Monday, November 14, 2016

Pa's Fiddle: The Music of American Inspired by the Little House on the Prairie Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Like many others, I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.  I got a copy of Little House in the Big Woods for Christmas when I was in second grade, and was immediately hooked.  Since then, I've come back regularly to Laura's story, and when I was teaching school, I regularly used the Little House books to bring American history to life for my students through projects based on the food and handicrafts featured in the books.

One major feature of the books is Laura's father's fiddle.  Charles Ingalls (Pa) is regularly depicted playing the popular music, both secular and religious, of the period - it's part of what draws the family together as they travel.  Every book contains verses and lyrics, but what we are missing as readers is the tunes.  Pa's Fiddle, helps to correct that by featuring a variety of artists singing 14 songs selected from the many featured in the books.

The artists range from country singers Randy Travis and Ronnie Milsap to gospel's Natalie Grant and an excellent African-American close harmony group, Committed.  The pieces selected include pieces familiar to many of us like "Rock of Ages'  as well as relative unknowns like 'The Gum Tree Canoe" and "Oft in the Stilly Night," which according to the commentary was one of the most popular songs of the 19th century.  Especially moving is Committed's rendition of "Battle Cry of Freedom."

In between songs, DVD commentary gives background on the pieces and links them back to the Little House books. The recording is of a live concert, so you also get the audience reaction.  I only wish they'd have been able to include more songs.

If you are interested in learning more about the life and world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the library has a number of biographies available.

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