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Sources of information about American Folk songs

Dear listers:

Many thanks to those who have provided helpful information on backgrounds
to folk songs. I am posting this to the general list for all those who
have requested a compilation of responses.

P. Kevin Suiter, D.M.A.
Music Program Coordinator
Appalachian Bible College
Bradley WV 28642
(304)877-6428, ext. 3255

Original post:

> Does anyone know of a source for locating background information on
> familiar American folk tunes? I am programming several for our Spring
> Music Festival program and would like to use this kind of information in
> the program. Some of the tunes are "Oh, Susanna," "Dixie," "My Old
> Kentucky Home," "Wait For the Wagon," etc.

A variety of responses follow.

Robert Molison, DMA, retired college choral conductor, in Fort Collins, CO
(rmolison1(a) writes:

I've been interested in American folksong since I heard my first one. The
best standard text, if you can find it in a good library, is this: Lomax,
John and Alan, "American Ballads and Folk Songs". New York: The MacMillan
Company, 1934.

The Stephen Foster songs (not folksongs, therefore not included in the
above) are individually well discussed in notes by Richard Jackson in
Stephen Foster Songbook: Original Sheet Music of 40 Songs by Stephen
Collins Foster. New York: Dover Publications, 1974. (Includes "Oh,
Susanna" and "My Old Kentucky Home".)

These songs are reproduced exactly as Foster originally published them. I
bought this for 5 bucks in a college book store. Paperbound edition from
Dover is ISBN# 0-486-23048-1.

Melissa Roth (musemel(a) writes:

"Oh Susanna" and "My Old Kentucky Home" are Stephen Foster tunes. "Dixie"
is a minstrel song written by Dan Emmett. You can find information in A
Treasury of American Song by Elie Siegmeister. Another source of
traditional songs are books by John &/or Alan Lomax.

Gene Morlan (satb(a) writes:

I suggest you use the search engine google; Type in the
title of the song and you will get many links to check out. For example I
typed in Wait for the Wagon and the third link in the list gave me the
background of the song. For Dixie, you need to type the first line of the
lyric--I wish I was in the land of cotton. Here again it was the third
link that give the story. You need to check out many of the links for some
of them just give you the lyrics and some also play the music. You should
also type Stephen Foster, and you will get a lot of information about his
songs.. Check in your local library for Folk Songs of North America by
Alan Lomax. Another good source is: From Sea to Shining Sea, A treasury
of American Folklore and Folk Songs, compiled by Amy L. Cohn and published
by Scholastic, Inc., New York. I hope this helps. Best wishes.

>From an anonymous writer, identified only by the initials "cm" at
ChoralMusic(a), comes these helpful comments:

This site provides a great resource and links to other resources for
Stephen Foster's music.

You will find information about My Old Kentucky Home and Oh, Susanna there.
You can also try the Center for American Music (a):

Good Luck.


on September 29, 2002 10:00pm

I'm Mr. Ronald T. Zagado,a choral conductor of Balanghai Choral Ensemble
Phillippines,Butuan City.When i read your folk song i really love it,that's
why i wrote you a letter, becouse i want a folk song's peices, i hope you can help me with my problem.

God Bless You always,and More Power!!!

Very truly your,
Ronald T. Zagado