All my life I’ve been a troubadour. After emigrating to the West Coast toward the end of the previous century, I became fascinated with the era of the Great Migration to California and Oregon in the mid-19th Century.
The journey to the Western States in those days over land and by sea was grueling and hazardous, and people made the trip for all sorts of reasons. During their journey, they sang favorite songs and wrote their own—to entertain, console, uplift, calm, and energize themselves.
After they got where they were going, music continued to be a part of their lives, and the booming music publishing industry blanketed the USA with sheet music. Go to the resources page for history links.
Music was an absolutely integral part of life in mid-19th century America. In those days people made their own music -- most of the live music you heard was music that you were somehow involved with: a dance with a fiddle; an upright piano or pump organ at home; a guitar or banjo; or unaccompanied voices joined together in a hymn or an familiar song.
Throughout its five seasons (Jan. 2016–Jan. 2020), the Northwest Troubadour series focused primarily on songs that were popular in the USA between 1840 and the 1890s, songs that were actually sung and heard by Americans: in their homes, in saloons, on city streets, on the Oregon Trail, travelling the great rivers, gold mining in the mountains, surviving the civil war, and settling the Western Territories. Music and songs were everywhere.
I enjoy exploring the origin and original context of musical works of all kinds—when did it become popular, who created it or first wrote it down, what else did they write, what was the world like at that time, why was this particular piece created, where it was first performed, what did people think of it, and what can we learn from it today?
In a wonderful way, questions like these always lead to more questions, and the answers can lead to surprising and fun connections with things we already know. Songs and facts come to life in a new way.
These discoveries expand our horizons, and give us a deeper understanding of our own heritage and our place in the continuum of human history.
Through music, history speaks to us, and stories come to life.