Four Vintage Songs is a reflection of my attraction and fondness for the popular songs of the late 19th/early 20th Centuries. Here, arranged for brass quintet, are songs by Walter Kollo, James Thorton, and Stephen Foster. There is a certain reverence I feel for these early songs, and clear reverent musical elements are composed into each arrangement, reflecting not only my sentiment, but a crafted musical connection between all four settings. These song settings are dedicated to the Meridian Arts Ensemble:
I. Warte, warte, nur ein Weilchen (Wait, wait just a while longer) was composed in 1922 by Walter Kollo for the German operetta “Marietta”. It eventually became a popular hit in its own right, and its melody was used humorously by the German population to satirize the exploits of Fritz Harmann, also known as the “Butcher of Hanover”, then one of Germany’s most infamous serial killers. Here, I set the tune as a waltz, as if heard on a Carnival carousel.
II. Gentle Annie is a well-known early American ballad by Stephen Foster composed in 1856. The circumstances of who “Annie” actually was has always been in dispute (whether it be Foster’s cousin or maternal grandmother), but the melody itself is known to have been based on a popular Irish tune of the era.
III. When You Were Sweet Sixteen is an arrangement of a popular song composed by James Thorton in 1898, but its popularity soared in the 1920’s and beyond, due to performances and recordings of a well-known version by Al Jolson. This arrangement is a solo vehicle for the trombone.
IV. Ring de Banjo is another extremely popular tune by Stephen Foster. Like many of Foster’s songs, the lyrics paint a grotesque stereotype of slaves in 19th Century America (here, a slave leaves his plantation only to decide to return to his master). This song would later become part of the minstrel musician’s repertoire and make appearances in dozens of Hollywood films (from John Ford westerns to “Gone with the Wind”).