What is old-time music? We’re often asked that question, and especially as the time comes close for our Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival. This year’s event will be held June 5. We hear it described as traditional music, mountain music, string-band music, and other terms that bring up images of family and friends joining in on the front porch to share tunes and stories. It was both entertainment and fellowship, and those musical and oral traditions have created a legacy that we hope to conserve and pass along.
Trying to answer the initial question, we Googled it (of course), and found lots of opinions/facts that better describe the music than we usually can. Here are a few of the many results we found:
Wikipedia says: “Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments (most often the guitar and banjo), as well as the mandolin. Harmonica is often included.”
New World Encyclopedia says: “Old-time music is a form of North American folk music, with roots in the folk musics of many countries, including England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as the continent of Africa. This musical form developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dance, buck dance and clogging. The genre also encompasses ballads and other types of folk songs. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments (most often the guitar and/or banjo).”
Nativeground.com tries to answer the question – what makes bluegrass and old-time music different? And concludes this: ”So to put this in a nutshell, old-time music is mainly an upbeat instrumental dance music while bluegrass is a vocal style where the instruments freely improvise. In old-time, the fiddle is boss, and in bluegrass, most often the singer takes the lead.”
We feel every tune or song has a story, and every repeating/sharing of that tune creates a new story. Sharing to carry on the life in those stories – that’s a calling.
Festival committee member Paula Speraneo says, “Now, I didn’t grow up here, but my Mama and her family did. We were treated to some of their musical sharing at yearly reunions, where instruments appeared, and folks just joined in as they were able, playing and singing. I’m envious of those who grew up around the old tunes every day, and I’m hopeful this Festival helps to create a future that includes them for generations to come. Scholars can debate, but I think it’s the music I would wish we’d retain pieces of forever – it makes the heart glad!”
The Old-Time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival is the signature event for West Plains. The festival seeks to celebrate, preserve, pass on and nurture an appreciation of the old-time music and folk life traditions distinctive to the Ozark Highlands.