Tag Archives: Washington’s Birthday

Washington’s Birthday According to Charles Ives

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge, John Ward Dunsmore (1907)

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge, John Ward Dunsmore (1907)

Charles Ives wrote of his piece Washington’s Birthday:

The first part of this piece is but to give the picture of the dismal, bleak, cold weather of a February night near New Fairfield [Connecticut] . . . . The middle part and the shorter last part are but kinds of refrains made up of some of the old barn-dance tunes and songs of the day . . . . As I remember some of these dances as a boy, and also from father’s description . . . there was more variety of tempo than in the present-day dances. In some parts of the hall a group would be dancing a polka, while in another a waltz, with perhaps a quadrille or lancers going on in the middle. . . . Sometimes the change in tempo and mixed rhythms would be caused by a fiddler who, after playing three or four hours steadily, was getting a little sleepy–or by another player who had been seated too near the hard cider barrel. [John Kirkpatrick, ed., Charles E. Ives Memos 96-97] Continue reading