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Circus Day in Dixie Reflection
I first began this assignment with a song recorded by the popular Billy Murray.
Although I did not leave Murray stranded, I decided to do further research to find a tune
perhaps not as famous as the “Silvery Light by the Moon”. As I scrolled through the
recommended topics on the Sound Beat website, I came across the category of ‘Circus’. I
immediately went to see the variety of songs classified under the circus topic. I initially
expected there to be a list of songs to choose from and was surprised to find that there
would be one song in the Belfer archive. However, I was content with the song available.
After listening to Circus Day in Dixie, I quickly recognized there would be room for
interpretation, some background research I could acquire (based on the recorders and
composer), and it was enjoyable to listen to as well!
I decided to begin my research with the composer of Circus Day in Dixie. Written
by Albert Gumble, a successful songwriter during the twentieth century. Gumble was
educated at the Auditorium School of Music with Herman Froehlich, a famed music
professor. Gumble would go on to write some of the most popular songs of the 1900’s
including: "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", Give Me the Moonlight, Give Me the Girl",
and “Southern Gals”. However, his most successful composition was in fact Circus Day
in Dixie. He found it important to wait for the first recording of the tune until a worthy
enough ensemble came along.
In 1909 Gumble’s vision of his peppy patriotic tune came to life when the
American Quartet which consisted of first tenor John Bieling; second tenor Billy Murray;
baritone Steve Porter; and bass William F. Hooley agreed to record the song. Perhaps the
familiarity of the ensemble to the general public and the energy and excitement from the
song captivated the attention of so many. Gumble’s precious tune became and instant
success and would eventually be recorded by several other notable music professionals.
The synopsis of Gumble and the recordings of Circus Day in Dixie (which I just
explained), is actually how I ended in my 125 version assignment. Unfortunately, I did
not begin there! For my 500 word assignment I included extensive research based on the
history of the American Quartet. I went as far as including information on how they
acquired their name and even other ensembles who were associated with the name
American Quartet. It was not until the 250 word assignment that I began making a
breakthrough about what I believe Gumble was trying to capture. After listening to the
song several times, I found a certain somberness within the tune. I suggested this
somberness was in the hearts and homes of the families that struggled after war. Gumble
and more importantly the American Quartet were driven to encourage families to get out
and have some fun. Creating my 125 word assignment was the real struggle. I wanted to
touch base on Gumble, the American Quartet, as well as the thrill of a circus (the lights,
laughter, and lions). I presented two versions to the class.
For my final assignment, I went back to Sound Beat, listen to several recordings
and tried to find my own voice within. While it was difficult to decide which version to
use, I ultimately determined I would need to go back and write something new. I adopted
aspects from both versions and added some more exciting touches when possible (a
suggestion from both Jason and the class). Perhaps my recording is not as fun to listen to
as Sound Beat’s but I hope I got the message Gumble had in mind across!