Appropriateness a minstrel song, specifically Foster's Glendy Burk
Date: February 21, 2012
I'm considering programming Stephen Foster's "Glendy Burk," which was written for a minstrel show in 1860.
If you're not familiar with it, here are the lyrics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glendy_Burk
One singer said to me that while he was willing to perform the piece, he had a hard time with the verse that described violence against blacks:
Dey make me mow in de hay field here And knock my head wid de flail,
I'll go wha dey work wid de sugar And de cane And roll on de cotton bale.
(Aside - A flail is not a whip, but a threshing tool, that when used improperly, knocks you on the head.)
Another person in the group is considering at best not singing and telling her friends not to come to the concert, and at worst leaving the group. For her the idea that it was for a minstrel show crosses the line.
Most of the chorus doesn't care. For the record, we're all white, and ages 25-70.
I feel neither invested in the piece, though I like it, nor stubborn. I'm just curious if we've reached the point where any minstrel song, such as Glendy Burk or Oh, Susanna, is de facto unacceptable. I've read a lot, including the PBS web pages about Foster. Now I'm looking for your thoughts, collective choral consciousness.
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