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 Get ready to Celebrate our Wondrous Waterway's 200th Anniversary!
 Erie Canal Cultural Heritage Programs
    for Festivals, Celebrations, Community Venues

Find details below for BELLS & MOTLEY's PUBLIC Erie Canal performances & multi-arts specials
Click here for a short printable PDF Flyer of our Erie Canal participatory storytelling performances and concerts.
To read about our SCHOOL Erie Canal themed programs, here

Bells & Motley

Olden Music, Dance and Storytelling

 Participatory Performances, Concerts, and Community Tall Tale Writing Residencies!


I.             "15 Miles on the Erie Canal" ~ Participatory Folk Operetta Performance

II.          "Music Along the Canal" Concert of Canal-Era Heritage Folk Music and Instruments

III.         Learn Canal Era Dances, Participatory Fun!

IV.         Life, Lore, & the Canal Era:  Historic Images Discussion

V.            Community Tall Tale Writing & Performance Projects; Canal Celebrations, Festivals, & Special Events





  Discover multi-cultural & historical interrelationships as you become immersed in this vibrant portrait of Canal Era culture and lore.

Heritage traditions in music, instruments, folkways, literature, and dance are the creative artistic centerpieces of these workshops, performances, and even extended artist residency sequence. Canal History is illuminated by music, dance, and visual arts (including immigration, how 19th c. settlers adapted to American culture; the importance of waterways in economic development; cultural impact of canals, and more.) Historic photographs and paintings can be explored as documents, and community interaction unfolds through theatrical performance, tall tales, discussions, and if desired, tall tale writing & performance projects.

 Performances/Workshops may be offered as stand-alone programs,

-or in Sequence, -or in context of a community residency program

Programs may run anywhere from 1 to 5 days (sometimes even longer), and may incorporate playwriting, instrument building/playing, and other project options. Longer projects often feature a unifying project goal --- such as a History Pageant or a 19th Century Faire –  A variety of funding resources are available; please inquire for application information, guidelines, and deadlines.



Part 1. "15 Miles on the Erie Canal" Participatory Musical Storytelling

Tall tales, vintage instruments, and actual historic characters bring history to life in this vibrant, interactive portrait of the Erie Canal. Crafted in the popular 19th century style of a 'folk operetta,' this is an authentic performance piece that totally immerses audiences in the Canal Era, featuring cameo roles, participatory movement, and favorite canal sing-alongs.


Accompanying their performance on historic instruments - including hammer dulcimer, banjo, fiddle, hurdy gurdy, and squeezeboxes - the Bromkasí spirited musicality and portrayal of canal personages Captain Simon Slick and Irish cook Sallie Waters is nurtured by an enthusiasm born of first-hand memories and a lifetime of fascination with this legendary waterway. Audiences and Participants will enthusiastically follow their lead as singing time travelers, accompanied by Sal, the amazing legendary mule (and a guest from your audience!) Equally appealing for children, adults, and senior audiences!


Community Collaboration & Performance Options – different levels of participation:

a.  For stand-alone performances, audiences can participate in the play spontaneously, learning easy choruses and movements 'on the fly' just as they would have back in a Canal Era performance.


b.  When presented as a residency culmination, the performance can feature prepared singing roles, or even instrumental performance roles, and shared with peers, parents, or community. Other possible additions to a culminating performance: canal-era dancing, student-written Tall Tale vignettes, History Faires, or special projects can be designed on small or large scale. We are pleased to work with you to custom-create a complete program to suit needs, resources.


c.  Theater Craft Pre-Performance: To enrich the audienceís understanding and appreciation of the art of staged performance, the artists will take you 'behind the scenes,' and speak with them while setting the stage for the play. By taking folks through the steps of preparing sets & props, their characterizations, vocal & physical warm-ups, the audience learns the actual creative process of a theater performance. This can serve as a dynamic bridge in projects where the play is to be performed as a culmination to workshops, and as an especially valuable component of longer residencies when participants may be preparing skits for performance, deepening their understanding of, and use of, performance space and process.



Part II. "Music Along the Canal"
Our Canal-Era Heritage Folk Music and Instruments from Many Cultures

Can you imagine all of the different musical traditions you would have enjoyed hearing up and down the Erie Canal in the 19th Century? In this up-close, interactive concert, Sondra and John Bromka bring back to life the sounds of the immigrants who came here from so many places during the canal era, bringing their beloved cultural traditions with them through their music, their instruments, and their dances. Hear their music again on the artists' collection of historic instruments, including Irish harp, bagpipes, bodhran, pennywhistles; French hurdy gurdies; German "hackbrett" (hammered dulcimer), African-American banjo; English squeezebox, and more...


How did all of these traditions join together in our great melting pot? In two musical examples, you'll be surprised to discover how a well known song written by the famous popular American composer Steven Foster actually started out in both words and tune as an Old World Welsh harp song -- translated and Americanized to appeal to lovers of lively music in the new country.



Part III. Learning Canal Era Heritage Dances

Everybody learns about history hands-on while they enjoy the traditional steps, styles, and instruments that reflect on NYS multicultural heritage. Dancing was a central part of community life in early America, binding new communities together through cherished old traditions. It is the lively and distinctive legacy of the immigrants who settled along our waterways, and later with coming of the Canal Era, arrived to create new waterways.


Participants will discover the historical background, characteristics, & significance of dances representing these immigrant cultures, and experience traditional dancesí distinctive rhythms, movements, and formations. Dances are carefully selected according to age & expertise of participants. The ease and enthusiasm engendered by dancing to live music is contagious, as the participation is driven on by music on authentic period instruments.


If desired, dance workshops may culminate with peer sharing presentations, or featured at daytime or evening history faires, celebrations, and concerts. An exciting hands-on activity!



Part IV. Life and Lore Along the Canal:  Historic Images

Historic paintings, photographs, maps, and other documents provide an informed and accurate understanding of what life was like during our Canal Era.  In this program, participants reflect upon and discuss a collection of primary source images, to gain appreciation and understanding of a historianís techniques and processes. Participants will leave with an understanding of the important role that canals played in American history, of the people who came to build them, and how their lives and culture compare with our own.


Costuming Option: Why not prepare for the big event by learning how to assemble simple costumes and accessories, as evidenced in our historic image forum.



Part V. In-Depth Projects/Culminating Events:  These range from simple Sharing Performances by dance workshop participants --- to collaborative song-writing, or tall-tale skit-writing activities and performances --- to thematic Historic Faires or Canal Festivals. Programs may also incorporate heritage instrument building and/or playing. Request more information from artists.






Bells & Motley Olden Music and Storytelling. Sondra Bromka, John Bromka

36 South St Marcellus NY 13108  www.bellsandmotley.com   info@bellsandmotley.com 

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