The Baroque Fiddling Project: Tracing Tennessee’s Musical Roots
The Loveless Barn, Nashville, TN April 16, 2012
The prospect of a lovely spring night, dinner at the Mother Church of Southern Cooking, and a performance by Music City Baroque attracted a warm and enthusiastic crowd of about a hundred to the Loveless Barn, located just behind Nashville’s iconic Loveless Restaurant, located where Highway 100 meets Natchez Trace Parkway. The Loveless is an appropriate setting in so many ways, not least because its history and the history of Nashville’s music are so intimately connected. The food and service, as always, were classic Loveless--warm biscuits and good cheer in abundance.
Music City Baroque’s presentation mirrored the venue, with a wide variety of offerings offered with good humor and style. American music from about 1900 onward so dominates the world landscape that it is easy to forget that it came from somewhere, actually a variety of ‘somewheres’; like so much of our culture, imported from Europe and the British Isles and transformed into a homegrown American genre. WPLN’s Will Griffin expertly narrated the evening’s program, walking the audience through that journey from imported to native grown music, noting the historical figures such as Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Jackson, Crockett and Lafayette who lives intersected American music or were memorialized by it.
Beginning with a Corelli trio sonata, likely heard at Monticello, the program quickly moved to Baroque dance forms that were popular in colonial America, with a bow in the direction of Franklin’s ambassadorship to France, and included excerpts of his string quartet. This was followed by an entertaining set of fiddle tunes, parlor songs, square dances, and original music composed in and for nineteeth-century Nashville. Square dancers joined in to demonstrate the intricate steps associated with the tunes. European imports to Nashville Emil Heerbrugger and Ole Bull were recognized for their contributions to 19th century Nashville culture, and the evening closed with a final set of square dances, led off by Yankee Doodle.
The entire ensemble richly deserved the enthusiastic applause at the evening’s end, but two performers must be especially noted. Tammy Rogers King especially impressed with her fiddle work, featuring a Scandinavian ‘hardanger fiddle’. Artistic Director Murray Somerville was honored for his unselfish work in championing historically informed performance in Nashville. This was his final performance with the group before his upcoming move to South Carolina. He will be sorely missed.