Songs and Stories

0506CorGenSocBanjoWebsize               Sound clips to come soon (I hope) The songs from programs with the “CD” logo are now recorded and available for sale on this website. Click on the logo to learn more.
  Programs listed at the very bottom are “in the works.” If your group is interested in any of these, please get in touch with me as early as possible; there is a good chance that the presentation of your choice will be available!
our immigrant ancestors made their own music these presentations will help audience members connect to those ancestors
  Appalachian Ancestors: Their Lives, Legends, & Lyrics CD.jpg.w180h114Whether or not audience members have Appalachian ancestry, this presentation will have significance in the context of the American past. While entertaining audiences with ghost tales and historic stories, it also introduces people to the music of the culture.  This part of the United States is rich in tradition and is the area where many well-known folksongs were born.  A variety of folk instruments will be used, providing audience members with a sense of the “music of the hills,” the entertainment of our ancestors. But this was also the means by which lessons were taught and young men & women learned about some of the dangers waiting around the bend.  Some of the subject matter may not be appropriate for children under age 12. bluestaff Bringing your Civil War Ancestor Back to Life: Songs & Stories of the War of the Rebellion click here for a short sample CD.jpg.w180h114The four years of the Civil War are examined through the songs of the times and a narrative that tie the use of music to the events during the conflict, both on the battlefield and on the home-front.  Using at least two acoustic instruments, the songs bring the reality of the war to the audience, reminding them that their ancestors most likely sang or listened to the same pieces of music.  This presentation is appropriate for all ages, though some of the descriptions are somewhat graphic.  Hopefully, those in attendance will gain an appreciation for that life-changing time in history, including how it shaped the lives of their multi-great-grandparents. bluestaff Byproducts of Battle: War-Inspired Christmas Songs & Their Stories It is surprising how many of today’s popular holiday songs originated during, or because of, war (either in America or abroad).  This presentation introduces audience members to some of these songs, along with their related stories.  Audience participation is encouraged in many of the pieces and the stories are sure to connect with the emotions.  Bring tissue.  Appropriate for all ages. bluestaff Erin Go Bragh: Music & Myths of Irish Immigrants click here for a short sample CD.jpg.w180h114Whether they have Irish Ancestry or just like to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, listeners will become acquainted with some of the songs of Old Erin.  This presentation will also include stories that have been brought to America as a legacy to those of Irish descent.  The land of Ireland is one of myths and legends; lively reels and tender love ballads.  It is also a land of wars and poverty.  This presentation will touch a variety of emotions as it makes the Old Country come alive!  There will also be some opportunities for singing along. bluestaff “. . . Excavating for a Mine”: Songs & Stories of the California Gold Rush CD.jpg.w180h114The days of the California Gold Rush did not last as long as the songs immortalizing that part of history.  This program emphasizes the songs of the era, but also includes stories of the event.  Although there was a lot of violence during that time, there was a lot of humor as well; the latter is emphasized in this presentation.  This was originally created for a grade school event, so it is obviously appropriate for all ages.  It is relevant to the genealogist whose roots are connected to California history, so may not be appropriate for all audiences.  On the other hand, for genealogy groups located in California, it provides a light-hearted look at some of this state’s history. bluestaff Get Along Little Dogies: Songs and Stories of the Men (and Women) who Tamed the West CD.jpg.w180h114Cowboy lore has long been considered part of America’s “romantic” past.  But the truth is that the life of those who worked the ranches of the west was anything but romantic: it was hard and dangerous work!  One of the ways the cowboys coped with the long hours and low pay was to gather around the campfire with songs and stories. This program gives audience members a chance to experience some of the leisure activities of the ranchers and drovers.  Some of the western songs of the period will be combined with history and a few “tall tales” to bring the cowboy lifestyle alive, even if only for an hour. bluestaff Ghosts of Christmas Past: Tunes, Tales, & Ancestral Traditions CD.jpg.w180h114This program connects some of our more common traditions in the United States to their beginnings during the time of our ancestors of various cultures and countries.  It introduces audience members to related hymns, some of which are rarely sung in the 21st Century.  While appropriate for all ages, some of the history may get tiring for very young children. bluestaff “Once upon a time . . .”: The Rhymes and Rhythms of Childhood Many nursery rhymes and children’s songs are still recited and sung today, but it is not easy to find them! Our ancestors learned some of these lyrics by heart to recite at CD.jpg.w180h114school programs or to perform for the family (back before television was used as the household entertainment medium).  Some of these may bring back memories of childhood for those in the audience, many will inspire folks to sing along, but all should help connect those in attendance to their own ancestors in America or the United Kingdom.  Stories behind some of the pieces will be included and, while the majority of the material is suited to all ages, some of the historical points may be a bit too sensitive for children under 12. bluestaff To Zion in Song: The Westward Migration of the Mormons CD.jpg.w180h114The Mormon Pioneer movement was instrumental in creating a migration trail that was used by many of those headed west.  The story of their continuous trek across the country, spanning the period from 1847 until the completion of the railroad, is well known in history.  Their experiences are shared in songs and narration, using a minimum of 4 acoustic instruments, educating the audience on the challenges and triumphs of the people who created the most recognized genealogical library in the world.  While a few of the musical selections are still sung in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) today, most are nearly lost to obscurity, having been sung by the pioneers, but not kept as part of the current hymn book.  As appropriate, attendees will be invited to join in the singing and even children as young as eight will enjoy the presentation.  The program lasts one hour and there probably will not be time for a question/answer period.
My husband Butch sometimes accompanies me

Photo by Pam McComb-Podmostko

CDs ARE NOW AVAILABLE: “Songs of Irish Immigrants,” “Songs of the War of Rebellion,” “Songs of Holidays Past,” “Songs of Mormon Pioneers,” “Songs of the California Gold Rush,” “Songs of Appalachian Ancestors,” “Songs of the American West,” and “Songs of Early Childhood” are finally complete.  Click on the CD icon below to order. CDwithCase.jpg.w180h110

************************ Programs “In the Works” (contact me for availability dates):

Photo by Pam McComb-Podmostko
  Dark as a Dungeon: Songs of America’s Miners Part of what made our country what it is today is the mining operations across America.  Whether it is coal or valuable ores, what we have removed from the earth has contributed to the wealth of the respective communities.  This program uses songs and stories to teach the history of the various mining industries, from panning to digging to hydraulic means of extracting the raw product.  The immigrants were our earliest miners and the hazards of their work will be a particular focal point.  Some songs will encourage the audience to sing along.  Whether one’s ancestors settled in the east or west, north or south, there is a good chance that audience members have forebears that were involved in some aspect of mining. From Slave to Freedman: How America’s Music has been Influenced by African Americans From the earliest days of slavery to the emancipation and into the 20th Century, African American influence has enriched music culture.  This phenomenon and its history are examined in this program. “. . . Gather at the River”:  Gospel Hymns and Histories of Early America America is unique with its freedom of religion!  While we often take this freedom for granted, our immigrant ancestors often did not; their experience with the ability to choose a religious life for themselves is examined in this presentation.  The gospel music of early Christian America will be shared with the audience. “. . . hear the whistle blowing?” Songs of America’s Rails Revisit the advent of the railroad in America and how it altered the lives of both arriving immigrants and those already in this country.  The ballads of those who built the railway, those who rode the rails, and those whose lives were affected by the iron horse tell a little of what our ancestors experienced in the “modern age of transportation” in the 1800s. “Hi-Ho the Derry-O”: Songs of America’s Farmers While most of us are ignorant about life on a farm, for many of our ancestors, farming was what sustained them.  Whether they made their livings as farmers or just grew their own crops and raised the needed livestock for daily survival, most of us can trace our roots to agriculture.  And if farmers were not among your forebears, they were certainly responsible for supplying the country with necessary food.  The changes in the farming behaviors of Americans have left many of us with little or no connection to this vital role of our ancestors. This presentation uses songs to remind listeners of the farming industry, its role in the lives of previous generations, and its changes over the years.   Jolly Ol’ England: Ancestral Songs from Across the Pond Before the Beatles it was the British immigrants who brought music to the United States.  While people probably did not scream and faint when our ancestors sang the songs of home, they did learn the words, even when they might not have completely understood the meanings.  Your ancestors may not have come from jolly old England, but the songs of Great Britain have become part of the culture on this side of the pond and are sung by people of all cultural backgrounds.  These are the lyrics that kept the homeland alive for the English immigrants who also used them to teach its history to the first (and later) generation Americans who might never see the land of their forebears. Lifelines of a Growing Land: Songs of the Inland Waterways America’s rivers and lakes provided means of travel, commerce, and general survival for early settlers. This program looks at the music that keeps the memory of their value alive for us today. “Rock-a-bye Baby”: Lullabies our Foremothers Sang In our ancestors’ time (whenever that may be), children were lulled to sleep by listening to soothing songs, sung by those who loved them (usually women).  There are lullabies from various cultures, many lost to obscurity, that created a bond between adult and child.  Stories of these special songs will be included as the audience gets a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors.  Perhaps some will be inspired to revive the bedtime rituals of an earlier time period!  Suitable for all ages (though don’t be surprised if the young ones fall asleep partway through). Songs of Floods, Fires, and Fury: Was Your Family Touched by Disaster? This program introduces folks to ballads of some of the nation’s memorable disasters, many experienced by our own ancestors.  These give the audience a sense of the emotional upheaval that went along with such events as the Galveston Flood and the sinking of the Titanic, as well as other natural and man-made catastrophies that forever altered the families of those involved, not to mention their descendants. Way, Haul Away: Shanties and Songs of the Sea Unless your ancestors came to America in very recent years, those who immigrated from overseas had an understanding of ocean travel that many of us will never truly appreciate. Whether or not they took up residence near a coast, it is likely that your forebears heard some of these songs of the sea.  And those who found work on shipboard (voluntarily or as indentured servants) probably not only heard them, but sang them as well.  Hear, and sing along, with some of the earliest songs to become part of American culture.  A good presentation for all ages, though the historical information might not be very exciting for the very young and some of the topics could be a bit sensitive (ask me if you have any concerns).      
Photo by Pam McComb-Podmostko