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What is there in negro melodies so charm-ing to the ear of the sovereign people? Something there must be, else all parties would not be so delighted. I know that they have banished heart-aches and gloomy fancies, and that, when struggling in "the Slough of Despond," the magic numbers of "The other side of Jordan," well executed upon a banjo, with a pair of protruding lips carolling the refrain, that "Jordan am a hard road to travel," has caused the pilgrim to shake off his burden and go his way rejoic-ing.
Pious people say "they are wicked songs, not fit to be sung;" but mark the expression of such people's faces when in company; see if their actions don't belie their words. A song is called for; some lady sings and plays some nice, lackadaisical, sentimental ditty about love and melancholy
"Go, forget me; why should sorrow
Well, she is applauded; for one would think, by her mournful cadence, that she was the victim, and pining away; but who cares for the feeling therein expressed? Then she changes to some meeting by "moonlight alone," and all sit as if frozen into silence at the thought. She sings something more plaintive -- "The watches." All seem pleased; but some one asks, "Do you not sing and play the new negro melodies?" and, though a few look aghast at the thought, hardly has the singer finished the second verse before the deacon is beating time with his foot, forgetful of its profane music, and his grave wife says, " What a beautiful tune that is -- to be sure it's a pity there wasn't better words;" and the venerable clergyman says nothing, for he is thinking there may be some worse sins against high heaven than singing my "Old Kentucky Home" for a social party.
I do not think all the negro songs or melodies proper to be sung anywhere; but many of them have an indescribable sweetness about them, -- sounds which reach far down into the hidden fountains of feeling, and carry us above and beyond our poor, every-day existence -- tones which wrap us in Elysian dreams, and we cannot account for their witching spell; we only know they "touch the electric chain with which we are darkly bound."
J. Ross Brown, in "Yusef," tells of some of the inhabitants of the East listening to the song of "Uncle Ned" with delight, when other music failed to please; and their joy increased when the story was told of poor old Ned. And I know of people at home who would fall asleep over the last opera, but awaken without much effort when the chorus of "Wait for the Wagon" falls upon their ear.
If I am wicked, I hope to be pardoned for it, and speedily made better; but I should be obliged to stop my ears with cotton, were I ever so good, to prevent me from taking delight in the best and favorite "negro melodies;" and when in New York, near the corner of Broadway and Anthony, I should have to shut my eyes to its attractions, or before I was fully aware, I should be within a well-known music store, looking over the piles of new music, and passing over a large quantity on a lower shelf, marked "Love," "Lovers," &c., &c., I should send Mr. Waters, the gentlemanly proprietor of the musical region, or some of his attentive and courteous employés on an aerial ascent to the upper shelves for comic songs and negro melodies for the young sister in the West, or my tall cousin John, as oft I've done before.
THE BLACKBIRD ENTERTAINMENT
GRAND OVERTURE ..... Company.
LECTURE ...... Dr. Snowball.
FANCY NEGRO DANCE ..... Company.
It was with the highest pleasure we attended the Blackbird Entertainment, given by the celebrated Blackbird Minstrels, in the first ball, north, on the evenings of Nov. 9th, lath and 11th.
The gentlemen, having witnessed the success and pleasing result of their neighbors -- the fair Southrons -- and actuated, doubtless, by the spirit of generous rivalry, determined, if possible, to equal, if not excel them, in dramatic skill, singing and fancy dancing. Applying themselves to the task with an energy and purpose characteristic of the sterner sex, they presented to the children of Asylumia a novel and laughter-provoking view of the varieties in human kind.
Their programme, which we give above, contained a rare combination of the ludicrous, burlesque and unique, promising at least a variety, which is the spice of life. The stage was admirably adjusted for the action and elucidation of the several parts, and well calculated to disguise and conceal the sable characters thereon.