Neighbors In The Cloud Land
Old Time Music of SW Pennsylvania

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Samuel P. Bayard



    Between 1928 and 1963, Samuel Bayard and his collaborators traveled throughout southwestern Pennsylvania collecting and transcribing nearly 1000 traditional folk tunes. The intent was to "show something of what the older Pennsylvania tradition really consisted of" - "pre-radio, pre-tape, pre-TV" (Bayard, 1982, p. 2). Their sources were largely country dance fiddlers, but also fifers, who carried on a once widespread but now relatively obscure tradition of American marching music. Most of the tunes we play on this recording are taken from the Bayard collection, and all are traditional tunes played in Pennsylvania until recent times.

    Though raised in rural Pennsylvania, Mark and I grew up unaware of this rich musical heritage and as aspiring traditional musicians we turned to the better known tunes and instrumental styles of southern Appalachia. We met up in Pittsburgh and played together for some time before we came across the Bayard collection and other regional musical sources. Gradually we've added Pennsylvania tunes more and more to what we play. While we treasure the southern old-time tradition, we've found great satisfaction in the discovery of this music from home.

    Sadly, Bayard's sources are long gone and their once flourishing tunes have been largely forgotten or absorbed into the better known blends that make up traditional music as we know it now. We didn't get to learn directly from Pennsylvania's last great generation of traditional players - Sarah Armstrong, Tink Queer, the legendary Dunbar fiddlers and their contemporaries. We hope to pay them homage with this recording, though, and bring some of their music back into circulation.

Mrs. Sarah Armstrong - Derry, PA

Mrs. Sarah (Gray) Armstrong
Derry, PA
Westmoreland Co.



    Bayard's collection reflects the musical heritage of the first Europeans to inhabit Pennsylvania, predominately the Scots-Irish, Irish, English and Germans, and includes several distinct musical styles. We haven't tried to represent these styles equally, but play the tunes we found ourselves drawn to, probably leaning toward Appalachian rhythms and tonalities.

    We also haven't tried to imitate closely any of the old players' instrumental styles. (Archival recordings are available for musicians interested in that project). Instead we play here in the style we've learned and developed over the years, figuring it's better to do what we know than to imitate something out of context. However, we have tried to keep arrangements true to the instrumentation, rhythm and feel of the tunes we selected. We feature fiddle and banjo on most of the tunes, a common enough pairing in the region even if never dominant in the old days. Mark adopts some of the choppy bowing of the old Pennsylvania fiddlers in places. With the banjo there's less to go on; Bayard mentions banjos, but to my knowledge there's no identified regional banjo style to follow. Otherwise we stick to instruments recognized in Pennsylvania tradition, such as guitar, accordion and harmonica. I use wooden flutes as a substitute for the fife on the few tunes we include from the fifing tradition.

    Hopefully we capture the spirit of the tradition in this recording, adapting our playing to the tunes, rather than the other way around.

Richard Withers and Mark Tamsula, Pittsburgh PA
from: Up In The Batten House (2011)



    This recording is our second effort to present something of the rich tradition of fiddle and fife music in southwestern Pennsylvania, this time including songs from the region. Almost all of our tunes and songs are taken from the collections of Samuel Preston Bayard, who traveled throughout the area in the early to mid-20th century, preserving a musical heritage that otherwise might have been lost as its last active participants passed away.

    Bayard began his project at a critical time in our music's history: The first mass-produced 78 rpm "country music" recordings in 1926 introduced an era of growing popularity and wide-spread availability for rural American music - until then a regionally diverse and largely homemade art form. With remarkable prescience Bayard foresaw in this event the inevitable dissolution of the music's regional distinctions and loss of its central place in the ordinary home. In the new era of commercial recording, traditional music would come to call by way of the phonograph or radio, but less frequently stay on as a living member of the household while fewer families made music for themselves as part of daily life. Moreover, the commercial recording industry was soon to put the evolution of the music more and more into the hands of professional recording artists who standardized it according to nationally broadcasted tastes and styles at the cost of regional characteristics. With these developments in mind, Bayard began in 1928 to travel throughout his home region of southwestern Pennsylvania to preserve in musical notation "something of what the older Pennsylvania tradition really consisted of" -"pre-radio, pre-tape, pre-TV" (Bayard, 1982, p.2).

    Our intent is to represent some of the music Bayard and his colleagues collected through the generosity of these older Pennsylvania fiddlers, fifers and singers. Learning from them by sheet music, of course, poses interpretative challenges. In our own style, we've rendered these tunes and songs with an effort to maintain their original musical character. Though we make no claim of sounding just like Bayard's sources, we'd like to think they'd be pleased with what we've done. With your enjoyment (and ours) in mind, we're also hoping to encourage other players in reviving some of this traditional music of our home state.

    We're joined on this album by singer Ellen Gozion, who has been studying Bayard's unpublished collection of traditional songs from southwestern Pennsylvania at Penn State University.

    Dave Krysty provides guitar accompaniment. Dave himself visited and learned tunes from several of the region's older fiddlers, notably the late Fayette County fiddler Jim Bryner, one of Bayard's original sources.

Richard Withers and Mark Tamsula, Pittsburgh PA
rom: Up Jumped Joe In The Middle Of It (2013)









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