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The White Dawn Stealing 
from “Four American Indian Songs” by Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881 – 1946)

September 17, 2016







Okay, how’s this for a life?

The year is 1851. You are born in NYC. You study business. No, wait, you really are a musician at heart. You study organ.

Eh, no. Turns out, that’s not exactly your thing. You, against all odds, are intrigued by ethnomusicology. (Think: indigenous folk music.)

You’re young and it’s 1878. You move to Germany to study musicology. But lo, in your mind’s ear, you Hear America Singing. So, you return home to research the music of the Seneca Indians. You don’t just hang around the periphery, you move in, you are quite literally initiated as a member of their tribe, you spend your hours transcribing all their songs and melodies. No matter that the “American Indian Wars” are still going on.

I must say, Dr. Theodore Baker, you are So Interesting.

And you are not alone in this quirky pursuit. Composer Charles Wakefield Cadman is a kindred spirit. He himself travels around the US collecting native American music for the Smithsonian. Your lives intersect and we have the song to prove it!  “The White Dawn Stealing,” featured on our upcoming concert, is Cadman’s arrangement of an Iroquois love song, transcribed by Theodore Baker, with a pseudo native American poem penned by Nelle Richmond Eberhart, (who wrote librettos for the Metropolitan Opera.) It takes a village…

Here is a fun Contemporaneous YouTube recording of this song from 1911. On Lyric Fest’s concert, you will hear it in the beautiful, sonorous baritone of Troy Cook.

Now to close, I can’t resist sharing this video that appeared in my facebook feed yesterday. And I can’t help musing that this young child could be the great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Baker and Cadman’s “Indians.” Here she is, dancing to the ancient drums of her people. A big Soul in a tiny body, and she never misses a beat.

Now, your turn to follow the beat of your own drum.