My Illinois Humanities 2018 Road Scholar Program, From Prairie to Farm to City: Music to Commemorate Illinois’ Bicentennial, has been very popular. Audiences in over 30 venues have expressed great enthusiasm and appreciation for the program.
For 2019 and 2020 I will be introducing a new program:
March of the Women: Music for the 100th Anniversary of Suffrage
2019 marks 100 years since Congress passed the 19th amendment — forbidding states to deny the right to vote on the basis of sex — on June 4, 1919, and sent it to the states for ratification. Illinois was one of the first three states, along with Michigan and Wisconsin, to ratify the amendment, just six days after Congress passed it. 2020 marks 100 years since August 26, 1920, when Tennessee became the last of the necessary 36 states to ratify the amendment, thus making it the law of the land. Besides being one of the first three states to ratify the nineteenth amendment, Illinois was home to Jane Addams, a crusader for women’s rights as well as the rights of the downtrodden. The main title of this program, “March of the Women,” is the title of a song in the Hull House collection of songs Jane Addams commissioned.
My program will consist of songs about women’s suffrage from as early as the mid-nineteenth century, and perhaps earlier, through 1920. In addition, the program will include songs from the nineteenth, twentieth, and perhaps twenty-first centuries about the role of women in society, including songs about equal job opportunity; equal work for equal pay; and other relevant topics. I will introduce each song with information about the song and its historical context. The program will include some familiar songs such as “Union Maid,” Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill,” Peggy Seeger’s “I Want to be an Engineer,” and others. It will begin with “Winning the Vote,” a humorous but pointed song written in 1912 as a conversation between men and women about women’s suffrage; and end with “Bread and Roses,” the anthemic song of women workers based on a poem inspired by the 1912 Lawrence textile strike.
If you want to book me for this or any of my programs and would like help with funding, grants are available from the Illinois Arts Council’s Artstour & Live Music program. http://arts.illinois.gov/grants-programs/ArtstourLiveMusic
Phil’s latest CD contains seven tracks of toe-tapping old-time and bluegrass tunes and songs. With guitar, banjo, and bass accompaniment from wonderful musicians, Some Come to Tarry is a great listen for dulcimer and traditional music fans.
Few musicians play the hammered dulcimer. Fewer still sing while accompanying themselves on this fascinating instrument, whose name means “beautiful song.” Phil Passen does both.
Phil plays and sings traditional American and Celtic music. Can such upbeat dance music be called soothing? With rhythmic playing on fast tunes and sensitive playing on slow numbers, Phil’s music often elicits that word — “soothing.” And though it may seem contradictory, listeners also dub the music “happy” and “bouncy” as they tap their feet to the beat. The songs he sings include familiar American folk songs such as Red River Valley and The Sloop John B; old-time songs such as Sail Away Ladies and My Darling Nellie Gray; and contemporary folk songs such as Kilkelly, Ireland and Hot Buttered Rum.
Phil’s third CD, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp: Music of the Civil War on Hammered Dulcimer is a fascinating solo recording of music commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The hammered dulcimer was popular in the United States during the Civil War, and music of that era seems right at home played on this unique instrument. Many tunes and songs in this program are still familiar today, such as The Girl I Left Behind Me; When Johnny Comes Marching Home; Home, Sweet, Home; The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching. Others, such as Lorena; Lincoln and Liberty; The Battle Cry of Freedom, The Marching Song of the First Arkansas Regiment; Shiloh Hill; and John Brown’s Dream are less familiar but just as beautiful, rousing, and inspiring.
Phil’s second CD, with guitarist Tom Conway, is Cold Frosty Morning: Christmas and Winter Holiday Music. Beautiful melodies such as Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring andWhat Child Is This; old favorites such as My Dreidl, Jingle Bell Rock and Here Comes Santa Claus; and contemporary songs such as Winter Solstice and Hot Buttered Rumare featured on this diverse and exciting recording.
Swinging on a Gate: Traditional American and Celtic Music, Phil’s first CD, was a “most popular” choice on Amazon.com. The all-instrumental CD, with Phil on hammered dulcimer and Tom Conway on guitar, features old-time American dance and fiddle tunes and Celtic music. Tunes include Twin Sisters, Bonaparte’s Retreat, Miss MacLeod’s Reel, and John Ryan’s Polka.
Libraries, schools, receptions of all kinds, store openings, barn dances, parties, teas, weddings, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants — Phil plays all these in settings formal or informal, as background or foreground music, solo or with guitar or banjo accompaniment. He has consistently been selected as a “best of the best” by the Library Administrators Conference of Northern Illinois. Phil performs most frequently in the greater Chicago area, which, due to his poor sense of geography, also includes Indiana and Wisconsin.
Phil also teaches hammered dulcimer at workshops and music festivals.