Excellence in Performing Arts Research


The play-party was a social activity once practiced in rural America amongst Protestants in the latter half of the nineteenth century. With a desire to circumvent the church’s strict no dancing rules, as well as avoid reprimand, play-party adolescents adapted the lyrics and instrumentation of blackface minstrel songs to create a vocal music to accompany their play-party games. The main objective of this paper is to demonstrate that play-parties offered the space for the continuation and reinterpretation of minstrel practices, particularly song repertoire. In this paper, the children’s song “Jim Along Josey” is used as a case study, first to reveal the role of songs in play-parties, and secondly to demonstrate the process of musical reinterpretation that characterized this social event. The study also reveals that minstrel songs such as this have survived within the genre of children’s music due to the reinterpretation conducted by play-party adolescents.



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