Excelsior: Journals of the Hutchinson Family Singers, 1842-1846

By Dale Cockrell | Go to book overview

Preface

The Hutchinson Family Singers were a most important part of American popular music's nascency. Their careers stretched from the formative years in the early 1840s nearly to the end of the nineteenth century, when popular music had become a mature, specialized industry. In more ways than perhaps any others of the day, the Hutchinsons borrowed from the range of American musical experience to fashion a product that engaged the minds and imaginations of the millions, an audience of politicians, preachers, poets, and, most importantly, the common people. Whether as a result of agreeing with their message, disagreeing, sharing a common heritage, appreciating their uncommon manner of expression, or simply living in a world they gave special definition, the story of the Hutchinsons is some part of the stories of nearly all mid- nineteenth-century Americans.

These journals chronicle those musicians from the first of their major tours in 1842 to their grandest, the visit to Great Britain in 1846, and trace their careers from aspiring anonymity to international renown. The pages are filled with travel, music, and a rise to fame, but also more: opinions, insights, hopes, defeats, victories, interesting personalities, and many- sided human relationships. Taken together they represent a source perhaps unique to nineteenth-century American musical history: no other such record left us by musicians of equivalent stature comes to hand. Further, the sort of richly- detailed documentation of life in general found here (family matters, the cost of things, travel, entertainment, food, reading matter) projects these pages beyond the concern of only American music students to include the social and cultural historian. And given the Hutchinsons' involvement in many

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