said of the music of Mexicans from Texas who succeeded the Czechs and Volga Germans as sugar beet workers. It could be that social distance prevented assimilation. As non-English-speaking day laborers, they established separate social institutions like fraternal lodges, which continue to act as centers for Czech music. Finally, Detroit has had a large variety of ethnic music (Polish, German, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Macedonian, Greek, Romanian, Armenian, Scottish, Arabic, and more), but as an urban center, it lies by nature outside this rural-oriented collection.

Whatever the reasons and influences causing or resisting assimilation, the selections here are largely serendipitous examples I found, indicating the types of immigrant music in the rural Lower Peninsula that one might find. Searches for music of particular ethnic groups would necessitate searches in particular neighborhoods----for example, for survivals of Swedish music, one might look around Tustin; for Finnish music, around Kalevala, in Manistee County; and so on. Fiddlers with a repertoire of square dance tunes were found all over the Lower Peninsula, but their knowledge of "ethnic" music depended on their personal backgrounds, history, and place of residence. Generally speaking (the exceptions being the Danish influence around Montcalm County and German influence in several areas), outside of the northernmost and northeastern Lower Peninsula and the Thumb, where Polish music is common, few fiddlers had any consciously "ethnic" repertoire.

 

FRENCH-CANADIAN

1. Unnamed tune played by Reuben Belanger, button accordion, accompanied by Bob Spinner, tenor banjo, Elk Rapids, Michigan, October 16, 1976.

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2. Belanger Polka played by Reuben Belanger, button accordion, accompanied by Bob Spinner, tenor banjo, Elk Rapids, Michigan, October 16, 1976. These two tunes, properly speaking, may not be "French-Canadian," although Belanger's manner of playing it does sound like it.

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3. Tune from Lower Canada played by Adelard Royer, Rudyard, Michigan, August 18, 1978.

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4. Tune from Lower Canada played by Adelard Royer, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Rudyard, Michigan, August 18, 1978. He also talks a bit about Quebecois dancing.

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5. Le Retour du voyageur sung in French and explained in English by Adelard Royer, Rudyard, Michigan. This is similar to the version which appears in Julien Tiersot, Forty-Four French Folk-Songs and Variants (New York: G. Schirmer, 1904), 74-75.

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SCOTCH-IRISH

This term usually refers to Presbyterians of Scottish descent who left Ireland and settled in various parts of the English colonies in North America during the 18th century. Here, however, I am referring to Orangemen who settled in the eastern Upper Peninsula after first emigrating to Ontario in the 19th century. Ken Smith recalled the prominence of the Orange Order in Pickford, the fife-and-drum parades, and the hostility of the people in that community towards Catholics. Canadians began settling on farms in the area in the 1870s. The repertoires of both Smith and House included a few tunes that we could consider "ethnic."

6. "Old piece" played by Elmer House, Mackinac Island, Michigan, August 2, 1976. This perhaps is a version of Keel Row and perhaps a highland schottische.

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7. [Stumpie] played by Kenneth Smith, Pickford, Michigan, August 31, 1977.

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8. Protestant Boys played by Kenneth Smith, accompanied by Archie Huff, tenor banjo, Pickford, Michigan, August 31, 1977. This is an old march, also called Lilliburlero.

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SWEDISH

9. "Swede" tune played by Orin Miller, accompanied by Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Scottville, Michigan, September 8, 1977. This is presumably a schottische.

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DANISH

10. Hal Kae played by Merritt Olsen, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Birmingham, Michigan, April 1976.

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11. Talle Vals played by Merritt Olsen, accompanied by Paul Gifford, piano, Birmingham, Michigan, April 1976.

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GERMAN

12. Ach du lieber Augustin played by August Hasted, accompanied by Paul Gifford, second violin, Spring Lake, Michigan, September 22, 1985.

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13. German waltz played by August Hasted, accompanied by Paul Gifford, second violin, Spring Lake, Michigan, September 22, 1985.

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14. Where, Oh, Where, Has My Little Dog Gone? played by Walter Meske, accompanied by various instruments, at jamboree, April 30, 1978. This well-known melody also went by the title Lauterbach Waltz.

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15. Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen played by Gus Polk, accompanied by unknown accordion and other instruments, at jamboree, Port Hope, Michigan, April 30, 1977. Polk was born near Parisville, settled by Poles in the 1850s, one of the first Polish settlements in America. This was near German settlements towards Sebewaing.

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POLISH

16. Oberek played by Ed Kania, accompanied by Clarence Ewing, guitar, others, at jamboree, Romeo, Michigan, April 23, 1977.

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17. Polka played by Ed Kania, accompanied by Clarence Ewing, guitar, others, at jamboree, Romeo, Michigan, April 23, 1977.

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18. Oberek played by Wilbert (Bill) Walker, accompanied by Phil Miller, piano, and Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Kinde, Michigan, April 29, 1978. Walker was not Polish by any means, but the Polish population in the Thumb dates from as early as the 1850s, so it is well integrated.

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19. Oberek played by Wilbert (Bill) Walker, accompanied by Phil Miller, piano, and Paul Gifford, dulcimer, Kinde, Michigan, April 29, 1978.

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