Yankee Doodle-Doo: A Collection of Songs of the Early American Stage

Yankee Doodle-Doo: A Collection of Songs of the Early American Stage

Yankee Doodle-Doo: A Collection of Songs of the Early American Stage

Yankee Doodle-Doo: A Collection of Songs of the Early American Stage

Excerpt

In the history of the American theatre the lyric drama in whatever its form has been little regarded and less remembered. Of it there has been no history written, aside from Mr. Krehbiel's books devoted to New York grand opera, and Mr. Sonneck's study of American opera before 1800. Yet it existed, it amused, and if now it has been forgotten, there is ample reason why we should know what it meant and was. It has been said that the soul of a nation is revealed in the songs of its people. Here then is a corner, and a forgotten one, of the American soul prior to the Civil War. Anyone perusing this volume even at hap-hazard, will recognize that during this period America obtained several souls; the songs of pre‐ Revolutionary times having nothing in common with those of the thirties, forties, and fifties, while those of the period between these are different still. As far as the present editor has been able to determine this is the first time that the field of American song up to 1860, comprising the field of opera, comic opera, and songs incidental to spoken plays, has been treated in any form whatever. For the purposes of this book the songs of the minstrel and variety stage have been omitted.

The period covered by this book is marked by an extraordinary eclecticism on the part of the librettist towards the composer. In other words he as often as not stole his music from whomever he wished, the law of copyright having not yet placed its non possimus upon this merry method. Sometimes the librettist was good enough to indicate the tune he stole, and sometimes he wasn't. These tunes belonged mostly to English, Scotch, or Irish songs, and where I have been able to find them I have, with a few exceptions, reproduced them in conjunction with the words written to them by the American playwright. There was, however, especially in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, also much original music written for the plays and operas. James Hewitt wrote a complete score . . .

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