Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Christmas Revelers, from Theatre Royal, Barkerville


Amy Newman and The Christmas Revelers, presented to you by 
Newman and Wright Theatre Company, Theatre Royal, Barkerville


The Christmas Revelers, 2011; Amy, Chris, Brendan, Alison - Richard Wright photo


“What do you do in the off-season from Barkerville?”
At Theatre Royal, many people ask me this question. The answer?
 “I entertain at the holiday time with my a cappella caroling quartet, Amy Newman & the Christmas Revelers”.
For the past 12 years The Revelers have entertained such clients as Burnaby Village Museum, Grouse Mountain Resorts, Hart House Restaurant and Newport Village, to name a few. In addition, we perform at many retirement residences throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
The Revelers began in the year 2000 and since then, has employed 20 performers. In recent years this holiday work has been offered to Theatre Royal cast members. A season at the theatre in Barkerville is a wonderful way to audition prospective singers for the work at Christmas time.
Work for The Revelers begins as early as July, when I first begin putting out feelers to my singers from the previous year, to see if they wish to return. If all goes well, I won’t have to replace anyone. Happily for me, I only had one new singer join The Revelers for 2011.



Brendan, Amy and Alison at Theatre Royal, summer 2010 - Marcello Sequeira photo


Brendan - Richard Wright photo
It was a pleasure to invite talented singer/actor Brendan Bailey (from this past season’s Theatre Royal cast) into the fold. He joined our most excellent alumni member Alison Jenkins, who sang with The Revelers in 2009. These two, along with Vancouver singer/songwriter, Chris Harvey, (in his 3rd season of caroling) and me, became the Christmas Revelers of 2011. We also had another Reveler (and Theatre Royal alumni) “old-timer”, Nick Fontaine join us for a few gigs, when Chris was unavailable. With this crew on board, I knew I could look forward to a loyal, happy and hard-working team.












Nick - Photo by Amy Newman
Once I have the “cast” in place, it’s time to paste myself to my Mac and start contacting clients. Most of this work is done after Labour Day, when the season is winding down at Theatre Royal and I can devote extra time to this necessary part of the job. Once we finish our season at Theatre Royal at the end of September, I head down to the Coast for the fall and winter season.
I continue taking bookings through October (and into November as well), when most clients have made up their minds about whether or not they are able to hire us. None of our clients have ever declined to hire us due to our product. We bring a dynamic and exciting feel to our work and the entertainment we bring to audiences is energetic and full of fun, besides being lovely to listen to.

When November comes around, it’s time for the rehearsal process to begin. This year, as Brendan was the only new member, he had the most work to do, in learning all of the material: over 50 individual songs. With his customary skill and dedication, Brendan learned all of his parts in only a few weeks.

Chris - Richard Wright photo
He and Chris switched off being the bass, so this created a heavy workload for Chris, as well, who is usually the tenor of The Revelers. This year, he had to sing the bass parts for half the material we perform. What a challenge it was for him to re-learn material he already knew, but in a completely different voicing. Chris worked hard at becoming a bass man and succeeded beautifully.
Alison and I have known this material for a long time. And anything Alison doesn’t know she can sight-read like a shot, so our material is a snap for her. She even was the de-facto Musical Director for a couple of rehearsals, since she could run all of us through our parts (on brand new material) far easier than I could. (While I have many skills, sight-reading quickly is not one of them!) Alison is the most experienced choral singer of the group, having been in choirs since she was a child. That, along with her skills as a musician, makes her a highly valuable member of both The Revelers and our Theatre Royal troupe at Barkerville.


Alison - Richard Wright photo
I have a good deal of experience as both a soloist and in backing up others on harmony parts (which I often make up, as does Alison), so it made sense for Alison and me to switch back and forth between the soprano and alto parts in our music. This allows us both to play at being the harmony, back-girl and the soprano DIVA – which any self-respecting singer with even a touch of ego will jump at.
This group of performers made for a fun and happy rehearsal process, with lots of input from all, with regards to arrangements and voicings. Some of the songs we arrange ourselves, while others already exist in SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass) a cappella format.

We had our first booking in mid-November at GardenWorks, a wonderful garden centre in Burnaby. Our first job of the season is always particularly exciting – it is our first “show”. We find out if our material is working as it should; it is a chance to gauge audience reaction to our performance – in this case, it is the shoppers at GardenWorks who come to their Christmas Open House, who watch and listen to us as they move through the store. The Revelers have been performing at GardenWorks since the first year of the group’s formation. (I worked in the GardenWorks chain for many years – but that is another story.)

We perform all of our music a cappella, that is without accompaniment, so we are an easily transportable show for our clients. We dress in sumptuous 19th century costumes, which I design and in the case of the ladies’ pieces, construct as well.
“Where do you get such beautiful dresses?” someone asks after a gig.
“You cannot find gowns like this on the racks anywhere that I know of,” I answer. “So I make them myself.”

Amy - Richard Wright photo
Amy's Reveler's bodice.
Our main body of work begins at the end of November and continues until Christmas Eve. This year we had close to a full slate of bookings, which for The Revelers is anywhere from two to four hours of singing per day. We do not accept more work than this, as it is necessary to protect the singers voices.

The singing and speaking voice is an instrument of the human body and as such, is subject to fatigue. Too much singing/speaking can cause vocal fatigue and while some tiredness is to be expected over a month-long run, one must be vigilant in protecting the instrument. Because our performances are such high energy, I think of each booking as a show, so doing two or three shows a day is plenty.

As singers, we look upon sickness with a particular blend of fear and hatred. For most people, getting a cold is annoying and uncomfortable, but one (perhaps) takes a day or two off work and carries on. For singers performing this kind of work, there are generally no subs for us. If we get ill, we continue to perform.

Sickness did hit most of The Revelers this season, with varying degrees of discomfort for each of us. For me, I get a cold and it goes almost immediately to my throat. Everything swells up and I am often completely unable to sing. Obviously, this cannot happen when others are depending on me.

This year, I tried a home remedy that had worked in the fall at Theatre Royal when I was hit by a nasty virus. I went to bed each night with hot and cold compresses across my throat to assist in healing and keeping down swelling. (After all, the instrument is a muscle, so treat it is one.) In my case, the cold “compress” was actually a bag of frozen berries and the hot compress, an electric heating pad. I did 10/15 minutes each for a couple of hours every night during the worst period of the cold and it worked; I was able to sing. I may not have had my full range, but I had enough to pull my weight and make a good sound when necessary. It’s a tricky business, this.

The Christmas Revelers performed at many venues in 2011 for various clients. For example, one Saturday we began singing at 9:00 a.m. for a new event organized at Port Moody’s lovely outdoor mall, Newport Village. We were on site and ready to go as pancakes were flipped and toys were collected for distribution later on in the season. It was a wonderful event and we look forward to entertaining again there next year. Another event which is a great deal of fun for us, is the Hyack Christmas Parade of Lights in New Westminster. We entertained a huge crowd after the parade finished and the event was a wonderful success, as always.

It is always a joy to perform at Burnaby Village Museum. Because it reminds me so much of Barkerville (in miniature), it makes me feel as though I have come home – except that there is usually no snow. This year, the Village is celebrating 40 years as a heritage site and offered free admission for all visitors during their holiday celebrations. The streets were packed as The Revelers gave their all for the captive audience. One day, we simply took requests for our entire set; how delightful it was to see the looks on children’s faces as we sang and they interacted with us during our comic rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

The Christmas Revelers at Burnaby Village Museum - Richard Wright photo

Another of our favourite locations to perform is at Grouse Mountain. Like Burnaby Village Museum, The Revelers have been a part of their seasonal entertainment for the past ten years. It is always such an experience to take the Skyride up to the Peak Chalet and sing in front of the fireplace or the stunning (and massive) Christmas tree and watch the faces of the families and their children as we perform favourites like “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” or “Jingle Bells”.
On our last performance date up at Grouse, a woman came up to us and said, “My son recognized you from Burnaby Village Museum. You were there last night, weren’t you?” We all couldn’t get over the fact that her little boy remembered us!

The Revelers at Grouse Mountain Resort - Richard Wright photo

Interspersed throughout the caroling season, The Revelers travel far and wide entertaining seniors. From our home base in East Vancouver, we drove out to Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and even Mission, as well as south to Surrey and Langley, in addition to the many retirement residences here in Vancouver, to perform for seniors.

Sometimes it’s a concert situation; other times we may entertain as roving carolers of old must have done, when a special holiday meal is celebrated. We always feel welcome when we perform for seniors, since they are the ones who grew up with the old-fashioned carols of Christmas which are our specialty. Tunes such as “Ding Dong Merrily on High”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are always a hit. By the looks on their faces as they sing along with us, we know we have made a difference by bringing the sights and sounds of the season to them.

Out of all the venues and clients from 2011, perhaps my favourite performance of the year was the concert we did in Qualicum Beach at The Old Schoolhouse Art Centre. We were part of their winter season of performances and it took a whole day to do this gig what with the addition of the ferry travel in addition to the driving. It was the Revelers’ first road trip and we had a fabulous time. The concert went very well – all of us were really “on” and at the end the audience gave us a standing ovation. I thanked them saying, "Gee, I'm sorry we don't have an encore number. 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was going to be it, but we didn't know if we would get an encore or not – so you've already had it!" They laughed at that as they finished clapping and it was a great end to a fun-filled, exciting event for us. 

We finished our last gig at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. All were weary from a long month of work, but well satisfied with their work (and getting paid for it, helps) and the compliments we had received from so many people whose lives we had brightened with our songs of the season.




For more information on the Revelers click on the Christmas Entertainment on the Theatre Royal Home page.











Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from Theatre Royal, Barkerville




Merry Christmas to all 

from the Theatre Royal Cast and Crew

Amy Newman
Richard Wright
Robert Ahad
Brendan Bailey
Danette Boucher
Ted Harrison
Alison Jenkins
Matt Quick



Monday, December 12, 2011

Barkerville, B.C., Victorian Christmas

  For images of Barkerville's Victorian Christmas go to:

For a photo album of Barkerville's Victorian Christmas go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardtwright/

Post just before is an explanation of a GoPro Hero cam on a pole on a horse.  Another way to get a different perspective, and one that needs some refinement next weekend.  Thanks to Glen and Maureen of Barnard's Express, Barkerville, for helping with this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Richard Wright's new photography blog

For Richard's new photography blog go to:

http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

There you can sign in as a follower, follow by email or share on Facebook.


The Newman and Wright Theatre Company news is that we will be back at the Theatre Royal next year with the same cast, but all new shows.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vancouver Opera in the Schools at Theatre Royal, Barkerville

Check out this item about the Hansel and Gretel performance that we hosted at the Theatre Royal on September 24th.
A little behind the scenes look.
http://www.entertainmentblogs247.com/2011/10/13/how-we-roll-in-barkerville/

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hansel & Gretel at Theatre Royal, Barkervill





Hansel & Gretel come to the Theatre Royal
September 24, 2011, 7 pm

Hansel & Gretel, the classic fairy tale, will appear on the Theatre Royal stage this fall. Once again, on September 24, Newman & Wright at the Theatre Royal in Barkerville are hosting the Vancouver Opera in the schools, this year bringing a darkly fantastical, fast-paced and enchanting production of Engelbert Humperdink’s classic opera version of the Grimm Brothers’ fable.
            “This is our last evening performance for the 2011 season”, says Theatre Royal producer Richard Wright, “so it is fun to go out with some thing different.”
The evening will begin with the Theatre Royal’s one-hour fall show, Gold Rush Nuggets, then an intermission, followed by the one-hour performance of Hansel and Gretel.
This brand-new production features four energetic young opera singers, one nimble-fingered pianist, a Gothically gorgeous self-contained set and a full complement of dramatic costumes and props. The production is sung in English.
            Young fans of Lemony Snickett and Edward Gorey will be charmed by the striking, Edwardian- inspired set. “In the age of Harry Potter and Twilight, young people today appreciate a darker aesthetic,” explains Stage Director and Librettist Amiel Gladstone. “[Designer] Drew Facey and I wanted to create something modern, but with references to a sort of Gothic or Edwardian period that may have only existed in our imaginations. This seems to be a perfect match for the Hansel and Gretel story: a struggling family living on the edge of a dark wood, inhabited by a witch or ogre creature who baits children with a candy house.”
            “Theatre Royal fans will remember that a couple of years ago we brought in the “Barber of Barkerville’”, says Wright. “It was a sell out, despite a blizzard that night. We are expecting the same this year, so book your tickets early.”
            Entrance to Barkerville is free after 5pm so there is no charge for site entry. Restaurants in the area such as the Bear’s Paw in Wells, will be open and hosting special evenings.  Dinner and the show make a great evening out.
            Call the theatre at 250-994-3225 or 250-994-3340 for tickets or information.

                                                -30-


Monday, August 29, 2011

Theatre Royal Barkerville and lederhose

In this year's "Gold Rush Revue" at the Theatre Royal we present an old classic that was performed on the stage of the Theatre Royal in 1871, Septimus Winner's "Der Deitcher's Dog", written in 1864.
 "Der Deitcher's Dog", or "Oh Where, oh Where Ish Mine Little Dog Gone", is a text that Winner set to the German folk tune "Im Lauterbach hab'ich mein' Strumpf verlorn", which recorded massive sales during Winner's lifetime.

The first verse of "Der Deitcher's Dog" is particularly noteworthy as its first verse has become a popular nursery rhyme and is familiar to most of us.

Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?
Oh where, oh where can he be?
With his ears cut short, and his tail cut long,
Oh where, oh where is he?

This year the song is lead by Brendan Bailey.  We put him in our best "lederhose" - a pair of cotton shorts as we found that real leather Barvarian lederhose were beyond our costume budget. We did check them out when Amy and I were in Germany and Austria this spring but decided to pass.

Now, the Gold Rush Review opened on June 18th, to uproarious applause of course.  And away we went and each day at 1 pm Brendan would dance and cavort his way across the stage and through the audience looking for his lost dog.

Richard Wright photo

But - Brendan was sad, as not only had he lost his dog to a sausage factory but his "lederhose" were less than spectacular.

Then, on August 25th a parcel arrived from Solms, Germany, just a few miles from Butzbach and Nieder-Weisel where Amy and I had visited the home of Katrina Haub, a Barkerville hurdy gurdy dancer (who Amy portray's in the same show.).

Inside was a beautiful pair of "lederhose", and a letter which read:

Dear Theatre;
We had the pleasure to watch the opening of your new theatre season on June 18th. The Revue was so funny we had tears in our eyes.
But there was one thing we were not satisfied with: The pants your dear German dog owner were wearing were far from authentic!  And so to support your theatre please feel free to accept these Lederhosen as our gift to you!
Yours Bede Schild
Christian Schulz

What a fantastic gift!  We were all so excited Brendan put them on in front of the whole cast - they fit beautifully - and he used them in the next and all subsequent shows.

Thank you so much folks!  This was a wonderful gift and will remain an important part of our costume department. 
It is this kind of support that keeps us all going.
We are so pleased you enjoyed the show. Tears of laughter are our greatest reward.
Thanks from the whole cast.

Richard and Amy

Now Brendan is a happy dog owner - or former dog owner.
Richard Wright photo


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Barkerville Sports Day, August 2011 - Theatre Royal

Great coverage of Sports Day in Barkerville in the Quesnel Cariboo Observer - the weekend the Royal Engineers Living History group were in town.
Part of Newman & Wright's Theatre Royal ongoing participation in events and Barkerville marketing.




Photos by Richard Wright

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Barkerville -Trusting Google Maps causes near tragedy


For several years we have been trying to get Google maps to correct an error that shows a shortcut from Purden Lake on Highway 16 to Barkerville.  We receive no response.  Now the route has resulted in a near tragedy.


Similarly the directions function of Google shows that it takes 1 hour and 50 minutes to drive from Quesnel to Barkerville. In fact the 80 km takes 1 hour. These are dangerous errors that need to be corrected.

Check out this story from Opinion 250.


Trusting GPS Got Man into Off Road Trouble

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 11:05 AM

Wells, B.C.- The use of a GPS could have turned into tragedy for an Edmonton man.
 
A 45 year old Edmonton man was heading to the Lowhee Campground near Wells last Friday when he checked his GPS and discovered an alternate route to the campground.
 
He turned off highway 16 on to Purden Lake road, a poorly maintained logging road.
 
Early Friday evening his 2010 Hyundai Sante Fe high centred and he was stuck in an area where there is no cell phone service. He slept in his vehicle, and was able to work the vehicle free on Saturday morning. In an effort to turn around and head back to the highway, the vehicle once again got stuck. He spent the next 24 hours hauling gravel from a nearby river to try and give his wheels some traction.
 
He was getting nowhere, and started building an SOS sign with hopes if there was a search underway for him he could be spotted.
 
After two nights in his vehicle, stranded and without food, he was located by a local hunting guide who was checking on remote hunting cabins. The man was reunited with his family Sunday night.
 
RCMP are reminding travellers not to rely solely on a GPS unit and computer generated map programs. While alternate routes may seem enticing because they appear to be shorter, too often the suggested routes are on roads that are not well maintained or are not recommended for vehicle traffic. The routes are often remote and outside of cell phone service areas.
 
RCMP recommend travellers advise family or friends of their intended travel routes and anticipated arrival times, and that they use a highway map and stick to major routes and highways which are open to all types of vehicles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Theatre Royal, Barkerville - Bernadette's Gold Rush Escape

Check out this article in the Quesnel Observer.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_cariboo/quesnelobserver/community/125450703.html

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Theatre Royal, Barkerville Gala June 18

Join us at the Theatre Royal Gala, Saturday, June 18.
$30 includes admission to Barkerville, 3 shows at the Theatre Royal and the evening reception.  Call 250-994-3225 for tickets or information.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Theatre Royal, Barkerville. May 2011 Photos

Theatre Royal, Barkerville. May 2011 photos


For a selection of rehearsal and show photos from this season's Spring show, Rough But Honest Miner, taken by Richard Wright go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardtwright/

For information on use of these photos contact: Richard Wright through the Theatre Royal website.


Copyright 2011, Richard Wright

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Rough But Honest Miner: Music in Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields 1860-1881



 Teaming Up the Cariboo Road

Here comes Henry Currie, he’s always in a hurry
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He makes his horses go, through the dust and through the snow
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
You should see him sprintin’, to the ball at Clinton
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He makes the ladies prance, just like his horses dance
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.

When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”

Pete Egan as a rule, to his horses he is cruel
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
He beats them with a rail, puts fire in their tail
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
Old Pete he looks so wicked when you ask him for a ticket
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
At the sight of half-a-dollar, he will grab you by the collar
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.

When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”

The driver’s on the deck, with a rag around his neck
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
While the swamper’s in the stable makin’ sure the teams are able
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
When the roads are in a mire then the freighters earn their hire
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.
But they can beat the weather, when they all pull together
Teamin’ up the Cariboo Road.


When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
“Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”
When you hear that whip a-poppin’, you bet he’s got a load.
When you hear that sweet voice singin’
Stand up rowdy on the Cariboo Road!”[i]


When miners rushed to the gold discoveries of Cariboo in the early 1860s, they hacked and hollowed, tumbled and tunneled, forever changing the physical landscape.. Creeks were diverted, pits hydrauliced, camps slapped up and towns built that still survive today.
            The miner's trails were followed by a multitude of merchants, from suppliers of goods to saloonkeepers, gamblers, prostitutes, artists and musical producers. Together these people also created a culture which for the most part has been unrecognized, uncelebrated. A significant part of that culture was music and songs performed and written in towns like Camerontown, Richfield, Antler Creek, Mosquito Creek, Quesnelle Forks, Quesnelle mouth and Barkerville.
            So, where is Cariboo? The Cariboo is the south central portion, the interior, of British Columbia, a province on Canada’s west coast. The province of BC is larger than Austria, Germany and France combined - throw in England and you are about right.  The Cariboo region is about 300 kms by 75 kms – 22,500 sq kms. A little smaller than Austria. Austria has eight million people. The Cariboo - 67,000. From the seaport and capital of Victoria where gold seekers began their journey, to the goldfields of Cariboo is 900 km, the same as Innsbruck to London, England. And in the early years of the gold rush they certainly did not take a stagecoach driven by Henry Currie – they walked for weeks.
            The Cariboo is bunchgrass country, cedar river valleys, spruce and redtop swamp meadows, pine and balsam-root foothills and fir and bear grass mountains. There's gold there. We call it God's country. It's actually a state of mind.
            If you were to visit the old mining camps of Cariboo today, you would not likely hear the old songs. You would more likely hear bluegrass, or old time fiddlers, or a blues band.  What we have come to call bunchgrass music and culture is there, but you have to look for it.  It will come from leather-beaten faces and work-worn hands, from people dressed in work clothes and felt packs, folks who had taken a day from cattle ranching or logging to sing a few songs at the pub or a local festival, from a mandolin players with the same number of fingers on two hands that most people have on one, or a guitar player with raw knuckles or a sliced hand.
            From these folks you might hear some real Cariboo music, but not the old songs. When we sing the old songs at the Theatre Royal, which we operate in the historic town of Barkerville, songs like "Teaming Up the Cariboo Road" the question is often:
            "Where did you get these songs?" We think this is a polite question. -- Where did we get them? Where did they come from?
Richard has been writing about the Cariboo since 1970 and gradually from journals, letters, diaries and newspapers a few file cards with notes on musical references grew to a bundle. That bundle of cards became an electronic database. A few years ago he produced a CD "Rough But Honest Miner" and a book, "Castles in the Air".
           

            You won't hear most of these songs very often. They have been buried, like the gold that inspired them. But the songs are there, hidden away in old documents, such as John Clapperton's journal, where he records at Loch Lomond House on the Cariboo Road in 1864 that " At night we heard some good Scotch songs; I was much pleased with the rendition of 'Friendship has brought us a’ togither'., and 'Aye she turned the spinning wheel.' Had there been bagpipes with the singing, I believe we would all have been as nimble as cats." [ii]
            A most recent discovery, and musical mystery, are a couple of lines from an 1862 letter by Cariboo miner Doug Bogart, who writes:
            “The only consolation I had on nights when we all were tired was to sit down and sing to them, ‘sad was the day we went away, a hunting of the gold’ and one of Ross's Clerks, would sing, ‘we did not find it was a sell until we got to Forks of Quesnelle, look way to Cariboo’.”
            Where are the rest of the words? Was the last song sung to the tune of Dixie?:
“We did not find it was a sell,
Until we got to the Forks of Quesnelle,
Look way, Look way, Look away to Cariboo.”
            The rhyme and meter might make us think so. Perhaps we'll never know.
 You see the problem is this. We can find music hall, theatre songs and some parlour songs in newspaper reviews, advertisements and announcements for theatres and saloons.  We have James Anderson's book of poems and songs. Anderson was educated at Scotland's Dollar Academy. He came from a landed-family with several estates. Yet in 1863 he inexplicably left a wife and year-old son and an extensive family estate in Clackmannanshire to search for Cariboo gold. He stayed 9 years. Anderson became the miner’s poet laurete.  He was their voice.
            We have his writings and we have some manuscript collections, even a few pieces of BC gold rush sheet music such as the "Fraser River Mines Schottische". But except for a few instances such as Bogart's letter and the odd diary we do not have notes of what folks sang around the campfire or the reading room table.
            It is like a few of us getting together tonight to swap ballads or jam. Who will write down what we sing? Likely no one. So, our knowledge of the music of Cariboo is limited and biased at best.


James Anderson after his return to Scotland.  Richard Wright collection.

            The Cariboo music scene of the 1860s-80s, which centered on Barkerville, was vivid and lively. The Anglican Rev. Reynard of St. Savior's church had a small band or orchestra that played for various events. Miner Samuel Drake was pressed into service when Reynard heard him whistling the Messiah while he worked on a gold claim.
            Reynard's "band" or "orchestra" was made up of whatever instruments he could borrow or beg or whatever a miner happened to have.  In 1870 he wrote "the band consists of a clarinet, two flutes, cornet and bassoon. I preside at the piano." Their repetoire was mainly light classics and sacred music. Reynard also wrote music for the orchestra and for some of the songs or poems Williams Creek residents wrote, such as Talisen Evans who wrote under the bardic name Tal. O Eifion. He wrote:

O, give me a Cot.
O, give me a cot on the slope of a hill,
'Neath the shade of an old oaken tree,
By the side of a sparkling and roaring rill,
Within sight of the deep briny sea;"

            The music Reynard wrote has not survived--or should we say has not yet been found. Not surprisingly, it is from clergy such as Rev. Reynard or Cariboo’s Bishop Hills that we learn which hymns were popular. For example Hills records on  August 19, 1862, at the funeral of John Emmory:
“At the conclusion I delivered an address endeavoring to make the occasion profitable to all present – after which the hymn “O God our help in ages past,” and The Blessing," were sung.

            The antithesis of the houses of worship, and far more popular, were the saloons and hurdy dance houses. Briefly, the hurdies were contract dancehall girls, mostly from Hessen, Germany, paid to dance with miners.  Many stayed and married miners and merchants. The name is thought to come from the hurdy gurdy instrument, which they danced to in Germany.  We have found no reference to the instrument being used in any North American gold rush.
            For years many folks wondered what music they danced to. What was it really like? Recently a collection of 1864 love letters was found – from Robert Burrell in Barkerville to Miss McKenzie in Victoria. Remarkably, Burrell wrote in a style that we would now call “stream of consciousness.”
This is Sunday night and on the opposite side of the street there are no less than three Hurdy Gurdy or dancing houses in full blast - two of them are occupied by German dancing girls--four in each- and the third by Squaws [First Naions}. Just now the "Silver Lakes Varsovianna" is ringing in my ears and the noise and music is carried on every night till four and sometimes six in the morning.
If I am at all out of sorts I find it quite impossible to sleep -- The "King of the Cannibal Islands" has just struck up -- fancy such a place. .... It has been raining dreadfully all day -- there goes "Lucy Long",-- and I like it better than the hot days. I board now at the French Hotel at Richfield and walk up and down about half a mile twice and sometimes three times a day -- the "Sultan Polka" and the "Edinburgh Quadrille" at the same time from the from the White Hurdies -- and often stay up there all day.

Finally, we knew some of the music played in the dance houses by fiddlers such as Nelson, George Baillie and Frank Wigglesworth. The question now is what did these fiddlers play after the dance was over, and how did their own style, Baillie was a Scot for instance, affect the hurdy music?


The Hurdies of Barkerville, about 1864.

            The goldfields culture was based on gold and the miners who came here in hopes of wealth. Miners who more often labored for wages and in many cases became destitute. On the mining claims men like James Anderson and J. Lawrence, an American ex-slave, were writing songs and poetry that give us a window into a place and time not otherwise seen.
            Anderson’s popularity and encore performances at the Theatre Royal of the 1860s, with songs such as “The Rough But Honest Miner”, show that miners believed that he "got it right" with his descriptions of the mining processes. Yet he was also able to infuse his songs with the normally unspoken hopes and dreams, doubts and failures of miners as they “hunted after gold.”
            Anderson took the tune and the phrase "Castles in the Air" from a song by James Ballantine, who borrowed the tune from the earlier "Bonny Jean of Aberdeen", a tune used at least 13 times in Scots songs. He turned this into his classic enduring gold rush song.

The Rough But Honest Miner


The rough but honest miner, wha toils night and day,
Seeking for the yellow gold, hid among the clay-ay
Hawkin’ on the mountain-side, what he does there _
Aa! The old "dreamer’s buildin' castles in the air".
His leather beaten face, an' his sair-worn hands
Are tell-tales to a' of the hardship that he stands;
His head may grow grey and his face full of care,
Hunting after gold, "With its castles in the air."



He sees the old channel, buried in the hill
Filled full of nuggets--so goes at it with a will-
For long weeks and months, driftin’ late and air'--,
Cutting out a door to his "castle in the air"--
He hammers at the rock, believin’ it’s a rim,
When ten to one ‘tis--nothing but his fancy’s whim
Sure when he gets through, he’ll find his home-stake there;
There’s miners more than one, built this "castle in the air".

He thinks his "pile" is made, and he’s goin’ home gin fall--
He joins his dear old mother, his father, friends and all
His heart e'en jumps with joy, at the thoughts of bein’ there,
There’s many a happy minute "buildin’ castles in the air.".
But hopes that promised high, in the spring time o' the year,
Like leaves o' autumn fall when the frost o' winter’s near.
So his buildin’ tumbles down with each blast o’ care,
‘Til there’s not a "stone left standin," of his "castle in the air."

"Toiling and sorrowing, on thro' life he goes;
Each morning sees some work begun, each evening sees it close"
But he has aye the grit, tho' his "tum-tum" may be sair,
For another year is coming, with its "castles in the air".
Tho' fortune may not smile, upon his labors here,
There is a world above, where his prospects will be clear
If he now accept the offer, of a stake beyond compare
A happy home for all, with a "castle in the air".

That was Anderson’s set up of the miner, his weariness, but his dream of a castle or at least a farm, in his home county. Now he tells us what a miner looks for and how he works:

He sees the old channel, buried in the hill
Filled full of nuggets--so goes at it with a will-
For long weeks and months, driftin’ late and air'--,
Cutting out a door to his "castle in the air"--
He hammers at the rock, believin’ it’s a rim,
When ten to one ‘tis--nothing but his fancy’s whim
Sure when he gets through, he’ll find his home-stake there;
There’s miners more than one, built this "castle in the air".

He thinks his "pile" is made, and he’s goin’ home gin fall--
He joins his dear old mother, his father, friends and all
His heart e'en jumps with joy, at the thoughts of bein’ there,
There’s many a happy minute "buildin’ castles in the air.".
But hopes that promised high, in the spring time o' the year,
Like leaves o' autumn fall when the frost o' winter’s near.
So his buildin’ tumbles down with each blast o’ care,
‘Til there’s not a "stone left standin," of his "castle in the air."

"Toiling and sorrowing, on thro' life he goes;
Each morning sees some work begun, each evening sees it close"
But he has aye the grit, tho' his "tum-tum" may be sair,
For another year is coming, with its "castles in the air".
Tho' fortune may not smile, upon his labors here,
There is a world above, where his prospects will be clear
If he now accept the offer, of a stake beyond compare
A happy home for all, with a "castle in the air".


            Anderson also wrote what is likely the first labour poem of British Columbia, "The Song of the Mines", inspired by Thomas Hood's 1843 poem "Song of the Shirt”, which helped prompt changes in the English textile trade.

Song of the Shirt
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A Woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with the voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt!"

Anderson wrote:
Drift! Drift! Drift!
From the early morn till night
Drift! Drift! Drift!
From twilight till broad-day light
With pick and crow-bar and sledge
Breaking a hard gravel face;
In slum, and water and muck
Working with face-board and brace;
Main set, false set, and main set--
Repeated, shift after shift--
Day after day the same song--
The same wearisome Song of the Drift.

            Anderson’s many songs and poems, give us insights into gold camp social aspects and the miners labourious work.
            Similarly there was black poet Rebecca Gibbs, a Barkerville washerwoman who wrote extensively on social ills and miner's woes. She is perhaps best known for her poem Old Red Shirt.

A miner came to my cabin door,
His clothes they were covered with dirt;
He held out a piece he desired me to wash,
Which I found was an old red shirt ….

In the cold hard land of the gold creeks it might seem strange to think of miner's sitting down by candle light to write love songs, but love, tragedy and affairs were all part of life. A miner nicknamed Chips wrote "Lover's Lament" about his lost Annie, to the tune of  the US Civil War song Katy Wells  and a mine known "Mosquito", also the name of a camp, wrote about Mary, whom he tried to entice to live with him.

Oh, Mary, dear Mary, come home with me now;
The sleigh from Mosquito has come.
You promised to live in my little board house
As soon as the pap’ring was done.
The fire burns brightly in the sheet-iron stove
And the bed is made up by the wall.
But it’s lonesome, you know, these long winter nights
With no one to love me at all.

            "Mary Come Home" is one of the most interesting songs to come out of the Cariboo gold rush. The 1864 tune is borrowed from Henry Clay Work’s "Father Come Home". The song illustrates several things about the time and culture and is one of the few songs to include Chinook phrases – a trade language formed from several aboriginal and European languages.
            For instance: Mosquito was a town several miles northwest of  Barkerville, and the pseudonym of the writer. At the time this song was written it was a new town with a rough road connecting to Barkerville. The author is wintering here so he is a partner or claim owner. Given his promises he is not too destitute to leave.
            Mosquito is a prosperous miner with a house built of milled lumber.  He is not in a brush tent, a canvas tent, a rooming house or a log cabin, all of which were more common. He has the money and the inclination to paper the walls-- and has a real bed. Mary, it appears, could make a worse choice.
So it continues for four verses.
A simple song with a ore car of cultural information.

            At Barkerville's Theatre Royal there were the travelling music hall and minstrel shows such as Lafont and Ward's Troupe, the McGinty Family and the Potter Troupe.  They introduced audiences to songs like "Listen to the Mocking Bird", "Do They Miss Me At Home," Stephen Foster melodies like "Hard Times Come Again no more" and many other songs popular during the Civil War and the following decades.
Another showman on the creeks in 1878 was none other than "Captain Jack" the poet scout -- John Wallace Crawford, a showman/cowboy/miner and sometime partner of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Crawford was a playwright, poet and showman famous in the North American west. He lived for two seasons in Barkerville travelling in his "show wagon" with a company of singers and actors. He wrote many poems and a few songs based on his Cariboo experiences. The Barkerville death of friends such as Thomas Pattulo was likely the initial inspiration for his poem "Only a Miner Killed", later to become "Only a Miner" then "Only a Cowboy" and still later Bob Dylan's hit "Only a Hobo."[iii]

Only a miner killed --oh is that all?
One of the timbers caved, great was the fall,
Crushing another one shaped like his God.
Only a miner lad under the sod.
 
            The transmigration of songs from other countries and cultures is also evident in journals and letters, such as when overlander Robert McMicking writes down the words to "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Happy are we Tonight" in his 1862 journal.
We can hear the British Royal Engineers singing songs from the Crimean War and other battle fields, the blacks singing of southern slavery, the Scots of their home land, the 24 Welsh Adventurers joining in vocal harmonies, and the German dancing girls and Austrian miners singing their own songs.
            We find broadsheets of Civil War songs from saloons, sheet music collections quickly mailed up from the U.S. or "Pretty Polly Perkins from Paddington Green" shipped over from England.  And those tunes are used for other songs.
            In these documents we also learn of the instruments played: the bones, banjo, violin, bombardon, harmonium, cornet, melodeon, and the concertina, that did double duty by scaring off a bear.

  While I sit and write, the bones are sounding on one side, the fiddle on another, the banjo on another, the Cornocopean and Saric horn peal forth their notes together with 12 or 14 of the best singers that I ever heard.”
            Dobson Prest, in camp at Fort Edmonton, July 22nd, 1862, on an overland journey to Cariboo.

            James Anderson finally left in 1871, like most miners and merchants, as gold production, the towns and the populations were waning. When the first cold winds of winter blew down the valley, he wrote:

Cold Cariboo, farewell
I write it with a sad and heavy heart;
You've treated me so roughly that I feel,
Tis hard to part.

T'was all I asked of thee,
One handful of thy plenteous golden grain,
Hads't thou but yielded, I'd have sung "Farewell!"
And home again."

But, time on time, defeat!
Ah, cold and cruel, callous Cariboo!
Have eight years honest perservering toil
No more of you?
….

            The 1870s and 80s were the end of big gold strikes in Cariboo. And while gold rush material culture and social culture lived on, the music faded.
Some dance tunes from the saloons and hurdy houses were still being played by second generation Cariboo musicians at places like the Clinton Ball in the 1920s and 30s, but, no one was singing the songs of Anderson, Gibbs, Lawrence or Chips.
            However, on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Barkerville you will still hear them. In some sense, however, we like to think that those old songs and tunes are reflected in the music we hear today in Cariboo pubs and living rooms, from the loggers, ranchers and cowboys who still make their own music. In them we hear the echo of gold rush voices.
            The old music of the Cariboo gold rush exists on paper and in a few modern recordings, but as live music it has faded into the past.
This music and its cultural messages, its stories, like all traditional music, needs to be recognized, revived, and recorded. They are our cultural gems and an important part of cultural tourism.
            Fortunately Newman & Wright Theatre Company are able to keep this segment of our story alive on the Theatre Royal stage in gold rush Barkerville, British Columbia, where travelers interested in the music of cultural tourism can still hear these wonderful old songs.

 This is the second of two papers delivered by Richard Wright and Amy Newman at: On the Surface: The Heritage of Mines and Mining at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, in April 2011.  It will be published in the proceedings of the conference. Attendance at the conference brought Barkerville and the Cariboo gold rush to the attention of a world wide audience and opened many doors for research and presentations for Newman and Wright Theatre Co.



[i] Collected by Philip J. Thomas
[ii] Clapperton, John, "Jottings from our First 7 Years in British Columbia." BCARS ECC53.3. May 13th 1864
[iii] Miller, Darlis A., Captain Jack Crawford , University of New Mexico Press, 1993.
Also, Moses diaries, BCARS and BVHP

Copywrite 2011 Richard T. Wright