After 20 years, the Jammin’ In July music festival at Historic Camden has become quite the summer tradition.
And when the musicians take the stage, they will be continuing traditions which have been part of the fabric of the community, and the country, since colonial times.
The stage itself will be set against the backdrop of the recently restored McCaa’s Tavern building, which itself represents an important part of the early life of the community and many others like it. Locals gathered at the tavern to hear the news from each other and from travelers from afar as well as enjoy an evening of entertainment, noted Historic Camden Curator Joanna Craig.
Entertainment then could take a variety of forms, from trained animal acts to musical performances, Craig said. More often than not, tavern patrons entertained themselves, much of it music-oriented, whether as a group sing-along, locals playing instruments, or even a dance, she said.
“Music was an integral part of early America,” she said, “and many of the instruments played by our Jammin’ musicians were played by our forefathers.”
According to Craig, the all time favorites for men -- from Thomas Jefferson to slaves and street musicians -- were the violin and fiddle. Often, violins were hung in the taverns for customers to use or provide lively tunes accompanying impromptu Scottish Reels or country dances. An early version of today’s bass was one of several upright varieties of an instrument called the viola da gamba. Flutes and fifes were also played, the latter accompanying the drum during the Revolution to pass on orders to the troops, she said.
Colonial women played musical instruments as well, Craig said, although some instruments, such as the wind and bowstring instrument, were often avoided, at least by the more refined classes. Not only did the design of women’s clothing restrict the raising of the arm above the shoulder, but also the facial distortions formed from playing a flute or violin were considered unladylike, she said.
Many women became proficient on keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord and spinet, and the stringed instruments, Craig said. Most popular was what later was known as the “English guitar.” Considered a parlor instrument, the “guitar” really wasn’t a guitar in looks or sound -- today’s six-string guitar did not appear until the 1820s, although an early version of the modern 12-string guitar did exist, she said. Rather, this teardrop-shaped instrument had 10 wire strings tuned to a “C” chord, which made it easy to learn how to play, she said. It was the precursor of today’s Irish cittern, octave mandolin and Greek bouzouki.
African slaves during colonial times were not allowed to make drums, so they crafted crude banjos from calabash gourds with skinheads tacked to them and strung with gut strings, she said.
“Where would bluegrass music be today without the banjo?” Craig asked.
Jammin’ In July starts at 5 p.m. July 11 at Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, 22 Broad St., Camden. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and military, and $4 for ages 6-12. Advance tickets are available. All proceeds benefit Historic Camden.
Coolers are welcome -- bring food and drink -- however please do not bring glass bottles. Food concessions will also be available. Some picnic tables are available but it is suggested that festival goers bring chairs, blankets, etc.
Please, no pets, glass bottles or tents.