Pioneers contemplating the arduous trek westward a century and a half ago surely must have been faced with tough choices as to what to bring and what to leave behind. Among the essentials for, at least, the Haynes, Schuck and Adams families of Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky were musical instruments and the fiddle tunes swirling in their heads. Fiddling and dancing were part of the glue that bound together small isolated farming and ranching communities in the pioneer west. Several generations of musicians in these family lines kept track of these tunes in a manuscript that ultimately sat on the piano in Marilyn’s Music Plus in Baker City, Oregon. Here is where Vivian and Phil Williams came across this collection and began the process of bringing it to light for the rest of us. Go to www.voyagerrecords.com and buy, or at least take a gander at, ‘The Haynes Family Manuscript – Pioneer Dance Music from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.’ You can also hear this tune, along with others from the collection, on the accompanying CD.
These 65 tunes represent a portion of these families’ dance repertoire, in particular, the cross over into the tunes composed by classical musicians for dancing in the, shall we say, more well off and urban segments of society than is generally associated with old time fiddling as we often think of it. In both this book and the Peter Beemer Manuscript (also by Vivian Williams) quadrille (square dance) tunes are grouped in sets as they would have been played to accompany different figures of the dance, usually with a brief pause in between but continuing with the same group of dancers. French Lancers were French cavalrymen who fought with lances while a lancer, the dance that is, was a specific form of quadrille, originally done with actual lances. Exactly what a French Lancer dancer was, I hazard to guess. I have so much to learn about these things. This book is a great place to start and I do recommend it for Vivian’s sage comments on our Northwestern pioneer dance traditions and for the intriguing tunes.