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Summer Songs on the Folklife Today Podcast

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Two women and a man stand in front a window on which the words "Chamber of Commerce" are painted.
Margot Mayo (left) and Ms. Deska (right) of American Square Dance Group of New York City and Bascom Lamar Lunsford (center), director of the Mountain Music Festival, Asheville, North Carolina. Circa 1940s. Find the archival scan here.

Season 3, Episode 9 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.

In this episode John Fenn and I, along with guests Nicole Saylor and Jennifer Cutting, look at songs on summer themes. As usual, I’ll present links to relevant blog posts, videos, and audio selections in this post.

But first:

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This episode looks at songs of summer. Mostly, we presented full audio of each song, so in this blog post I’ll point to where each lives on the web so you can see its full context. I’ll also embed a couple here just for fun. To wit, the first song we presented, “Wild Mountain Thyme” by the band In the Willows, was originally played at an Archive Challenge Showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City on February 17, 2018.  You can find that video and all its bibliographic metadata at this link.  But if you just want to watch it, it’s embedded in the player below!

As I  mentioned in the podcast, “Wild Mountain Thyme” was adapted from a traditional song in the 1940s by an Irish singer and bagpiper from Belfast named Francis McPeake. The American Folklife Center has film of McPeake’s family performing the song shot by Pete and Toshi Seeger in 1960, and video of the family performing the song in 2007.  You can watch them in the event video at this link.

Waist-up portrait of a woman in profile, facing right.
Helene Stratman Thomas, photographed August 6, 1941 (detail). Wisconsin Historical Society Archives : PH 2907. Used courtesy of James Leary. Find the archival scan here.

Our second song was Kesä-Ilta, sung by Jalmar Nukala and accompanied by his wife Mamie on piano, on September 3, 1940.  This song comes from the Helene Stratman Thomas collection, which the Library of Congress shares with the University of Wisconsin; the recordings were made by University of Wisconsin fieldworkers with equipment loaned by the Library of Congress, and copies reside at both institutions.

You can find the song with all its metadata at this link on the University of Wisconsin site.

We were joined in our discussion of the song by Nicole Saylor, director of the AFC archive. Nicki worked on getting this collection online at the University of Wisconsin before she came to work at the Library of Congress.

You can find the whole collection at this link.

Just to show how popular the song was with Finns in America, we have another version of it online here at the Library’s website. Find Sidney Robertson Cowell’s recording of John Soininen singing “Kesä-Ilta” in California at this link.

Our third song was Bascom Lamar Lunsford singing “On a Bright and Summer’s Morning.” As I point out in the show, on March 17-25, 1949, Lunsford came here to the Library of Congress and recorded his entire repertoire of over 300 songs, and this is from those sessions. (I think I got tongue-tied and said 1959, though, so this can stand as a correction; here’s the collection record to confirm the correct date!) We don’t have that audio online, so the song will remain a podcast exclusive. But see the photo of Lunsford from the same era, up at the top!

Head and shoulders profile of a man facing left.
Mose Bellaire, from silent color film shot by Alan Lomax in 1938.

For our fourth selection, Jennifer Cutting joined us to talk about Mose Bellaire’s version of “As I Went a Walking One Fine Summer’s Evening,” a song often known as “Rocking the Cradle” or “Baby Lie Easy.” The song was recorded from Bellaire by Alan Lomax in Baraga, Michigan, on October 12, 1938. You can find Bellaire’s full version, with all its metadata, at this link.

As I mention in the podcast, Mose Bellaire and his wife Exilia were French Canadians living in Baraga, Michigan in 1938. They were both terrific singers in French, and Alan Lomax recorded French songs from both of them. Mose also sang in English, of course, including his version of “As I Went a Walking One Fine Summer’s Evening.”

Interestingly, Lomax recorded the Bellaires singing a French-language religious ballad as a duet. He also filmed them on silent color film, singing the same song. Our colleague, Guha Shankar, synced up the recording with the film, and we presented that video some years ago, with much more context about the collection, in this blog post. You can find it as a fun extra in the player below.

As our resident accordion expert, Jennifer stuck around to talk about our fifth song, which was “Nogaan Chaiym Khunne Khunne,” or “Let The Sun Shine On My Verdant Summer,” a kozhamyk from the Tuvan Republic, sung by Kara-kys Namzatovna Munzuk, accompanied on the bayan by Aleksandr Laptan. The bayan is a Russian version of the button accordion, and in the podcast you can hear Jennifer explain more about it.  Alan Lomax recorded the song in the Tuva on August 1, 1964, and you can hear it at this link on the Association for Cultural Equity’s website.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that we featured a whole concert of Tuvan music in the 2019 Homegrown concert series, and that John performed an oral history interview with the group, the Alash Ensemble. You can find videos of both the concert and the interview embedded in this blog post.

Finally, we come to our last song, “Long Hot Summer Day,” sung by Clyde Hill and a group of other convicts in Brazoria, Texas on April 16, 1939. The song was recorded by John and Ruby Lomax. It’s a classic work song, which you’ll find in the player below.

You can also find Clyde Hill’s version of “Long Hot Summer Days” at this link.

And just for fun, there are two other versions of this traditional work song in the Alan Lomax collection, which you can find at this link on the Association for Cultural Equity website.

That takes us through the full audio and video resources behind the episode, in addition to some fun collection connections. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening. In case you need that podcast link again…here it is!

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