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New York folk song program set for Saturday at Cap Rep

Friday, March 23, 2012

By Bill Buell (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

ALBANY — New York’s long and varied collection of folk songs doesn’t begin or end with Thomas Allen’s 1905 classic about the Erie Canal, “Low Bridge, Everybody Down.”

According to folklorist/musician George Ward of Rexford, musicologist Rena Kosersky of Schoharie and University at Albany professor Sheila Curran Bernard, there is so much more.

On Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, Ward, Kosersky and Bernard will share their knowledge of upstate New York’s rich musical history with a special event called “New York Sings.” The program, free to the public, is being sponsored by Capital Rep, the University at Albany’s History Department and the Researching New York Conference and Documentary Studies Program.

“New York Sings” is being held in conjunction with Capital Rep’s production of “Black Pearl Sings,” Frank Higgins’ play about a musicologist in the 1930s who discovers a woman in a Texas prison who has a beautiful singing voice and a vast knowledge of 19th century music rooted in the South.

“The idea was to remind everybody that there are folk songs in this part of the world,” said Ward, who moved to the Capital Region in 1976 and taught in the Niskayuna school district before becoming a freelance musician and folklorist. “There was great music written in this area, and people like Emelyn Elizabeth Gardner and Ida Finkel, who collected those songs so that we can enjoy them today.”