Music & Art Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village June 16-17

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dads get free admission on Father's Day June 17

(STURBRIDGE, MA) – May 31, 2012:  Old Sturbridge Village will come alive with the lost sounds and sights of 19th-century popular music and art as more than 50 singers, dancers, and musicians, and artists perform during the museum's annual Music & Art Weekend Saturday and Sunday June 16-17. Special musical guest is acclaimed folk performer and song historian Jeff Warner, and art demonstrations will include sketching, silhouette cutting, and traditional painting techniques. On Saturday evening, OSV potters will fire the massive 24-foot-high brick kiln to glaze 800 hand-made pieces of redware pottery for the annual Evening at the Kiln celebration. And on Sunday, all dads get free OSV admission for Father's Day. Daytime performances are free with museum admission; reservations are required for Evening at the Kiln. Details: 800-SEE-1830;

Singers performing on Saturday include John Scott and Jim Douglas from Folksong in the Classroom, who will perform sea songs, and members of the Old Sturbridge Village Singing School, who will present a concert of traditional songs.  Other Village performers will present 19th-century songs and stories all weekend long. Visitors can enjoy fife and drum music presented by the Sturbridge militia, hear a concert on the museum’s antique pipe organ, and learn to play the jaw's harp and tin whistle. Old Sturbridge Village historians will also demonstrate rare antique musical instruments from the museum's collection, including a walking cane flute, lap organ, and a flageolet, an early instrument similar to a recorder.  

Square dancers from The Hayloft Steppers will perform on Saturday, and the Old Sturbridge Village Dancers will teach visitors of all ages how to perform popular contra dances, jigs, and reels from the early 1800s.  Visitors can try their hand at paper marbling, and have their silhouettes cut by Village artists, who will also demonstrate early 1800s-style sketching and watercolor painting.

According to Old Sturbridge Village historians, early New Englanders enjoyed a wide variety of music – and not just serious religious music. Popular songs of the day often included songs about murders and executions, famous battles, salacious songs, and satirical songs.

“Families in early New England didn't go straight to sleep after dark -- they enjoyed singing songs and telling stories,” notes OSV musician Jim O’Brien.
People in rural villages learned four-part harmony in singing schools taught by itinerant instructors. Beautiful English ballads like “Barbara Allen,” were passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years. People also sang “broadside songs,” which were printed on single sheets in Boston and sold all over the countryside.

Most dances in early New England were informal affairs held in farmhouse parlors or barns, although there were fancy balls in the larger cities. In the countryside, young people had the option of learning all the latest steps at formal dancing schools taught by dancing-school masters who traveled from town to town.

Popular contra dances, or country dances, were an old English tradition, and featured long lines of women facing a line of men repeating a series of steps in sequence.  The French took English country dance and rearranged it for four couples standing in a square, calling it the cotillion, or quadrille. The waltz was just appearing in American social circles in the early 1800s, and because it involved dancing one on one with bodily contact, it was seen as racy and risqué – much too intimate and intoxicating an experience for unmarried young ladies, who were cautioned to refrain from it altogether.

As for art, silhouettes – profile portraits cut from black paper -- were very popular in America from 1790-1840, and were an affordable way to have a portable likeness of a loved one.  Theorem painting, or oil painting with stencils on white velvet, was quite popular among women of all ages in the early 1800s.  The stencil technique made it possible for amateur artists to create charming artwork for their own homes.

“So much of the everyday life we portray at Old Sturbridge Village revolves around work – the farming, spinning, sewing, shoe-making, blacksmithing and tin-making – because early New Englanders worked very hard,” O’Brien says.  “But they also loved music, art and dance, so it’s very fitting that we celebrate this aspect of their lives, too.”

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country.  The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week.  OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. Woo Card subscribers get $5 off adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive $12 off adult daytime admission. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: or call 1-800-SEE-1830.

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Ann Lindblad
VP Communications
Old Sturbridge Village


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