Author: eaberndtmorris (page 1 of 5)

Puirt-à-Beul – Mouth-tunes: or Songs for Dancing

title page from songbook with title and author

Title page from Puirt-á-Beul-Mouth-Tunes.

Ninety years ago, in 1931, Puirt-a-beul – Mouth-tunes, or Songs for Dancing as Practised From A Remote Antiquity by the Highlanders of Scotland was reprinted with “few minor corrections” from its 1901 first printing. The song book was “collected and arranged” by Keith Norman MacDonald, a medical doctor in Scotland with an interest in Highland music. MacDonald is chiefly remembered for three works: The Gesto Collection of Highland Music (1895); The MacDonald Bards from Mediaeval Times (1900) and Puirt-a-Beul – Mouth-tunes: or Songs for Dancing as Practised from a Remote Antiquity by the Highlanders of Scotland (1901).

An advertisement for the puirt-à-beul collection states that the volume includes, “120 Tunes, and in many cases several sets of words are given all sung to the same tune.” Puirt-á-beul is the Scottish Gaelic for “tunes from a mouth.” Although often used for dancing without instruments, contemporary performance often includes instrumental accompaniment.

Advertisement for songbook, reads These ancient dancing songs, relics of a bygone age, have been floating about the Highlands of Scotland for many centuries, and were collected by Dr. Macdonald in a fragmentary form just as they were on the eve of dying out entirely.

Advertisement for Puirt-á-Beul-Mouth-Tunes.

One example of puirt-à-beul music is the tune Ruidhle Mo Neighean Dhonn, or The Brown Haired Lass/Maid. The tune and lyrics from MacDonald’s book is provided and can be followed with this 1952 reel-to-reel recording from the digital sound recording archive Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches, a site that includes oral recordings made in Scotland and further afield, from the 1930s onward.

notation and lyrics to Ruidhle Mo Nighean Dhonn

Reel notation and lyrics to Ruidhle Mo Nighean Dhonn.

Happy Birthday, Jenny Lind!

In commemoration of renowned Swedish soprano Jenny Lind’s 200th birthday on October 6th, we’re taking a look at her time in and around Boston during her 1850-1852 U.S. tour. Lind came to the United States soon after her European opera career ended, at the invitation of infamous impresario Phineas T. Barnum. Starting in September 1850, she gave ninety-three concerts under his management, traveling to cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Havana, and Cincinnati over the course of nine months. A combination of Barnum’s publicity and Lind’s much-admired voice and charitable giving made her hugely popular across the country – indeed, “Lind mania” swept the nation.

Lind gave seven concerts in Boston under Barnum’s management, third to New York (where she gave thirty-five) and Philadelphia (where she gave eight). After an amicable break with Barnum, she continued touring the northeast, giving five Boston concerts in June 1851 and returning for another short series in November-December of that year. Boston at this time was known for its sacred music ensemble, the Handel and Haydn Society (est. 1815); the Germania Orchestra, a touring group from Berlin which accompanied Lind on several occasions, would establish their home base in Boston in 1851. In addition to the city’s musical life, this Jenny Lind Promotional Newspaper held at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, reasons Boston’s allure was also environmental.

Jenny Lind Promotional Newspaper clipping

Jenny Lind Promotional Newspaper. Published by F. Gleason, Museum Building, Tremont Street, Boston, p3

1850 September 23 Jenny Lind elected Honorary Member, by acclamation, of the Boston Musical Fund Society, a musicians’ cooperative. (She was not present to accept.)

1850 September 27 First performance in Boston at the Tremont Temple. The Boston Daily Evening Transcript reported that even with muddy streets, “every seat in the Tremont Temple was occupied before eight o’clock.” Her portion of that first program included operatic favorites by Rossini and Weber, as well as an audience favorite, the “Herdsman’s Song,” a Swedish melody. Lind took up residence in a four-room suite at the Revere House, an upscale hotel that was destroyed in 1912.

etching of Tremont Temple

“Tremont Temple” The Boston Directory for the year 1851

1850 September 28 Lind received many visitors, including politician and former Harvard president Edward S. Everett, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Massachusetts governor Colonel George N. Briggs. Lind visited the Harvard Observatory a few nights later on Everett’s invitation, during which time a comet reportedly flew overhead.

1850 October 1 Second performance in Boston at the Tremont Temple. The second program included additional operatic standards by Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Mozart.

1850 October 6 Fourth performance. The first half of the program featured sacred music, including selections from Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s Creation.

1850 October 10 Charity concert. Lind raised over $7,000 (over $200,000 today) which she donated to organizations including the Boston Port Society (later the Boston Seaman’s Friend Society), the Musical Fund Society, and the Association for Aged and Indigent Females.

1850 October 12 Concert in Boston at the Fitchburg Railroad Hall. The crowd became rowdy when some ticket holders reportedly could not access their seats and several windows were broken to improve the ventilation, but the concert eventually went on as scheduled. The Jenny Lind Tower, relocated to North Truro, MA in the 1920s, was originally part of the hall; Lind reportedly climbed the tower during her visit.

1851 June 18 First concert in Boston since her break with Barnum. Historian Robert Gales notes that Lind made a June visit to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at his home on Brattle Street in Cambridge.

1851 summer After concluding her concerts in Boston, Lind traveled to Springfield and Northampton, where poet Emily Dickinson heard her sing on July 3.

1851 November 22 Concert at the Melodeon in Boston. The New York Times mentions it was a sold out performance. The Boston Morning Journal noted that the Melodeon was acoustically superior to the Tremont Temple and Fitchburg Railroad Hall, allowing for “the full extent, the richness and purity of her magic voice” to be heard.

1851 November 25 Sold out concert cancelled on account of illness.

1851 November 28 Lind returns having “recovered from her indisposition.”

1851 December 1 Another concert at the Melodeon. On this occasion, the New York Times reports Lind was experiencing hoarseness due to a cold and chose to forego her first piece.

1851 December 6 Final Boston concert.

1852 A new Music Hall (now the Orpheum Theatre) is dedicated by Jenny Lind.

newspaper clipping from New York Times announcing Lind’s marriage

Lind marriage announcement in The New York Times.

1852 February 5 Lind marries her accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt, at a friend’s Beacon Hill home. The New England Historical Society writes about the private ceremony. The event – which had been organized in complete secrecy – astonished press and fans alike (“Jenny Lind Married–The Nightingale Flown Into the Nest of Matrimony” read one headline in Vermont). The couple honeymooned in Northampton, Massachusetts for three months.

Boston Marriage Register

Boston Marriage Register from February 1852 featuring Lind and Goldschmidt.  Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988)

For more information about Jenny Lind, see these online and digitized collections:

Europeana Collection of Jenny Lind Paper Dolls

Stanford University Jenny Lind Collection

Bibliography

Gale, Robert L. A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Holland, Henry Scott, & Rockstro, William Smith. Memoir of Madame Jenny Lind-Goldschmid: Her Early Art-Life and Dramatic Career, 1820-1851. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Ware, W. Porter and Thaddeus C. Lockard, Jr. P. T. Barnum Presents Jenny Lind: The American Tour of the Swedish Nightingale. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

This post was written collaboratively by Liz Berndt-Morris and Katie Callam (PhD ‘20).

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