[On Saturday, May 12th, I had the honor to run the second annual New England ASA Spring Colloquium. We met in Salem, first at The House of the Seven Gables and then out and about in the historic district, and talked about historic sites, public history and memory, place and identity, and much more. In this week’s series I’ll be briefly highlighting each of our six featured speakers and a bit on his or her interesting and inspiring talk and ideas. Your feedback and ideas are welcome too!]
Our fourth speaker, Jim Dalton (with accompaniment, literally, by his wife Maggi Smith-Dalton) talked and performed some of the more interesting details of the life and public work of composer and bandleader P.S. Gilmore.
I’ve written a bit about Maggi in this space before (such as in her role as editor and chief writer for Boston.com’s Salem “History Time” series, for which I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute a couple articles), but it bears repeating: the Daltons bring a unique and very interesting American Studies perspective and career to NEASA. Equal parts musicians and performers, public and scholarly historians, and educators, their work does what I’d say is perhaps most important for American Studies work in general: connecting and engaging with a broad audience, bringing our interests and subjects to Americans in meaningful and deeply inspiring ways.
Jim’s talk at the Colloquium did all of those things too, and not just because of the two delightful musical performances it included (one of Jim solo on a historic banjo, one accompanied by Maggi’s singing). He got us deep into the musical and biographical histories related to Gilmore, but also touched upon Salem and 19th century American histories, militia musters and the antebellum and early Civil War world, changing aspects of performance and community in America, the National Peace Jubilee, and much else besides. Both Jim’s talk and the one that followed it (on which more tomorrow!) took the focal points of our first three and illustrated just how much they connect to many other, equally interesting and important American Studies questions. And did so very entertaingly to boot!
Next speaker tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Any American musicians or musical histories you’d highlight?
5/17 Memory Day nominee: Archibald Cox, the lawyer, professor, and Solicitor General whose most lasting legacy was as one of the most famous and influential Watergate special prosecutors.