For Students

New York State, and especially the Adirondack region, has a rich heritage of songs, ballads and fiddle tunes. Some of the songs are about the kinds of work people did in New York’s pre-technological society (farming, lumbering, canalling). Some are “sung stories,” as old as the hills or updated versions relevant to the singer’s own time. Some are about important events in our state’s history (battle scenes, famous crimes, terrible tragedies). And some of them are just plain fun.

This website contains over one hundred songs, ballads and fiddle tunes from throughout the Adirondack region. They have been carefully researched (often from archival sources) and chosen to provide you with an insight as to what life was like in this region 100 years ago or so.

Within this site you will find the “good old dance tunes” heard in the dance halls into the middle of the 20thcentury, and at barn dances and kitchen hops long before that. You’ll find ballads which served as newspaper accounts of local events, designed both to keep you informed as well as to tug at your heart. You’ll find elements of the ancient singing traditions brought over from the “old country” by your ancestors. And you’ll find songs and tunes which served as the primary source of entertainment when the work was all done at home or at the work site. These songs and tunes are assembled here to help make your study of local and state history come alive for you. Learn them well!  Sing them often!  Play the fiddle tunes on your clarinet or recorder, or even your electric guitar! Jump in and investigate some of the details in the historical songs – are the stories true, or are parts of them made up to make them more sensational? Each one is special. Make these songs and tunes a part of your life and let them reveal their secrets to you.

Adapted and expanded from a preface to Folk Music of Upstate New York, by Lynn Arthur Koch (New York : McGraw/KinderFolk Music Publications, 1990).