A dozen of us spent Monday in Winston Salem at a workshop taught by Marya Katz of Blacksburg, VA. She led us through selected tunes from the collection she has recently put together in her new Dulcimations VI book, entitled "Songs and Tunes from the Time of the Underground Railroad". It seemed a fitting thing to do on January 21, 2013 - Inauguration Day and MLK Day - as the nation celebrated the second inauguration of President Obama and honored the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Music has always been important in the heritage of African people, used for telling stories and bringing people together in common cause. Many believe that the spirituals of the slavery era were used to convey coded messages to help bring the slaves to freedom. It's not difficult to ascribe symbolic meaning to "the promised land" as the north, or "Moses" as a conductor of the underground railroad. At the very least, this music would have served as encouragement as slaves made plans to escape oppression.
During the workshop we had fun playing Steal Away, Tryin' to Get Home, Wade in the Water, The Lord is my Shepherd, and Bonnie Dundee. We played AND sang Follow the Drinking Gourd. That was a challenge!
The book contains 39 tunes ... well-known spirituals as well as several fiddle/banjo tunes from the period .... harmonized and arranged by Marya for solo or ensemble performance. Lyrics are included, as well as interesting trivia.
Marya will be teaching at the Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival, May 3 - 4 (see "Schedule of Events" tab on this blog for more information about the festival).
Interested in Marya's music? Want a copy of the book for yourself?
Here's the link: Marya's website