SACKETS HARBOR The people who lived through the War of 1812 are long gone, but a musician will give voice to what they sang about Wednesday during a Fourth of July program at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site.
David Ruch (pronounced ruck) has dug deep into archival recordings, diaries, old newspapers and other historical manuscripts to unearth a wealth of rarely heard music.
It was used for peoples own entertainment, back when they had to make their own, Mr. Ruck said Friday in a phone interview from his Buffalo home.
Mr. Ruch gives more than 200 concerts and workshops each year for schools, libraries, music festivals, historical societies, museums and community events in this country and abroad.
His 2 p.m. July 4th program, sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities, is titled, The War of 1812: Songs and Stories From New York and Beyond.
Its not hard to find music from the War of 1812, Mr. Ruch said. There were lots of songs composed about specific battles. But what I like to do is to find the music that people actually sang.
He noted that just because a song was written doesnt mean it was ever played or sung.
Its a fun chase for me to follow the trail and try to dig up real music that people sang and played during the war and in the years and decades after the war, he said.
Some of the material he finds are lyrics without music, so he adds his own.
We have a journal from a New York sailor who was imprisoned in England in the War of 1812, and he composed a bunch of songs while he was over there, Mr. Ruch said.
Mr. Ruchs musical treasures which he uses in his performances include works discovered on field recordings.
When the first recordings started to be made in the 1930s, if you caught somebody who was in their 70s and 80s and born in the 1850s or so, they may have learned some songs from their elders, he said.
Mr. Ruch said it is gratifying to spread the word about the little-known music from two centuries ago a point that was driven home a few years ago when he toured England.
It went over really well and inevitably, people would come up to me afterwards and say, We know about America and southern music, but we didnt know there was any folk music from New York State.
Mr. Ruch said many people in New York dont know that either.
His shows, he said, are catered to the audience.
I always make sure the program is geared toward whoever is there, he said. If there are kids there, well be sure to get them involved. Its not such a dry reading of music. It can be real interactive and I always keep an eye toward keeping it entertaining, so its a lot of fun.