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Selections from the Samuel Bayard 
Collections performed by:

Richard Withers Flutes, 
5 string Banjo, Vocals

Kathy Fallon Guitar

Mark Tamsula Guitar

Bruce Molyneaux Mandolin, 
Plectrum Banjo

Oliver Browne Fiddle

Ken Foley Snare Drum


The Snowy Hill is our fourth recording from the collections of Samuel Preston Bayard, who traveled throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania between 1928 and 1963, visiting fiddlers, fifers and singers, and writing out over a thousand of their tunes and songs. Their music was a keystone of the region’s culture, originating with tunes and songs of British Isles and German forebears and re-crafted over generations to fit community life in this northern corner of Appalachia. While we’ve focused previously on Bayard’s dance music with fiddle and banjo, The Snowy Hill features the flute representing the region’s fife tradition.

Fife and fiddle traditions of our region were not categorically distinct, however. Repertoires of fifers and fiddlers overlapped and several of Bayard’s sources played both instruments. The tunes were functional and versatile, characterized on any given occasion not by whose repertoire they came from but by the purpose they were put to – the kind of movement they accompanied and marshaled, be it dancing or marching.

The fife tradition is relatively obscure nowadays. Fife and drum corps once moved troops efficiently around the country during the wars Pennsylvanians took part in and their tunes were passed down by families of veterans. The fife also had a peaceful, celebratory role in community life, however, and fifers also got together to enjoy and swap tunes in casual home gatherings.

Formerly, just as Pennsylvania was thronged with fiddlers, so likewise she abounded in local fife-and-drum ensembles. … Once in great demand, the fifers and drummers played on every conceivable occasion of local interest (Bayard, 1983, p. 4).

Apparently (see The Belling Tune note), such occasions could even include a couple’s wedding night.

Bayard notes that highly individualized fifing styles and tune settings were traditional. When asked how they kept the melody together while marching with all that variation, Greene County fifer Marion Yoders explained, “Well, Sam, when they was all a-blowin’ their innards out, and the drums backin’ ’em up, it wouldn’t have made that much difference.” (Bayard, 1983, p. 4.)

I’ve slipped in a few of my own compositions, and our arrangement of My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight, from Pittsburgh’s famous native son, Stephen Foster. I hope these additions won’t detract from the primary intent here to represent traditional music of our region.

Richard Withers, Forest Hills, PA, 2018