Essence of Old Virginny (1)

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X:1 T:Essence of Old Virginny [1] M:6/8 L:1/8 R:"Slow" Jig S:Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1883) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G D | {F}E2D G2A | {B}d3 d2e | d2B A2G | {E}(G3 G2)D | {F}E2D G2A | B2c ^c2d | fed cBA |1 G2z [B2g2] :|2 G2z [B2g2]|| |: d | g2b a2g | {e}(g3g2)e | D2B A2G | {E}(G3 G2)d | g2b a2g | e2f g2d | fed cBA |1 G2 z [D2B2g2] :|2 (G3 G2)D ||



ESSENCE OF OLD VIRGINNY [1]. American, ("Slow") Jig. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Hans Nathan (Dan Emmett and Negro Minstrelsy, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962, p. 93) explains that some minstrel dancing involved slow steps: "Dances featuring such jumps and leaps were called 'essences' from about the (eighteen)fifties on, of which the 'Essence of Old Virginny', frequently accompanied by Emmett's tune 'Root, Hog or Die', is the best known example. Dan Bryant's famous rendition must have been highly realistic, for the press referred to it as 'a dance characteristic of the rude and untutored black of the old plantation'. In 'essences' the dancer sometime held his 'palms...at right angles with the wrists, while the arms were extended in a sort of pushing gesture...' but this was apparently at a later time." Another performer, named Mert Sexton, "'the great original essence of old Virginia,' was a variety and minstrel performer of some note. He was connected with Fox & Warden's Minstrels, 1859" (William L. Slout, Broadway Below the Sidewalk, Borgo Press, California, 1994, p. 72). Frank Dumont, in an article in the New York Clipper (Dec. 19, 1914), called "The Golden Days of Minstrelsy," writes: "From time to time dwarfs appeared with the troupes and excited attention, notably Japanese Tommy, a colored dwarf, who was quite funny as a 'prima donna' and in the 'Essence of Old Virginy'."

Edward Le Roy Rice, in his Monarchs of Minstrelsy (1911) credits the origination of the "Essence of Old Virginny" dance to minstrel performer Bill Newcomb (see "Bill Newcomb's Jig").


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 24. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883.






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