Chicago Chicago: Annotated Program Notes

Sep 17, 2018

"Chicago, Chicago" with Geoffrey Baer

October 2018

Chicago, Chicago traces the history of our great city through song.  Enjoy this sneak preview of the songs included, along with some historical background for each:

Traditional Fr. Canadian, arr. Miller: C'est l'aviron
This is a song of the French voyageurs who explored the Great Lakes, including what is now Chicago, and traded with Native Americans;  it was sung as early as the 1690s and was one of the most popular songs at the settlement of Michilimackinac, now Mackinac Island.  The song sings of "going up," which is what they called paddling from "Lower Canada" (Montreal and Toronto, along the St. Lawrence) to "Upper Canada" (points west).  Read more about the early fur trade around Chicago.

Traditional, arr. Bustin/Dalglish/Larsen/Miller:  Shawneetown
Before Chicago became a huge metropolis, the way most Anglos traveled to Illinois was down the Ohio River, where they would cross at Shawneetown or Shawnee Ferry.  This is a folksong from the Ohio Valley, telling people about life on the river, floating down and paddling back up to pursue trade, including the narrator's three women in different ports!

Traditional, arr. Zanzig: El-A-Noy
Like any area wanting to grow, Illinois had its early "boosters," who wrote this song painting an idyllic picture of the state's glories.  The verse about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon visiting the state is hilarious.   Read the complete lyrics to El-a-Noy.

Barry Moore, arr. Nick Page: City of Chicago
The Irish immigrants came in waves following the Great Potato Famine.  This is a recent folksong about the Irish coming to Chicago and what they endured, both on the journey and when they got here.

Johannes Brahms: Die Wollust in den Maien
Germans were one of the major immigrant groups in Chicago's early history. This is a song that would likely have been performed by their many singing societies. 

Spiritual, arr. Allan Koepke: Follow the drinking gourd
The Chicago area, including Maywood and Graue Mill in what is now Hinsdale, were stops on the Underground Railroad. This is a slave song/spiritual that helped to tell runaway slaves how to get across the Ohio River to freedom.

Trad., arr. Shaw/Parker:  Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier
The Civil War hit Chicago hard, as it did the entire nation.  This haunting folk tune laments the men going off to war, including some 36,000 from the Chicago area who enlisted and were sent into battle. 

Samuel Ward and Katharine Lee Bates, arr. Deke Sharon: America the Beautiful
As the city emerged into greatness, this song became an emblem of national pride;  the verse about "alabaster cities' gleam" refers to the White City in the Columbian Exposition of 1892-93.

Sturges/Schleiffarth, arr. Miller:  Song of the Ferris Wheel
George Ferris's wheel constructed at the Columbian Exposition was 30 stories tall and was meant to rival the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed visitors to the Paris World’s Fair four years earlier. This charming waltz celebrated the astounding attraction.

Fred Fisher, arr. Miller: Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)
The great tune popularized by Sinatra gets a new a cappella setting here, including all of the original words.


Jerry Troxell, text of Carl Sandburg:  Prayers of Steel
Carl Sandburg wrote odes to skyscrapers, and Jerry Troxell's haunting composition perfectly illuminates Sandburg's awe at beholding the stark urban beauty of Chicago's new downtown area.

arr. Gwyneth Walker:  This Train
The Great Migration of black Southerners to the north between World War I and 1970 was one of the largest movements of a people in history.  Many bought a ticket on the Illinois Central railroad and ended up in Chicago, perhaps with this spiritual in their minds.

Lovie Austin, arr. J. Miller: Chicago Bound Blues
Chicago has become synonymous with the blues.  This is a song written by Chicagoan Lovie Austin and made popular by Bessie Smith, in a new a cappella version, the lament of a woman left behind in Mississippi.

Thomas Dorsey, arr. Sevier: Precious Lord
In the 1930s, Thomas A. Dorsey created gospel music, and this is his most famous song, in a stunning arrangement by Chicago's own Arnold Sevier.

Traditional Mexican, arr. Ramón Noble: Las Manañitas
The large Mexican-American community in Chicago began to grow in earnest after 1910.  This is the traditional song (in the famous arrangement by Ramón Noble) sung at birthdays and celebrations here ever since Mexicans began moving here in the early 20th century.

Traditional Polish, arr. Sykulski: Goralu, czi ci nie zal
Poles immigrating here made Chicago one of the most vital Polish-speaking cities in the world.  This touching folksong reminds us that, despite the thriving community they created, it was hardship that brought those first Poles to our city.

Robert Johnson, arr. Sinozich: Sweet Home Chicago
Blues legend Robert Johnson may have sold his soul to the devil, but not before he gave us this timeless standard, sometimes called the unofficial anthem of Chicago.

Norworth and Von Tilzer, arr. Anne Heider: Take me out to the ballgame
People gotta have fun!  This jaunty setting by Anne Heider incorporates all of Jack Norworth's original lyrics.  Root, root, root for the ... Cubbies? ...White Sox?

Join us October 6-21, 2018, for this remarkable musical tour of The Windy City!  Tickets and information.


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