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GUEST,Bob Coltman Oldtime Musical Gatherings: What Were They Called? (32) RE: Oldtime Musicals . . . What Were They Called? 25 Jun 17


This is really two questions, one being what the dance gatherings were called. Names for those were suggested above, though most of them are too recent. "Hoedown" is old enough but refers specifically to dance parties. "Chivaree" is very old, but is generally restricted to wedding prankings, often with music.

For camp meetings, "All day singin' and dinner on the ground" was used for hymn/gospel sings.

For secular sings, none of the terms so far suggested is old enough to qualify. Many of them were first used in the 1950s, usually in a folkie rather than a traditional cultural context.

The only really old terms for sings I remember hearing or reading of in the Appalachian context might be:

1. "the singin'" (Are you goinl to the singin' at Old John's house tonight?),
2. "singin' gatherin'," or perhaps
3. "singin' party."

As several have stated above, singing gatherings traditionally took place within families with perhaps some neighbors looking in—as with the Ritchie family gathering I was privileged to attend in Hazard, Kentucky in 1955 while Jean's parents were still alive. No distinct or colorful term was needed.

Singing was embedded in the culture in ways we, with radio, TV, cars and internet, find hard to imagine. You had to entertain yourself ... and family, friends and neighbors. Moreover, you sang to pass the time, to give life a rhythm, and to make work go easier, from doing the dishes and minding the baby to haying or wagoning.

This can be over-romanticized, but was a real fact of life. More often than not people sang to themselves. In singing gatherings they sang to lull, to please, in the bright hope of teaching and learning new songs, or to hear the old favorites over again. Singing as entertainment in our sense rarely entered into it.

Likewise cowboys sang in the bunkhouse to while away an evening. Sometimes they sang to top one another, an informal competition to sing down the other fellow. Again, so far as I can figure out, no really distinct term seems to have been used apart from those I mentioned above.

Bob


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