Couple Keeps Beat Of Colonial Annapolis

November 30, 1990|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

Supporters of local music, serious history buffs, and Christmas shoppers are all about to have their requirements greatly simplified.

All they need to do is find a new CD or cassette, recorded on the Albany label by David and Ginger Hildebrand. Entitled "Over The Hills and Far Away: Being a Collection of Music from 18th Century Annapolis," the work is a rich collection of tunes reflecting the history, attitudes, and cultural life of the city during its colonial period.

The music was performed by the Hildebrands, with the help of several talented area musicians, such as Robert Gallegher, John Barry Talley, Thomas Mosser and Nancy Almquist.

Building on about five years of academic research, the album was recorded earlier this year by the Hildebrands themselves, in a number of buildings throughout the Historic District of Annapolis, including the Jonas Green House, the Hammond-Harwood House, St. Anne's Church, the William Paca House, the Charles Carroll Mansion, and the now-closed Reynolds Tavern.

David Hildebrand jokingly compared making the album to giving birth, pointing out that the album's creation, including funding, recording and developing the cover, took about nine months, "between the insomniac night in March when I finally decided 'Hey, let's do a colonial recording,' " to the album's release Nov. 2.

Hildebrand, a doctoral candidate in musicology at Catholic University in Washington, described the album's origin as partly "an outgrowth of my (doctoral) dissertation research. I did a chapter on repertory -- what kind of music did people play in colonial Annapolis?"

Judging from the album, there was a considerable interest in Scottish themes -- copying a fashion of the time popular in England -- the theater, having a good time, and to a lesser extent, the church.

"People were so busy buying and selling, and dancing, and wearing fancy clothes in Annapolis, that they didn't bother to pay too much attention to the church," he explained.

Originally, the Hildebrands had only modest expectations for the album.

"We figured it would be mostly of local interest, and to that end we figured it was worth the risk," David Hildebrand said. "But what developed, is that after we finished all the taping, and the project was in production, just for the heck of it I dropped a letter to Albany Records in New York," which specializes in American music.

"So I decided to call their bluff. I wrote them and told them what we were doing, and they said they were interested. I sent them a (copy) of the booklet that comes with the CD, and they said 'we want you.' " As a result of all this discussion, the album is now being marketed both nationally and in Great Britain. "The initial orders are quite promising, we'll know more in a week, but there's a decent chance that people in Idaho and Bath, England, may be listening to music from colonial Annapolis," said Hildebrand.

The Hildebrands, one of the more popular musical partnerships in Annapolis for the past 10 years, started playing together in area bars and restaurants. On occasion, people would ask, sometimes as a joke and sometimes seriously, if they knew any colonial tunes.

Eventually, Hildebrand said, they decided they'd better learn some, "and for the next three or four years, we'd put together some pseudo-colonial costumes and we'd play three or four times a year."

The turning point came in 1985, with a phone call from Charlotte Dunham, a member of the music faculty at Anne Arundel Community College, who offered Hildebrand a fellowship to George Washington University.

At first reluctant, he decided to hear her out because there wasn't anything he really wanted to learn at the graduate level, "except colonial music."

Armed with a 1987 master's degree, and a specialization in colonial instruments, Hildebrand moved over to Catholic University to begin his doctoral studies. There he discovered that what was needed was not so much a study of the music, but a study of history. This brought him a sideline as a lecturer to historical societies, as well as growing recognition of the colonial period's music.

Looking back on the chain of events that brought him and his wife to this album, Hildebrand said, "It was something that I'm sure began as a result of inquiries to play colonial music. Then there was a long sort of incubation period where we kind of knew in the back of our minds that we should look into this, and then the big clicker in 1985.

"As far as I'm concerned," he added, "it's a permanent sort of niche, unless we get tired of it."

"Over the Hills and Far Way: Being a Collection of Music From 18th Century Annapolis," costs $14.99 as a CD, and $8.99 as a tape. It is available throughout the city at retail stores such as Oceans II Records, Charing Cross Bookstore, Art Things and a number of historic buildings such as the Shiplap House, the Hammond-Harwood House, and the Londontowne Publick House in Edgewater, among other places.

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