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History of banjo lecture, April 11

Professor Robert B. Winans, of Gettysburg College, will lecture on "The History of the Banjo," today at 4:30 p.m. in Woolworth Center, Room 102 of the Music department on campus.

Winans, an English professor, plays a prominent role in the current reawakening of interest in this significant phase of the banjo's history. According to Princeton professor Rob Wegmen, part of this reawakening has to do with Civil War reenactments but Winans brings an important cultural, historical and musicological perspective on the history of the instrument. He is considered to have "single-handedly" revived the minstrel banjo playing style, in the 1970s. Until then, the style had been out of currency for nearly one hundred years.

Wegmen notes that original minstrel banjos from the 1840s, even in states of total disrepair, typically fetch $2,000 to $4,000 on popular Web auction sites. Their sonority, sound quality and playing style are decidedly different from that of the banjo as it modernized in the decades around 1900. This alone raises important questions about the history of musical taste and listening in late 19th-century America. Winans will illustrate these developments with live demonstrations and with slides of the banjo at various stages of its history.

Winans, who made a CD reconstruction of 1840s minstrel show music in 1985, also authored the classic article "The Folk, the Stage, and the Five-String Banjo in the Nineteenth Century," published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1976.

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, e-mail Rob Wegmen .

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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