Traditional folk music is dependent upon cultural processes rather than abstract musical types, and is typically exemplified by continuity over generations and oral transmission. In the words of folk scholar Rachel Clare Donaldson, “Folk music is what the people sing.” Our program today provides a smattering of music inspired by folk sources from across the globe, some more directly connected to traditional sources, and some more crafted by a composer. Our program takes the form of a journey around the globe, starting in our country.
North American folk music often incorporates a fusion of the tunes brought to the continent by immigrants mixed with the music of indigenous peoples. Bright Morning Star, however, is a purely Appalachian folk tune that originated in Kentucky. The Blooming Bright Star is an adaptation of an Irish folk tune, “The Green Shores of Fogo” from the people of Newfoundland. La Sandunga is a tune from Andalusia, Spain that adapted text in the Mexican isthmus.
The music of South America blends the traditions of indigenous cultures with Spanish and Portuguese influences. Mata del Anima Sola is a Venezuelan song that combines an improvised tenor solo over the rhythmic instruments of the traditional joropo dance. Marcos Leite composed his Tres Cantos Nativos on the melodies sung by the Kraó tribe, an indigenous tribe of the Amazon rainforest, and he utilizes bird calls, ritualistic rhythms, and percussion to illustrate the nonsense text.
Australian folk music blends sounds from many regions of the world, and Stephen Leek’s Tunggare showcases this global influence. Leek marries the Australian aboriginal word “tunggare” (which means “voice” or “to sing”) to a rhythmic, pulsing groove—producing a uniquely Australian piece capable of resonating with peoples across the Earth.
Chinese-American composer Chen Yi was born in Guangzhou, China and spent years collecting Chinese folk songs. In 1986 she became the Composer-in-Residence for Chanticleer, among other choirs in the San Francisco area. Fengyang Song is a modern setting of a traditional Anhui folk melody from her Set of Chinese Folk Songs that playfully combines a lighthearted text about music making (“I am singing a song while playing drums and gongs”) with Chinese nonsense words that approximate the instruments mentioned in the text.
The text of Véñiki is a Russian tongue-twister with an essentially meaningless text: Brooms, brooms, brooms – sweepers on the hearth laid about, from the hearth were torn off. In the early 1930s, Zoltan Kodály collected Esti Dal in a northern county of Hungary, Nográd. This song is a typical Hungarian campfire song and an evening prayer. Bárdos followed in the footsteps of his teacher, Zoltán Kodály, at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest with incomparable musical settings of folk texts. Loch Lomond is a freshwater lake lying on the Highland Boundary Fault. The ‘low road’ is a reference to the Celtic belief that if someone died away from his homeland, the fairies would provide a route for his soul to return home. While Comin’ Thro’ The Rye is attributed to Burns as penned in 1782, this is only one version of the text. The song itself, in some form or other, was known long before it passed through the hands of the poet.
The music of the middle eastern regions is very often tied to the practices of the Abrahamic religious traditions. Folk music developed to assist in worshiping communities. From the Muslim tradition we present a layered song on the text, Bismillah, ir-Rahman ir-Rahim which translates to, “In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.”
The use of music as a social and political symbol in Africa is represented in these two pieces. Amavolovolo was sung in pre-democratic South Africa and tells the story of the people who were afraid to go to Kwa-Mashu because there was so much violence. Wana Baraka is a traditional Kenyan piece promoting a Christian message.