Remembrance – Melodies from a Forgotten Era

– Melodies from a Forgotten Era
by John Doan
CD price $15.97

Remembrance weaves the songs of yesteryear into new tapestries of music which evoke the America of a hundred years ago that still lives today. Arrangements feature the harp guitar throughout accompanied by small ensembles of mandolins, pump organ, piano as well as settings for chamber orchestra.

This project has been an exciting adventure that has strengthened John’s connection to the land, people, and events around him. In a world that daily discards the old for the “new and improved,” this music is a small attempt to reweave the threads of our lives into the tapestry of time. John’s inspiration has come from three musical traditions: folk tunes of the American West, the elegance and introspection of classical music, and the charm of parlour songs. Overall, this timeless production has superb performances by Billy Oskay and friends.

  1. Gold in the Ground 5:26
  2. Dream Waltz 5:16
  3. Remembering Greensleeves 4:18
  4. Scenes From Childhood 4:18
  5. Winter Romance 3:37
  6. Pioneer Rose 4:36
  7. Wind Through the Willow 3:28
  8. Rescuerdos de Malagueña 5:37
  9. Grandma’s Music Box 3:17
  10. The Old Church 5:56

“John Doan “Remembrance”: Subtitled “Melodies from a Forgotten Era,” John Doan weaves the songs of yesteryear into new tapestries of music which evoke the America of a hundred years ago,. Using melodies both familiar and unfamiliar as a starting point, he creates something fresh, yet reminiscent of a simpler time; his sources range from American folk tunes to classical works and parlor music of our great-grandparent’s day, intertwined with his own compositions. This mix leads to some surprising and wonderful combinations: You’ll recognize ‘Clementine” as she walks down “The Street of Laredo;” both these two well-loved folk songs and ‘Buffalo Gals” are the heart of “Gold in the Ground,’ the nostalgic opening track. Other standouts include ‘Remembering Greensleeves,’ Doan’s own rendition of this olde English tune; ‘Pioneer Rose,’ a tribute to the women who brought rose bushes in their covered wagons to plant in their new homesteads; & the lovely ‘Wind in the Willows,’ inspired by both Brahms and a mediation under a large willow tree. The liner notes are extensive and beautifully written, describing the sources and stories behind each of the pieces, and make a perfect companion to this haunting , heartfelt release. Doan’s “Remembrance” is like a treasure chest of antique lace.”
Heartsbeats (May 25, 2006)

“Remembrance is a gorgeous album that Doan slipped out on his own label. He plays a lot of traditional tunes and standards, but rearranges them in a style similar to his Christmas album Wrapped In White. Melodies like “Greensleeves” and “Brahm’s Lullaby” are extended out across his harp guitar and collections of antique instruments. Subtitled “Melodies from a Forgotten Era,” Doan makes them come alive in arrangements that are both quaint and contemporary.”
Echodisc (May 25, 2006)

“The graceful sounds of the harp guitar evoke a simpler age, an age with the harshness edited out…A gentle disc for gentle souls.”
David Stabler – The Oregonian (May 25, 2006)

“Remembrance is a warm, nostalgic album that serenades the listener with music inspired by a bygone era, beautifully given voice by the chiming tones of John Doan’s harp guitar.”
Real to Reel News (May 25, 2006)

“Hearing this music, it’s almost as if I can see only in sepia tones, memories enhanced by love and preserved by faith.”
Napra Trade Journal (May 25, 2006)

Remembrance – Melodies From A Forgotten Era (liner notes to the CD)

The theme of this music is remembering. Many colorful traditions, old dusty instruments,and simple yet inspired melodies have been forgotten with the passage of time. I want to recall some of these images, timbres, and tunes that were part of the lives of those people who came before us. This project has been an exciting adventure that has strengthened my connection to the land, people, and events around me. In a world that daily discards the old for the “new and improved,” this music is a small attempt to reweave the threads of our lives into the tapestry of time. My inspiration has come from three musical traditions: folk tunes of the American West, the elegance and introspection of classical music, and the charm of parlour songs.

Gold In The Ground

It took all kinds of people to settle the west. While many families forged each treacherous mile by covered wagon, others tramped through the back hills by horse or mule, impatient to dig the gold from the ground. They were wild and adventurous, and though they were not known for their honesty and good moral judgement, I’ve written this music to remember them and their zest for life.

I went to the old mining town of Virginia City to compose this sketch. If you remember the old TV series Bonanza, Virginia City was the point on the map that caught fire during the opening credits. The city retains much of the spirit of the wild west with it’s wooden boardwalks, noisy saloons, and the newspaper office where Mark Twain mined his first journalistic claims. But of the people who made Virginia City, what remains is reduced to bone and dust beneath weathered tombstones in the old cemetery. What they said and did, whom they loved, the joys and sorrows they experienced have been forgotten. Biting winter nights and blistering summer days have even worn their carved names from our view.

I stood in the cemetery at sunset and began to imagine the tune Clementine cast as a lullaby to all the miners now sleeping. She was a “daughter of a forty-niner” and was “gone and lost forever.” As the stars bejeweled the clear Nevada sky, my thoughts wandered to the excitement of the west through the tune The Streets Of Laredo. It tells about “a young cowboy dressed up in white linen as cold as the clay”. As the moon rose on the jagged horizon, it seemed fitting to include the tune Buffalo Gals – “Buffalo Gals won’t you come out tonight … and dance by the silvery moon.”

Dream Waltz

The waltz is a romantic gesture. Gently pulsing every three beats, it seems to float outside the constraints of time. This elegant music has become distant to the sensibilities of a fast-paced world; it takes time to appreciate a waltz. To begin writing this piece I drew upon themes of my favorite waltzes by Frederic Chopin and Anton Dvorak. As I began to understand them better I added several themes of my own.

At about the same time, I received my grandfather’s photo album just after he passed away. Wrapped in old linen and lovingly preserved through world wars, a depression, earthquakes, and family members going their separate ways, the album revealed snap shots of moments in his life. One photo pictured him bundled up in his mother’s arms in a cloth very much like the one that protected the album.

My favorite of him is with his hair combed straight back as he straddled a 1917 Harley Davidson. There were pictures of his courtship with granny. That was when he was a conductor, not of symphonies, but of trolleys on the route to Venice Beach from downtown LA. There is one with my dad, cradled in his arms in a little white blanket. This album is a true panorama of my grandfather’s life, where years pass with each page like steps to a noble dance – a dream waltz.

Remembering Greensleeves

Greensleeves is a very old tune, possibly dating back a thousand years. Apparently the name comes from a time when suitors wore green as a token of affection during courtship. That tradition may have started when young lovers eluded their village chaperones by arranging to meet in the countryside. When they would return, it was often noticed that their sleeves had mysteriously become grass-stained. In any event, the tune, like young love, seems timeless. I tried to capture that in my arrangement.

It came to me several years ago in late spring at the old farmhouse where I live. The windswept wheat formed waves into which children disappeared as they swam after each other. The solitary apple tree that perennially looked over this scene stood proud in its cloak of white blossoms. This is how I remember Greensleeves.

Scenes Of Childhood

Perhaps because adult life was so harsh one hundred years ago, people often remembered their childhood years with a sense of loss. The lyrics to Old Oaken Bucket reminisce “how dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood…..the old oaken bucket, that hung in the well.” I guess when people got running water in the house this image became nostalgic.

The next theme is from the opening tune of Schumann’s piano collection Scenes From Childhood entitled About Strange Lands and People. Then I used The Cradle Song, also known as Brahms Lullaby, to suggest earliest memories. Overall, I used these melodies, and a few more, to capture the scenes of my own childhood – playing wiffle ball in the backyard, eagerly browsing the toy section of Century Market, drinking a root beer at Al’s Drugstore, and quiet moments playing alone.

Winter Romance

Several years ago a student brought in an old banjo and a stack of music. They had belonged to her great grandfather, William Kietle, a German immigrant who settled as a farmer in Missouri.

In his desire to be fully American, he bought the banjo by mail-order and practiced until he became proficient. One day, he realized he was lonely and, remembering how he had acquired his precious banjo, he placed an ad for a wife in a national magazine. Two young women in Portland, Oregon read it and made a game of responding. After telling him how wonderful he sounded and that the writer would marry him, one of the girls, Margaret, signed the letter and included her home address, hoping to exchange correspondence over the months to come.

When William received the letter he was beside himself with joy. Resolved to take this next step in his life, he immediately sold everything but the banjo and music and proceeded to walk all the way to Portland. On a cold winter night at suppertime, he arrived at the address on the envelope. When the girl’s father answered the door, William said “I’ve come for Margaret.” “How do you know my daughter?” demanded Margaret’s father. ” She wrote me this letter and I have walked all the way from Missouri to marry her”.

The shocked father grabbed the letter and was stunned to see the familiar signature. Not knowing what else to do, he invited William in. As they entered the dining room, Margaret’s mother asked,”Who is this, dear”?

After a long pause the father replied, “This is our future son-in-law.”

Back then, a persons word was as good as a signed contract, and William and Margaret were wed. William’s great granddaughter told me how her mother took her to see William when she was two days old. As he held the child, he smiled and whispered, “Now my life is full.” He died two days latter. She told me she finds it hard to fathom that she and her own three children would not exist were it not for this strange series of events.

She gave me William’s banjo music. I took one of the pieces he seems to have played (there are pencil marks on the page) entitled Spanish Romance and used a theme from it to compose this new tune.

Pioneer Rose

I tried to capture the feeling of lopping along while the progress is slow, but inevitable. You can’t just say that you need be hopeful. You must just surrender to being hopeful.

Coming across the plains in covered wagons must have been just that sort of experience. Trails got more rugged and steep. Furniture and supplies had to be tossed to lighten the load. Many settlers must have developed a great deal of faith to sustain them.

Apparently, quite a few ladies brought with them an object of their faith – a rose start to plant at the end of the trail. Many of these plants found home in what has become known as the rose city of Portland and other parts of Oregon and the Northwest. Rose starts from these very same plants that crossed the plains were collected and planted in the Pioneer Rose Garden in my home town of Salem, Oregon. I tried to take starts of my own, if you will, from the old tunes “Fair And Tender Ladies” and “Oh Susanna”. I grafted them together in the hope that a new tune would blossom forth that would suggest the simple and inspiring beauty of a “Pioneer Rose.”

Wind Through The Willow

This music is influenced by Johannes Brahms. One theme is loosely borrowed from the third movement of his third symphony written in 1883. My inspiration came as I sat beneath the willow tree by my house. Within the shelter of its limbs, I felt as though I were sitting inside a huge cathedral. For a moment, the tens of thousands of leaves became many panes of stained glass, and my ordinary world of things, people, and events seemed peripheral. Instead, at the center was a sense of eternity that I could not look into full strength. At that moment a warm wind breathed into me a consolation of love so great I could not comprehend it.

Recuerdos de Malaguena (Memories of Malaguena)

What made this piece so challenging to write is that I’d never been to Spain, so it was hard to remember anything about the place. But after a while, the thought of that intrigued me because whatever I wrote would come completely from my imagination. This may have been a more common pastime a century ago when people told each other stories, read books, and could only imagine exotic places in far-off lands.

Looking into a stereoviewer might evoke the mystery of a gypsy camp, the excitement of a bull fight, or the passion of a Flamenco dancer. Just the thought of it was enjoyable. It is a romantic gesture, this world of imagining, and perhaps it was an advantage of living back then that people could easily dream their own dreams and live out their own stories. Things Spanish were quite the rage one hundred years ago, so there must have been a lot of dreams.

Grandma’s Music Box

I’ve tried to recreate the sound of the old tune, Aura Lee, as I once heard it played on a Regina. The Regina was a popular music box that used large metal plates – precursors of phonograph records and CDs. The technologies have evolved, but the simple beauty of the tune remains unchanged.

Aura Lee regained its popularity in the “new” medium of long playing records when Elvis Presley borrowed the melody for Love Me Tender, which earned a metal plate called a gold record. I can remember as a little boy hearing him sing this as I went to sleep to the tube radio by my bed. I know that this tune is corny and syrupy to some. It is my hope that it’s simplicity and tenderness will still touch the hearts of those who believe in innocence and romance.

The Old Church

Some old buildings that once served as centers of community activity are now ignored, replaced by office buildings and shopping centers. But these structures, anchored in the architecture of another time, often speak to us simply and innocently.

One such place I often rushed past was a pioneer church. The people of the once-bustling town of Zena had gathered to it, both for the devotional nature of the Sunday service and as a place to catch up on the local news.

Zena no longer exists; a fire in the blacksmith shop spread to the feedstore and so on. Eventually, the few remaining structures fell back into the fields and were turned under into corn and wheat. Only the church remains.

I came upon the site while out walking and was struck by its rooted presence. The wind through its eaves seemed to whistle the pilgrim hymm Old One Hundred Doxology. I imagined buckboards arriving and children running up the steps as bells played Nearer My God To Thee. Peering through the cloudy window panes, I thought of all the people who had passed through here on their way to eternity and that I was somewhere not far behind them.

At the heart of all this was Amazing Grace. As I started toward home, I looked back at the church and could faintly hear the hymn To God Be The Glory, written by William Howard Doane, a relative of mine from a century ago. This experience made me feel that this weathered building and many like it in other communities are more than the boards and nails that hold them in place. They are things of beauty that represent to us the hope of a people that came before us.

Remembrance Notes and Credits

Thanks to: Billy Oskay for his high standards and excellence as a producer, performer, engineer, debating partner, and friend; all the other fine musicians and friends that brought their parts to life and played their hearts out; the many known and unknown composers who wove their tender melodies into the fabric of our lives; and to Deirdra for listening, helping and waiting.

All selections John Doan, Heirloom Serenades (BMI) except Remembering Greensleeves, c 1992 Nara Music, Inc.,(BMI)/Heirloom Serenades, (BMI). c p 1993 Tapestry Productions.

Recorded, produced, engineered and mixed by Billy Oskay with John Doan, Nov. 91-92 at The Billy Oskay Studio, Portland, Oregon.

Custom mastered for cassette by Rick McMillen, Portland, Oregon.

John Doan: harp guitar, classical banjo on Winter Romance, banjuerine on Memories of Malaguena, harp mandolin on Pioneer Rose.
Billy Oskay: harmonium and violin on Gold In The Ground and Pioneer Rose, harmonium on Grandma’s Music Box, violin and keyboards on Wind Through The Willow, violin on Dream Waltz, keyboards on Scenes From Childhood, and Dream Waltz.
Michael Harrison: piano on Remembering Greensleeves.
Laura Zaerr: concert harp on Memories of Malaguena.
Wind Through The Willow and Dream Waltz: Erin Bonds, violin; Justin Thorp, violin; Dieter Ratzlaf, cello; Sam Bernardi, accordian on Dream Waltz.
Winter Romance: Ken Culver, mandolin; Vernon Vasey, mando bass; Laura Curtis, piano

All arrangements by John Doan
Gold In The Ground by John Doan as based on Clementine by Stephen Foster and the traditional tunes Streets of Larado and Buffalo Gals.
Dream Waltz by John Doan as based on a theme from Slavanic Dance #2, Op. 72 by Anton Dvorak, and a theme from Valse #7, Op. 64, #2 by Frederic Chopin.
Remembering Greensleeves is a version of the traditional tune Greensleeves.
Scenes From Childhood by John Doan as based on Op. 15, #1 by Robert Schumann, Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms, The Old Oaken Bucket by George Kiallmark, and Peace In The Valley by Paul Cantelon.
Winter Romance by John Doan as based on a theme from Spanish Romance by Emile Grimshaw.
Pioneer Rose by John Doan as based on Oh Susana by Stephen Foster and the traditional tune Fair and Tender Ladies.
Wind Through The Willow by John Doan inspired from Symphony #3, third movement by Johannes Brahms.
Memories of Malaguena by John Doan as based on the the traditional theme of Malaguena,with a reference to Fantasie Op. 7 by Fernando Sor.
Grandma’s Music Box (Aura Lee) by George Poulton (1861).
Old Church by John Doan as based on the Old Doxology/Old One Hundred by Louis Bourgeois (1551), Nearer My God To Thee by Lowell Mason (1856), Amazing Grace an early american melody, and To God Be The Glory by William Howard Doane.

Liner notes edited by Anna Ellendman.
Graphics by Murray Heidebrecht.
Photograhy and set design by Deirdra Doan and Shirley Thede-Bennett.
Photo concept by John Doan.
Insert Photo by Eye Of The Lady/ Doreen L. Wynja.
Concert harp guitar built by John Sullivan with Jeffrey Elliott, Portland, Oregon 1986
Billy Oskay appears courtesy of Windham Hill Productions, Inc.

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