Saturday, February 6, 2016

Canal Music, Old Church and Art: Day out with Elaine ADVENTURE

Elaine mentioned an event at the Historical Society to me:  Canal Music with Dave Ruch.  I thought it sounded interesting so I said yes and she reserved our spaces.

We arrived early and walked through the rooms in the main building.  We met up with someone Elaine knew:  Donna Campbell.  When Elaine mentioned that my brother Mike is the new Chief of Police, Donna told me  that my father was in her high school graduation class.  She said she looked for his picture in THE FORUM, but it was not there because he was in the army overseas.

Almost all of the sixty previously paid for seats were filled.  Lunch was homemade soups, roll and other breads, drinks and cookies.  Everything was delicious  I tried chicken corn chowder and butternut squash soup.  Both were delicious!

Daves presentation was wonderful.  His first song was the song most of the audience learned in elementary school..........starting out with "I've got a mule and her name is Sal...."  The audience immediately chimed in with the next line.  Dave told some of the history of the Erie Canal and it was all very interesting.  He demonstrated several instruments that the canal builders may have used   It was great fun.

Our plans were to go to an opening reception for LANDSCAPES at the Lockside Art Center, but we had some free time before it started so we went to the Second Presbyterian Church in Lowertown.  Elaine had to pick up a piece of mail and she showed me around.

And then we went to the Lockside Art Center for the opening reception.   The landscapes were very interesting.  We met and talked to a couple of the artists, 
and enjoyed the refreshments.  It turned out to be a great day!  Here is the article I submitted to the LOCKPORT STAR (although they did not publish it)

by Carolyn Simmons

When Dave Ruch sang "I've got a mule and her 
name is Sal"....the audience, consisting of 
about sixty people, spontaneously sang out 
"fifteen miles on the Erie Canal". Lockport's 
favorite song is well known in England and 
grade school kids in South Africa also sing it, 
according to Dave. But this song was never really 
sung during the horse and mule days! 

The song that most Lockportians know goes by 
various names: "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," "The 
Erie Canal Song," "A Mule Named Sal," and "Fifteen 
Miles on the Erie Canal". From the time the canal 
opened in October of 1825 until 1880, barges were 
pulled by mules down the Erie Canal. Both the 
lyrics and music were written in l905 by Thomas
Allen. The nostalgic song focuses on the years 
when mule barges turned the cities of Rochester,
Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica and Rome into booming 
centers of commerce. However, as time and technology 
moved on, the mules were replaced by engine power.
The last verse of the Erie Canal Song claims that
Sal "put the "Buff" in Buffalo". Lockportians and
tourists know that the Lockport locks put the 
"Lock" in Lockport!! 

Like many folk songs, the words have changed over 
the years. The most obvious change from the original 
version was the change from the word years to miles. 
Allen's original version refers to fifteen years of 
working with Sal. The newer version uses the word 
miles which was the average distance a mule would 
tow a barge before becoming tired and having to be 
replaced by another mule. 

Thanks to a grant from the New York State Council on 
the Humanities, Performing and Teaching Artist Dave 
Ruch came to the Niagara County Historical Society 
on Saturday, February 6th for the program SOUP AND 
SONGS. Hot homemade soups, fresh rolls and breads, 
drinks and desert were served to the participants
who ranged from toddler to senior citizen.

Dave demonstrated several instruments that may have 
been used during the early Erie Canal Era: cow bones, 
jaw harp, spoons and washboard and he offered participants 
the opportunity to try them out. 

He told stories about the early canal days. There 
was some disagreement about where digging for the 
canal should start, and the City of Rome was chosen 
because of its location in the middle. Black Rock 
at the western end of New York seemed to be a good
spot for the canal to end but the leaders of the 
Village of Buffalo desperately wanted the canal to 
end there. The villagers rallied together and dug 
the harbor. The Village of Buffalo became the City 
of Buffalo with an excellent harbor and today it is
still a busy commercial center. 

Melissa Dunlap, Executive Director of the The History 
Center was there with her grandson. She remarked 
"Dave did a wonderful job and he made it fun for 
people of all ages!" 

Dave said "people jumped right in and seemed happy to 
hear the song again and to learn that there are actually 
five verses to it rather than the two verses we were 
taught in school."

The Niagara County Historical Society received a grant 
from the The Yahoo Community Benefit Fund, in conjunction 
with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, to 
offer free evening family programs once a month during 2016,
and has declared 2016 to be the "Year of the Family". More 
information about these upcoming events can be found at 
their website: www.  The phone 
number for the Historical Society is 716 434-7433.

"And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal............"

611 words

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