Commence Ye Darkies All

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COMMENCE YE DARKIES ALL. Old-Time, Quadrille. A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABCD. From the early blackface minstrel repertoire, composed by W. D. Corrister and published in 1849. Corrister was a guitarist and songwriter who played with numerous early minstrel troupes, including Charles White’s Serenaders, Birch’s Minstrels, the San Francisco Minstrels and Backus’ Original Minstrels. Following the Gold Rush, Corrister moved to San Francisco and continued to work with minstrel groups there [David K. Bradford].

Touch light the banjo string,
And rattle the old jawbone;
Oh! Merrily sound the tambourine,
And make that fiddle ring.

Cho:
Then commence, ye darkies all,
As loud as ye can bawl,
Commence, commence, ye darkies all, tonight.

The melody forms the first part of Bellport, Long Island, ship's captain and fiddler Isaac Homan's "Melodeon Set," a set of quadrilles made entirely of minstrel tunes. Homan entered a number of minstrel song airs into his mid-19th century music manuscript collection, along with quadrille and cotillion sets, and misc. dance tunes. The set was attributed in the MS to "M, Titus" (clearly indicated with a comma, not a period); 'Titus' is a name that appears in several places in the MS, and refers to a neighbor and musician with who apparently Homan played regularly. Perhaps the 'M' refers to Homan himself. It seems likely that Homan and his musical friends may have put on minstrel shows in his community; certainly he and his friends played for community dances.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; p. 95.

Recorded sources:




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