Harrow County School for Boys

Afro-American Music Society 1950

There are many who are grateful to the Music Society for its catholic taste, particularly those interested in jazz and allied folk musics, who have been given opportunities on more than one occasion to air their views and to play records to the Group.  The good attendance at these times gave further support to the opinion that there was a definite need for a society in the school which could cover this field of music more adequately.

As such distinct folk music forms as authentic spirituals, blues, work-songs and many others cannot properly be termed "jazz", the all-embracing term "Afro-American Music" was used when the Society was inaugurated in October.  At this first meeting Mr. Oliver gave a general talk briefly illustrating the full scope of the subject and outlining its history.  Te following week A. L. Thompson and Mr. Oliver illustrated a "musical tour" of Storyville, New Orleans, of the late nineteenth century with many records, photographs and maps.  Rare recordings of the little-known cornetist, George Mitchell, were presented bu Thompson in a subsequent meeting, and this was followed in turn by a comparison of extempore interpretations on traditional tunes, Kirby's "Themes and Variations," and by a discussion on the styles and improvisation of coloured and white trumpeters, led by Bristow, "The Trumpet Lead."

Berge presented records of the "Fast Western" piano music, tracing its development from the Southern guitar blues to its maturity in the Chicago of the '20s, where it acquired the more unhappy term, "boogie-woogie."  Its twelve-bar verse form is identical in structure to the blues, oldest and richest of negro folk-musics and was to be heard as a accompaniment to the blues singer on several of the rare records of these artists presented by Mr. Oliver the following week.  Bessie Smith, who was known as the "Empress of the Blues," was a great fold singer and was the subject of Foster's talk.

There are still many aspects of the subject on which we have not touched, although some 150 recordings will have been played by the end of the term.  Books on the music have been obtained by the Society, together with a collection of photographs.  Visits to other clubs have been planned and the visit to London to hear the Crane River Jazz band was a great success.  At no meeting have there been less than twenty present, and we are glad that several boys are members of both music societies.  The Society's committee is as follows: Mr. Oliver, president; A. L. Thompson, hon. secretary; Kirby, treasurer; Bristow and Andrews, VIth and Vth Form representatives.

J. M. Simpson, U VI Arts.


(from Gaytonian December 1950)

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