Category Archives: Music History

Happy Mother’s Day 2019

This is a reissue of last year’s Mother’s Day post with some new music. Enjoy.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. We honor you today, the second Sunday in May because of all you have done for us. Today I want to share a few tidbits of information about this 110-year-old holiday.

Mother’s Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well as the positive contributions that they make to society.

Establishment of Mother’s Day Holiday

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908. Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

She campaigned to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States beginning in 1905. Ann Reeves Jarvis, her mother, died that year. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. She created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started. Additionally, she wanted to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

Protests and Carnations

Although Jarvis was successful in founding the holiday, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of the day. Also, she felt the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude. She thought people should do this instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. She protested at a candy makers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Also, she demonstrated at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, sons and daughters were sending carnations as gifts on this day. Additionally, authorities arrested Jarvis for disturbing the peace when she protested AWM’s carnation selling to raise money.

Sundays With Mom

Families all have traditions and routines. Ours was no different. Each Sunday mom began the day by dressing each of us in suits with clip-on bowties. But these were not ordinary suits. She purchased these suits at Freeman’s clothing store and they required alterations by tailors. We went to Sunday school and then sat through church service. Dad gave us pencils so we could doodle during the service.

Mom prepared Sunday Roast each week. This traditional British main meal is typically served on Sunday (hence the name). It consists
of roasted meat, roast potato, vegetables like broccoli, carrots and onions,  and gravy. She put the ingredients in a roasting pan and put it in the oven before we left for church.

Eventually she tired of preparing Sunday roast and our after church lunch became a visit to the heritage cafeteria.

Easter Bonnets

At Easter let your clothes be new
Or else be sure you will it rue.

Poor Robin, an 18th-century English almanac maker, is credited with writing this doggerel. The notion that ill-luck would follow one who had not something new at Easter expanded in the 19th century.

In the English tradition, the notion of getting new clothes on Easter to signify inner growth and renewal dates back to Shakespeare. In “Romeo and Juliet,” Romeo’s sage and ill-fated confidante, Mercutio, chastises Benvolio. “Did’st thou not fall out with a Tailor for wearing his new Doublet before Easter?”

In the States, it wasn’t until post-Civil War society, towards the latter 1870s, when modern traditions surfaced. Women and children marching in Easter Parades replaced dark-colored mourning smocks with brighter clothing. By the early twentieth century, Americans became more and more invested in the Easter outfit—the hat, in particular.

Current Traditions

Following forty days of Lent, we typically wear drab outfits reflective of a collective “abstention.” Easter Sunday lifts the fog not only in spirit but also in our wardrobe. Fittingly, mom took us to Freeman’s clothing store each year to purchase a new Easter suit and tie.

Today the Easter bonnet is a type of hat that women and girls wear to Easter services. Because Easter coincides with seasonal blooming, women sometimes garner fresh flowers to wear in their hair and bonnets. Lilies, daffodils, azaleas, hyacinths, and red tulips are considered traditional Easter flowers.

The popularity of the Easter Bonnet peaked in 1948 when Judy Garland serenaded Fred Astaire with Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” in a film of the same name. In this number, Garland, who dons a white Derby Hat with pink and violet rosettes, makes no place seem as grand on Easter Sunday as Fifth Avenue in New York City. However, the Easter Bonnet has become a relic, albeit a delicate and artisanal one, of cosmopolitan splendor.

What about you? Will you be donning an Easter bonnet today?



Happy St. Patrick’s Day

‘Tis a grand time of year when you’re Irish. Or when you’re of Irish heritage, or simply wish you were. Perhaps you claim you’re Irish even though you’re not. St. Patrick’s Day, which is today, draws out the Irish in plenty of people all over the world.

But who was St. Patrick and why do people everywhere celebrate this day as an international holiday?

St. Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, he is the primary patron saint of Ireland. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Irish Music For St. Patrick’s Day

In his book, A History of Irish Music, William Grattan Flood writes, “No enemy speaks slightingly of Irish music, and no friend needs fear to boast of it.” So what is the story behind Irish music?

Today I am going to talk about four different types of Irish music.

1. Traditional Irish Music

Musicians sang early Irish songs a capella. They introduced pipes,  fiddles, and bodhrans (Irish drums) later. These instruments have become a staple of what we now know to be “traditional” Irish music. However, other instruments like the accordion, flute, and guitar have also become popular. Groups like Altan, The Chieftains and Celtic Woman provide traditional Irish tunes. They sing some of the most popular session songs. For example “Danny Boy,” “An Irish Lullaby,” “Rocky Road to Dublin,” “Irish Eyes are Smiling,” and “Finnegan’s Wake.”

2. Modern Irish Music

Who said that Irish music could only be old, sad and nostalgic? Many famous music groups from Ireland have blessed us with their sound, including U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Cranberries and Van Morrison.

3. Irish Harp Music

Francis Bacon once said that “no harp hath the sound so melting as the Irish harp.” Irish harp music dates back to the 10th-century Irish court when the harp was strung with wires of brass and plucked with long fingernails. It was the centerpiece of royal Irish music until it was eliminated by the British, surviving only as the dance music of the poor. Irish harp music, therefore, is considered the ancestor of Irish traditional music.

One of the biggest contributors to this form of Irish music was the blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan. The wandering harper lived from 1670-1738 and composed hundreds of tunes.

4. Celtic Music

Is there a difference between Celtic music and Irish music? Yes and no. Celtic (pronounced “kel-tic”) originally referred to a group of people who settled in Ireland, Scotland, Britain and surrounding areas. Celtic music in this sense is not specifically Irish.  Nevertheless, it is considered easy-listening, mood music that has an enchanting and relaxing feel.

Therefore, Irish music can be Celtic, but Celtic music isn’t always Irish. Some consider Enya to be modern Celtic music with a haunting Irish sound. Here is one of my favorites.