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Resources for Preservation of this Historic Culture
Manuel Ferrer, born in Baja California in 1828 and moving to Alta California at a young age, studied guitar in the mid 1840s with Narciso Durán, one of the Franciscan missionaries in California.
In turn, Ferrer became an influential performer, teacher and composer — particularly in San Francisco — from about 1850. His instructional book of guitar pieces, including a section of songs, was first published in 1882 by Mattius Gray.
This 227-page work is an eclectic mix of pieces, and includes such pieces as:
Some additional historic pieces arranged by Manuel Ferrer are available in another modern publication well worth perusing: Hispanic-American Guitar by Douglas Back (Mel Bay Publications, 2003).
This publication also features some other guitarists from 19th-century California: Manuel Arévalo and Luis Toribio Romero.
Romero studied guitar with both Arévalo and Ferrer. Douglas Back describes that one of the included pieces from Romero’s repertoire, Peruvian Air, might have come from his teacher, Manuel Ferrer. This tune is also the tune used for La pena negra, a song from Adalaida Kamp included in Charles Lummis’ recordings. Adalaida’s source for the piece is José de la Rosa, who wrote the words into his word book around 1850. He may also be the author of that poem.
Overall, half of the pieces in Douglas Back’s Hispanic-American Guitar are from California sources, a quite respectable percentage.
William J. McCoy
One early popular folio featuring secular music specifically from Mexican California was that done by William J. McCoy in 1895 and published under various titles over time, including Canciones del país de California and Folksongs of the Spanish Californians.
The pieces included are:
With the release of Volume 9 of the Music of Early California (2007 Supplement), all of these pieces are again available, and in arrangements friendly to folk guitarists.
Another popular collector and promoter of this heritage was Eleanor Hague. Her work was often published in magazines and academic articles, and she collected many pieces together in larger publications. She was a contributor to the publication Masterkey, published by the Southwest Museum (now part of The Autry Center).
In Spanish-American Folk-Songs, published in 1917 by the American Folk-Lore Society, she included melody lines for a good number of pieces from California, such as:
Eleanor Hague’s music folio, Early Spanish-Californian Folk-Songs, published in 1922 with piano arrangements, was influential in preserving this music for performing musicians. The pieces included are:
The collection of the Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum Campus of The Autry Center includes some additional pieces collected and transcribed by Eleanor Hague, previously unpublished. Some of these reflect her own transcriptions of pieces from the Edison wax cylinder recordings made by Charles Lummis.
Arrangements of these pieces with lead lines and guitar chords, and usually harmony lines, are available to musicians in the Music of Early California.
Aurelio M. Espinosa
Aurelio M. Espinosa, who was also a noted linguist in the Spanish-language field, applied his highly developed academic methodology and resources to the collection of folk lore in New Mexico and California, including documention of the words to many songs from both areas. Las Romances Tradicionales en California was printed in 1925 as part of a collection of essays, Homenaje a Menéndez Pidal, Tomo 1. It is the only source I have encountered to document any appreciable tradition of romances in California. Published in an edition of only 1000 copies, this publication is not currently readily available. One original copy is housed at the Geisel Library at the University of California at San Diego in Special Collections.
Another point of interest in this publication, mentioned in passing, was Espinosa’s observation of similarities between Spanish as spoken in New Mexico and as spoken in historic California. And since Espinosa is the primary authority on the specifics of how Spanish in New Mexico is different from Spanish spoken elsewhere, we can be assured that this is not just idle speculation.
Folklore de California, a pamphlet published in 1930, includes words to a number of songs. This work is more available than the previous document, but has not yet been re-printed for modern use. Included are words to:
Unfortunately, because his interest was in the poetry, Espinosa’s work does not include tunes.
Historic Disk Recordings
This 1953 collection from Bowmar Records includes:
This 1950s album of 78 RPM records from Decca also includes the English-language versions of a number of songs included in Charles Lummis’ folio.
Where to find this music currently in print and recordings
To find a CD or music books of this music, go to San Diego Friends of Old-Time Music — Wares
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