The New York State Library presents its latest exhibit from Manuscripts and Special Collections in the glass cases on the 7th floor: Music for the Season. The exhibit highlights the musical collection from the 1800’s – 1900’s, including works by such talented artists as Albany-born composer George William Warren and American folk singer, songwriter, and musician, Jean Ritchie.
George William Warren was born August 17, 1828 in Albany, New York. He was born into a family that settled early in the Northeast. Incidentally, his most notable ancestor was Richard Warren, one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact in 1620. Warren began playing music recreationally, but never studied it in school. In fact, he spent much of his time in business as a young adult. Eventually, however, Warren began playing the organ regularly for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Albany and from that time forward, he left behind his life in business to pursue a profession in music. In the first glass case, Warren’s musical career is told through visuals of pictures and sheet music.
The second glass case showcaes holiday music from American folk music icon Jean Ritchie through prints, posters sheet music, and even a three-stringed Applachian dulcimer, the instrument that she made famous. Jean Ritchie was the youngest daughter of 14 children, born in Viper, Kentucky on December 8, 1922. Ritchie showed musical talents from an early age, performing at dances and county fairs, even winning first place in music contests. In college, she learned how to play the piano, but pursued her studies in social work. After graduating in 1946, she moved to New York City to work at the not-for-profit Henry Street Settlement. In New York, Ritchie’s singing and dulcimer-playing, soon attracted the notice of folk music fans—and she quickly became a well known presence in the booming urban folk music revival where she was introduced to the talents of other musicians including the Oscar Band, Leadbelly, and Pete Seeger. Eventually, Ritchie would be known as the “Mother of Folk,” performing at coffeehouses and music festivals, and appearing regularly on television and radio. Throughout her 50-year international performing and recording career, she lived in the town of Port Washington on Long Island. Her life and music are documented in the Jean Ritchie Collection, acquired by the State Library in 2011.
The last glass case exhibits sheet music performed by various artists singing popular Christmas classics, such as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, White Christmas, the Chipmunk Song, and much more. Although, Christmas is now over and we’re all about to embark upon a new year, you can still check out this exhibit online or by visiting the State Library to learn more about these collections.