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Jazzing the Hŵyl

Jen Wilson

* 'Hŵyl' translated as ‘a state of being, or condition’ (or a state of fervent arousal) within the Welsh language Baptist service of call and response.  A similar state of being or condition, or “soul”, exists within African-American Baptist services.

Welsh women have a long history of subverting any cultural ideology imposed upon them by church, state or community, and this was certainly the case when it came to black music and burgeoning blues and jazz in Wales. Historically, black music has had an enormous appeal for the Welsh, especially when the Fisk Jubilee Trio made an appearance in Swansea in 1907, igniting thirty year old memories of their first memorable visits in the 1870s. In the 1920s, during the burgeoning jazz age, Welsh women, inspired by black musicians and singers on the stage, produced and directed their own shows with themes of African American heritage. Certainly, the three most influential genres were: "wierd slave songs" during the 1870s, touring ragtime shows of the1890s, and the café culture of the 1920s which had emerged towards the end of the first world war and ultimately led to the First Jazz Age. This early café culture, led predominantly by the competition and rivalry between venues in Swansea and Cardiff in South Wales, acted as a vast support network for war-time bereaved families, offering diversion, comfort and solace, somewhere to take the children and, of course, free entertainment. Café culture, taken up in some style by the youth of the day, eventually led to the craze for "blues dancing" of the 1920s and "hot music" of the 1930s. Welsh women were not passive onlookers, but eventually went on to become producers of shows, and bandleaders in their own right.

An important early influence on Welsh women was personified by the arrival in Wales in 1874 of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were students from Fisk University, Nashville, which had been inaugurated in 1866 for the Education of Freed Slaves and Their Children. They toured not just Britain, but also throughout Europe and beyond. The Fisk Jubilee Singers' music and fundraising tours of England are well known, but their experiences within Wales and their relationship to the Welsh people have been undocumented until now.

In order to understand the Fisk Jubilee Singers' experience within Wales, it is necessary to give a brief outline of the socio-political conditions prevailing in Wales at the time. It could be argued that Welsh people at the time identified strongly with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, recognising that they (the Welsh) were another people denied freedom of expression, together with the loss of their language, culture and tradition. The Welsh, not enslaved like African Americans (although some would regard the Valley Welsh as being enslaved to the pits as they had no other choice), were nevertheless regarded at the time by the English as being less than second-class citizens. A Report Into The State of Education in Wales, known in Wales as the notorious Blue Books, had been published in 1847 by three young English barristers who deemed themselves to be "educationalists". This Report left a livid scar on the people of Wales which had been written within living memory of those who had attended these first

concerts of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1874 and 1875. In the Report, Welsh women were singled out for particular condemnation. Their morals were attacked as "corrupt and sinful and no virtue in their offspring", accusing them of sexual promiscuity. These English
educationalists had not understood the language or culture of the people compelled to live crammed together in two-roomed terraced cottages, sharing beds in rotation with pit shifts. Many single Welsh women vanished from mining and agriculture, some having to leave Wales to work as domestic servants in London.

Aaron pointed out that the English-language schools established in Wales as a consequence of the Report's findings, brought about the Welsh Not, which required schoolteachers to hang a block of wood around the necks of children caught speaking Welsh in the playground, on which was written I must NOT speak Welsh; and was sometimes accompanied by a caning.

By transcending cultural confines, the Fisk Jubilee Singers enabled their lost heritage to become a significant feature of their music, signifying its importance and relevance to a Welsh populace suffering deprivation under the yoke of English rule. The Welsh were ready to embrace the sincerity of the Fisk Jubilee Singers' music and, in turn, the Jubilee Singers were in the forefront of overturning the cultural stereotyping previously witnessed by Welsh audiences. Not only did the Fisk Jubilee Singers provide positive role models within their performance, but also in their social awareness of the deprivation visible within Wales, confirmed by their eagerness to fundraise for needy communities. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, with various changes of personnel, returned to South Wales in 1875.

A year later in 1876 Swansea formed its own Jubilee Singers under the direction of Stephen Williams performing for example at Swansea's Agricultural Hall during a literary evening; their programme was not mentioned but it is likely they had purchased a copy of the Songbook given their name. The Swansea Jubilee Singers would have been white, as the local press were always anxious to distinguish the exact skin tone of the performers. The Fisk Jubilee Singers returned again to Swansea in 1889, performing at The Albert Hall, previously known as The Music Hall and scene of the very first Fisk Jubilee Singers' concert. They gave two sell-out concerts, presided over by Mayor R. Martin.

The Jubilee Singers last visit to Swansea took place in 1907. Although it had been eighteen years since their last visit and 33 years since their first, Swansea memories were long. This time the Singers came as a Trio led by Mr. Eugene McAdoo with Emma Mocara and Laura Carr. Into these changing and innovative times, just at that very moment when music was evolving into the early sounds of "hot" and "syncopated" rhythms of ragtime, history again touched Wales on the shoulder. The Fisk Jubilee Trio, no longer affiliated to Fisk University but retaining the name, were on a goodwill mission to co-ordinate charity events for the "poor of Swansea" in conjunction with the YMCA; a gesture of thanks for the past generosity given to the Fisk Jubilee Singers by the people of Swansea. Their performances were accompanied on this occasion by the Swansea Temperance Silver Band. Mr. McAdoo was interviewed for the local paper. He commented that they had been worried about performing in Wales as they had heard of the skill of the singing and tradition of choral harmonies. Mr. McAdoo continued:

“We were told we would not raise any enthusiasm here at all, as the Welsh do so much singing that they will not acknowledge anyone else can sing. But after Good Friday afternoon and evening, I think the Welsh people have truly disproved it.  They are not so supercilious as the English – there is not so much surface feeling.  For instance, an English audience claps you when you appear, before they know what you are going to do. Yesterday I noticed the people here in Swansea sat with arms folded until we had sung, and they found they liked us.  It was then they showed they appreciated our efforts”.

Owing to the crowds unable to get in, a further concert was quickly organised, this time accompanied by the Swansea Trombone Quartet, at which 1500 people attended. Owing to the clamour for tickets, a tour of a further six South Wales venues over six days had then to be hastily arranged FJS TOUR (Clydach, Pontardawe, Aberavon, Ystalyfera, Pontardulais, and Morriston's Forward Movement Hall), at which the Trio performed a programme of Plantation Melodies, Sacred Songs and Jubilee Choruses. Twelve thousand people attended this week-long tour.

In March, 1895, an extraordinary performance at the Swansea Empire by Mdlle. Texerkansas, advertised as a Singer, Jig Buck and Wing Dancer, prompted the South Wales Daily Post, formerly The Cambrian, to do a back-stage interview with the star. The journalist sent by the Post was obviously intrigued. Mdlle. Texerkansas told the Post:

"I was born in the village of Arkansas in a house through which passes the boundary line of the two states of Texas and Kansas and hence the conglomeration. I like Wales and the Welsh so much I shall have lots of good things to say about them when I get home. I appreciated my reception very much and I think Swansea people will like my dancing. My dance is an exact imitation of those on the plantations in the Southern States, absolutely correct in movement. As I had become the acknowledged best dancer in that line in the States, I determined to come over here and show it to you in the old country".

This African American solo performer given the opportunity to talk about her history and culture and granted star-status by the local paper, was indeed an innovation.

By 1900 musical tastes of the Welsh working class were adapting to changing cultural influences. Beddoe points out that Welsh women were beginning to demand more control of their lives, property, and economic independence, and to campaign for the vote. Beddoe argues that the 19th century saw an expansion in the number of women whose pattern of life was unlike that of women in the past. Working women began to redefine their social position with middle class aspirations and burgeoning leisure opportunities. ZULU 1Summerfield states that there was a growing dissent with patriotic fervour ZULU 2 by the turn of the century with audiences demanding more glamour, colour and music instead of, for example, a diet of Negro minstrelsy undertaken against a backdrop of British Imperialism and the Building of the Empire.

ETHIOPIAN SERANDERS There is no doubt that Welsh audiences kept many white and black minstrelsy troupes in highly paid employment for a substantial period. In 1890 for example, Swansea formed its own Black Snowdrop Minstrels performing at Crag-y-Nos Castle for Madame Patti on her return from her performances in Russia. Confusingly, Craig-y-Nos formed their own Christy Minstrels performing at regular Saturday Popular Concerts. Their advertisement included the puff "Laughable Nigger Farce and Plantation Scene accompanied by the Penwyllt Black Hussars and Plantation Walk Round".

MINSTREL 2 Towards the end of the century competition was fierce between "Real Negro" troupes and local troupes in blackface. MINSTREL 3 Real Negros adapted some of the successful attributes of the local innovators by exaggeration and satire, or put another way, by subverting the local take on minstrelsy... i.e. blacks parodying whites parodying blacks. The troupe names and titles grew ever more complicated, e.g. The American-European Coloured Operatic Kentucky Minstrels (covering all bets), and The Royal Kentucky Minstrels who stressed they were "the only genuine minstrel group travelling" (patently not true). Swansea's infatuation with Minstrelsy began to fade in 1925 when two concerts were given. The first at St. Joseph's Infant School which had repeated their Playtime on the Plantation concert "bringing the house down and proceeds going to the school building fund". The second in the same week was the Pentrechwyth Nigger Minstrel Troupe led by Audrey Thomas and Agnes Evans at the Central Hall, with proceeds going to the Band of Hope Banner fund. The Aberfan Coons however were still going strong in 1934.

By 1900 DAHOMEY AD the advent of the new ragtime music, with its attendant exuberant cakewalk dances sweeping in from America, brought a sophistication to the stage shows and revues. The minstrelsy genre was fading away, driven off by the fast and furious, slick revue-type entertainment delivered by the new generation of Black entertainers in Britain. The first of these new all-black productions was 'In Dahomey' starring Bert Williams and George Walker, portraying skits on Colonial Life back in Darkest Africa. SHEET MUSIC The production was one hundred strong, providing their own musicians, producers and directors, arriving at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London in 1903. DAHOMEY 3 Its main feature was Ragtime music. 'In Dahomey' DAHOMEY 4 ran for seven months then toured, arriving in Swansea January 1905. The Swansea production incorporated a Cakewalk competition for the locals with a prize given at the end of the week. DAHOMEY 5

Touring productions such as 'In Dahomey' featuring ragtime, personified the new excitement in music and the dance spin-off the Cake Walk. DAHOMEY 6 The Cake Walk had its own derivatives, including the Tango, The Boston, the Ramble, the Three-Step, the Shimmy, the Grizzly Bear, the Chicago Maze, the Dazzle etc. Swansea added its own popular speciality dance to the mix The Marina Saunter. Working class Wales embraced the new music with its subtle social digs at the remnants of Victorian British Empire that the cakewalk purveyed so successfully. Style on Welsh dance floors was all-important, so much so that the local press sent a weekly scout just to comment on the dresses of the dancers (e.g. Gowns by Joan). Provision of new theatres, local halls and end-of-pier venues as well as municipal halls, escalated, thereby offering more choice of music and dance, and increasing the competition for customers between venues. Welsh women were quick to see new employment opportunities and jumped on the bandwagon by opening Dance Emporiums in their front parlours. They were encouraged by the thousands flocking to see speciality dancers like Johnson & Dean, the American Colored Fashionplates, who had earlier performed the Cakewalk to sell-out audiences. Johnson and Dean had organised competitions during the week for the locals, culminating in the dance-off competition on the Saturday night. The Cakewalk aped the upper-class mannerisms, chin up with a mincing walk and sashaying glide. It was another example of African Americans subverting white cultural mores. The Cakewalk became a huge hit with the Welsh, who perhaps sensed a means of colluding with the black dancers against English Victorian values. The African-Americans were probably unaware of the intricacies and complications of the Welsh/English cultural divide but it did offer an unexpected opportunity for the Welsh to poke fun at the English. It was, therefore, a genuine African American/Welsh collusion

During the First World War a new café culture emerged in South Wales mainly in Swansea and Cardiff, which offered some relief from the relentless bad news from the front. CARTOON Café culture offered not only new work opportunities for local musicians, dancers and entrepreneurs, but also enabled extra performances by the African American touring productions and revues to be fitted in during the day time before evening performances on the national theatre circuit tour. In Swansea alone, eight cafés offered shows and revues twice daily, the smallest café catering for 400 people, the largest for over 1000, e.g. the Carlton Café with its American Bar 'n Grill and Floorshow was a big attraction. The Swansea cafés, such as the Kardomah, Café Chantant, Café Continental, Baltic Lounge, Metropole Winter Gardens, etc., were employers of performers on a grand scale. The most important aspect for women of this burgeoning café culture was that it was free and accessible during the daytime. Cafés welcomed mothers with babes in arms as no alcohol was served, and some cafés offered Musical Teas from 5pm to 6pm, with free cake or buns. Cafés competed for best art deco scenic effects, and some sported striped awnings over the pavement imitating the latest fashionable venues on the London club scene. Competition was rife between Swansea and Cardiff for the best floorshows.

Touring shows such as the fast revue 'Way Down South' saw queues around the block at the Café Chantant. Dancing was the keynote to the whole being of 'Way Down South' and the show came with its own Orchestra described by the local paper as "Cullud Gemmen". The show was a "fizz of Comedy, Jazz Music, Sand Dancing, Buck Dancing, and Tango Dancing". The crowds were described as "enormous" with the press confirming that the Café Chantant had "never risen to such a dizzy pinnacle of popularity". The press commented with surprise, "who would have predicted that Swansea would ever be a café town"? Shows such as 'Way Down South', 'Hullo Ragtime' and 'Step This Way' brought an air of transatlantic sophistication to South Wales and were usually described as "sumptous and elaborate" or "packed with melody, humour, beautiful girls and gorgeous scenery". They were not Minstrelsy but some shows contained elements of a satire on minstrelsy.

Well Swansea had something extra that neither London nor Cardiff could ever provide, and that was five miles of seashore and sandy beaches, as well as being a major port. Coal trains brought best anthracite down from the valleys, and shipping moved coal out and copper and iron ore in. The Mayor declared that "Swansea needed a little more colour in their lives" with the press urging that cafés should uplift the morale of the people. The bay was a magnet for the workers from heavy industry and their families, as well as the military on leave. American ships docked regularly and the American Jackies (a derivative of Swansea Jacks, Jack Tars – sailors) made straight for Wind Street with its profusion of cafés and theatres.

Café Society patrons were described as connoisseurs of culture, what was missing from this description was the fact that the Welsh were connoisseurs of black culture and they knew what they liked. They liked it loud and fast "Swanseaites go way down to Dixie to see how the cullud folk dance and sing on the plantations".

These black shows and revues were showcases for innovative music and dance interpreta- tions, and provided the opportunity for Welsh entrepreneurs to select from what was on offer and adapt it for local consumption; that these entrepreneurs were women was no surprise as most men were at the front during the war and women continued their initiatives into the 1920s. Swansea women such as Gretta John and Doris Page grabbed these opportunities and became musical directors in their own right. Within a month of the 'Way Down South' production leaving Swansea, Gretta John opened at the Café Chantant with her own show called 'Everything is Peaches Down in Georgia'. Billed as "the new innovation in town" the show included Performing Waiters and Waitresses. The Exchange Restaurant entertained Naval Base men with Mabel Thomas on Ragtime Piano and step-dancing by Madame Allport, a name surely chosen to attract naval audiences!. Gretta John, with Maye Price this time, followed that with another of Gretta's productions called 'Are You From Dixie'? This confirms that local Welsh women such as Gretta John, Maye Price and Doris Page were confident and professional enough to produce and direct their own shows inspired by the black productions that had recently played in town, and confirmation that African American culture influenced interpretations and performances reworked for local consumption. Gretta John in particular seemed a tireless producer and director, working throughout 1918 and 1919 on productions for the cafés.

Confirmation of the potentially huge audience size for these productions can be gleaned from the reports in the press. A particularly interesting example in December 1918 featured the arrival at Swansea's docks of the US fleet of 50 Submarine Chasers with a captured UBoat No.91 on a 10 day visit. UBoat 91 contained six German officers and twentyseven crew. While thousands of Swansea folk flocked to the dockside, as UBoat 91 had been credited with sinking the President Lincoln and other allied first-class shipping, the US seamen headed for the cafés with the report adding "homecoming Tommies and Jacks make a beeline for the unique Mackworth 4.30pm and 7pm Vaudvillian Rip Van Winkle Revue". There was plenty of entertainment to satisfy the visitors as during that same week, May Henderson the "Original Dusky Comedy Queen" was top of the bill at the Swansea Empire. There was no shortage of variety on the stages of South Wales. At the same time, on the political front, Annie Watkin, the Honorary Organising Secretary of Swansea Citizens Union, was urging women to vote and support three women candidates in the forthcoming elections. South Wales was truly a hotbed of culture and politics.

The Café Chantant, ever on the lookout for new ideas to grab audiences in off the pavements of an afternoon, announced another innovation for the coming summer months of 1919: daily matinées of "popular song and cream puffs". They also boasted a complete interior redecoration with new orange and black decor offering a thrill to daytime audiences who had not yet sampled the after-hours sophisticated entertainment. The local press confirmed that audiences were "left breathless". By the end of the First World War South Wales vernacular was describing the café floor shows as "right on". On the 4th February 1919 the word "jazz" appeared in the South Wales local press for the first time.

Londoners may be forgiven for thinking that their city was the only place to be for the current trends in culture and entertainment during the 1920s, but it would appear that Wales was only a matter of weeks behind the latest London innovations. DANCE AD 1 Wales's dance entrepreneur Miss Millie Durk, who was white, began dance classes in The Blues at Uplands School of Dance on 7th September 1923. She commented "Dancing has become an integral part of our social life. She is the spirit that moves us to explore our personality, our thoughts and emotions". DANCE AD 2 Two rival classes also in Blues Dancing were begun within two weeks, one by Miss C. Parkes at her establishment in Mount Pleasant, and the other by Jessie Davies at the Assembly Rooms in St. Helen's Road. A profusion of dance bands and orchestras were started by women, e.g. Mrs. Rhys Burman's Sylvian Jazz Band and Miss Winnie Scannel's Orchestra. Another was Mrs. Gill Williams Syncopated Orchestra. That these and many other women entrepreneurs played early jazz music is testament to the legacy that had been left behind by the touring African American revues, stage and floorshows.

However, the profusion of dance halls, and jazz bands and orchestras to service them, caused a backlash from a variety of religious bodies which rippled down the decade. A particular furore was instigated by the Pope who condemned the YMCAs for "corrupting the Faith of Youth by instilling indifferientism and apostasy to the Catholic religion in the minds of their adherents". An advertisement for a 7pm to midnight dance at Terrace Road Infants School Hall, Swansea, was placed near the Pope's missive in the newspaper. Heated debate continued. The Pastor of Mount Calvary Church expressed his view that it was the "sex dancing that was immoral and if dancing was proper, why could not men dance together?"

Interestingly, there were a few brave dissenting voices within the clergy who stuck their heads above the parapet. A fine example is Pastor Jeffreys of Mount Zion Chapel who initiated ragtime hymns, accompanied by hand-clapping and leaps into the air, to enliven his congregation, all at a time when the rest of the country regarded Wales as a cultural backwater. Pastor Jeffreys who had spent "seven wonderful years in Llanelli" before moving to Swansea, remarked "Our singing has been called ragtime, but if it keeps the people together what does it matter? Let us thank God for it". South Wales grabbed all its opportunities and showered the passing trade with a non-stop diet of jazz, with its particular blend of
cultural interchange which, surprisingly, extended beyond the traditional stage, bandstands
and floorshows into unexpected venues. The Wesleyan Chapel, not to be outdone, offered Banjos at the Mission, to "warm up lukewarm Christians". Not all Wales, therefore, celebrated the Almighty in God fearing solemnity. The theatres, and most of all the cafés, together with two innovative ministers, were in the forefront of providing Welsh men and women with an opportunity to become part of the cultural and creative scene, shortly to be referred to as the "roaring twenties".

In addition to the changes relating to music and dance as popular leisure pursuits, together with the cultural and heritage influences of African American performers, the availability of cheap pianos as the new status symbol to the Welsh working class, coupled with the profusion of cheap sheet music, was another significant factor that had repercussions for women and the absorption of black popular music. Loesser states that piano production escalated during the 1900s, as it was a product well adapted to the new factory production methods. The Welsh certainly took advantage of the new Hire Purchase credit agreements which led to a profusion of pianos in the parlour. Harding argues the piano was a respectable accomplishment for women which led, in turn, to a respectable career. Bourke points out that the First World War pushed working class households into a higher income bracket with many women choosing to remain in employment after the War. Beddoe confirms that 358,000 women belonged to unions by 1914; therefore during the first Jazz Age women in Wales aged 21 to 30 enjoyed more disposable income than ever before.

Traies argued that by the beginning of the 20th century, Victorian middle class family values with its emphasis on cultural elitism, had given way to the popular demands of the Edwardian new working class with its loosening of Victorian conventions of social behaviour. Traies cites the new Welsh working class as artisans, tradesmen and women, shopkeepers, assistants, clerks, typists etc. holding a "common cultural context".

Both the new "hot" or "syncopated" music and the opportunities for performance they generated, offered career avenues for Welsh women. The main function in syncopated music is to encourage improvisation. The ability to improvise meant that women musicians, through imaginative or impressionistic improvisational skills, had now become Lady Syncopators. Women, with a history of using music as a career path, adapted to the exciting challenge. Creative women who were able to perform jazz music, were often regarded by some male jazz musicians as not being feminine. Whilst if they flaunted their femininity wearing eye-catching stage gowns and lipstick, then it was held that they couldn't play jazz and covered this lapse by adornment. Within Swansea, for example, women were employed as jazz musicians at cafés, department store roof gardens, hotels, lounges, the Pier Pavilion, the Exchange Restaurant and Snell's Recording Studio in the Arcade. Women were also employed in shop windows to advertise the pianos and the sheet music on sale. There are no references to black or "coloured" women, so the assumption is that they were all white. It could be argued, therefore, that this was a successful adaption by white Welsh women of the African American cultural genre.

The Melody Maker, a monthly jazz magazine, later a weekly newspaper, first published in Britain in January 1926 price 3d. was an early and important, if sometimes discriminatory, voice for women's jazz during the 1920s and 1930s. It offered work for women provided they sent in photographs with the job application. Men were not required to do this. As jazz was increasing in popularity in Wales, the Melody Maker felt obliged to provide an occasional special column called South Wales 'Look You' detailing jazz events. Headlines included such items as "The Taffies are Dancing... More Orchestras find themselves Active".

However, this early championing of women's jazz suffered a marginality and alienation which became entrenched over the next 30 years when Spike Hughes, a Cambridge graduate, bass player, composer and arranger, was offered a weekly column by the Melody Maker as well as his regular record reviews. His autobiography Second Movement traced his influential career both as performer and as writer within jazz newspapers and journals, dictating opinion which became received wisdom. He referred to himself as "the voice of experience'' and wished to see his name in bold type in the Melody Maker as a "theorist promoting propaganda defining public taste". Unfortunately, his preference for public taste was to promote male jazz musicians and eliminate women from the bandstand. Writing about women in jazz in general in his autobiography, he stated:

"I have always viewed with alarm the growing tendency of women to compose music; not merely because they do not compose very well, but because their presence in the company of a group of male musicians is embarrassing and unnatural. As men we have our own language and our own codes of behaviour among ourselves... a woman who demands artistic, professional and social equality among us... is acutely unwelcome and disturbing. There can never be such a thing as true equality of the sexes. Economic equality, perhaps – I am married to a woman who, thank heavens, not only earns her own living, but often mine as well. Women lack originality and creative ability. The English-woman is at her best only when she is dressed for the company of those horses and dogs which she so much resembles".

Spike Hughes was one of the pool of judges for the Melody Maker National Dance Band competitions and took every opportunity to undermine womens' performance. He asserted in his Melody Maker column of April 1928 that it is only because women are "cheap and look nice" that they are given the work. He also maintained that "in recording and broadcasting, women's bands are unheard of, and this fact alone surely speaks volumes for their tardy progress". What Hughes failed to mention was that women were denied the opportunity to record and broadcast as Hughes himself was a controlling influence within the recording studios and BBC, through i. Oxbridge connections and ii. by promoting his own work over others. Women were "allowed space" as the Melody Maker put it, to oppose Hughes' opinions within its columns, and a healthy debate ensued which raged throughout 1928. Hughes delivered a one-page tirade against women headlined "Where the Fair Sex Fails" deftly dismissed by Miss Molly Pearl who combated with an article entitled "The Case For The Fair Sex". Hughes' sneering riposte was headlined "Our Jazzy ladies who can afford to start off at less money". Edna Rogers delivered the last word championing women jazz musicians with an academic piece called "A Vindication of the Fair Sex" describing Hughes as "patronising and sarcastic". It is sad to note that African Americans were left out of these debates altogether.

During 1933, further discrimination was heaped upon women in the Melody Maker by Leonard Feather and Whitney Balliet, both claiming women, regardless of national origin, lacked the physical co-ordination and technique to perform well. Again, women jazz musicians hotly defended themselves in the October 1933 Melody Maker stating:

i.     lack of opportunities offered to girls at school, university and in the community
ii.    the natural conceit of the male tribe encouraging the work of men only
iii.   the male language of jazz
iv.   misogyny

Leonard Feather reported that women should join the Rhythm Clubs where they were conspicuous by their absence. Women were absent because most Rhythm Clubs barred women altogether, and nurtured an elitist and patriarchal hierarchy. Women, therefore, were obviously posing a threat to the male order and needed to be kept in their place.

Black women suffered yet further discrimination as can be seen from the Melody Maker article in September 1927. Dr. Farnell, the Rector of Exeter College, Oxford University, had written: "Nigger Music Comes from the Devil". He continued: "There was nothing more degrading than vulgar music, which was worse than poisonous drink. Our civilisation was threatened by our Americanisms and jazz music. Do not take your music from America or from the niggers, take it from God, the source of all good music". Dr. Farnell was obviously unaware of the legacy of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The gender issue was only part of a wider concern. Debates on race issues were rife within the Melody Maker. An article by Maurice Burman headed Hot Music Is It Negroid or Hebrew? was published in 1931, in which he compared and contrasted the music of the "coloured races" with that of "Hebrew sacred music". Burman gave examples arguing that it was not an attempt to prove anything, merely drawing attention to a fact which he had "not seen before in print". Similarly, Leonard Feather writing on the "colour question" in 1933 offered the opinion that "white musicians have contributed more to the advancement of hot music than coloured musicians", neglecting entirely the contribution made by women. This line was thoroughly opposed with reasoned argument by Bettie Edwards who accused Feather of not knowing his history. Edwards, in her turn, omitted black women from her argument.

The increasing popularity of jazz was viewed by some commentators as a threat to national, as well as Welsh, civilisation. Debate within the Welsh press was heated. Amongst other
issues Dr. Lewis, the Medical Officer of Health for Pontardawe, blamed jazz for the low birth rate in Wales, arguing that women were "not procreating as they should, owing to the time they spent in dance halls".

Jazz in Wales was gaining in popularity to such an extent that it was seen as a threat to public morals and decorum by religious bodies. The Free Churches of Aberystwyth, for example, sent a deputation to the Town Council protesting against Council permission for the public to apply for dance licences. It added a pledge to ratepayers that there was to be "no more drinking". Ignoring the fact that jazz bands had donated proceeds from benefits to the Wrexham coal mining disaster in 1934, Welsh church and chapels continued to protest against the music with the ultimate goal of banning jazz altogether as, in their opinion, it induced
"negro morals" in Welsh youth. Welsh youth ignored the church's campaign.

A year later in 1935 the Melody Maker reported that "annoyed Swansea Clerics" had drawn up a Resolution in Welsh which was circulated to all churches and chapels and passed unanimously. It asked young people to stay away from "hot" music for the sake of their health and well-being, claiming that the current position was becoming "ugly". The Pontardawe Women's Institute was not amused. They had earlier applied to the Pontardawe Magistrates Court for an extension for their St. Valentine's Day Dance at Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, and could see one of their fund-raising efforts being scuppered. The nervous chairman of the Magistrates warned the Pontardawe Women's Institute about the whole issue of dancing, licensing and "negro morals", reminding them of the Church's recent Resolution. The Women's Institute, champions of many good causes, sailed like galleons on the tide of public opinion. Their licence was granted, the Women's Institute and Wales danced on, and women's jazz in Wales continued to thrive.

In 1934 the Melody Maker turned its attention to Wales again, showcasing all-women orchestras appearing for the season at popular seaside resorts. Under the headline "Where There's a Hŵyl" the Melody Maker reported that the second programme of Negro Spirituals in Welsh would be given on BBC Radio, the first broadcast having been an experiment. Listeners had remarked after the first broadcast, that they felt the spirituals had resembled Welsh hymns and a further programme was aired. The Melody Maker reminded readers of a recent article by the Rev. Ebrard Rees who likened the Negro spiritual to Welsh Hwyl, the first time this comparison had been made in print. Rev. Ebrard Rees' positive response to the history of jazz music was one of the few beacons of light amongst the mostly negative attitudes of the rest of the ecclesiastics.

However we view the 50 years of Negro minstrelsy, whether we approve or applaud the Welsh blacking up, or debating whether African Americans were demeaning themselves or portraying a positive racial accord, the minstrelsy genre was a product of its time, born in bigotry and dying at the cusp of the unstoppable flood of ragtime. It has also been shown that the Welsh took what they needed from the minstrelsy genre, while at the same time flocking in their thousands to see and learn from the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Fisk Jubilee Singers left an indelible mark and continued to influence contemporary Wales, whereas the minstrelsy genre has faded into history. Women in Jazz tour the music of the Fisk Jubilee Singers to schools in Wales in their Before Freedom package.

 

 

 

The South Wales Daily post, 2nd April 1907
Ibid 14th February 1920
The Report into the State of Education in Wales (Lingen, Symons & Vaughan Johnson 1847) is held at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Jane Aaron,
Our Sisters' Land: The Changing Identities of Women in Wales (University of Wales Press 1994)
The Cambrian 8th September 1876.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers Programme 1889. Copy in Women's Jazz Archive Library.
The South Wales Daily Post 26th March 1907.

The South Wales Daily Post 2nd April 1907.
Ibid. 6th April 1907.
Ibid 20th March 1895.
Beddoe, D. Discovering Women's History: A Practical Manual (Pandora Press 1983)
Penny Summerfield, Patriotism and Empire: Music Hall Entertainment 1870-1914, in John Mackenzie ed. Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester University Press 1986) 42.
The Cambrian 24th October 1890.

The Cambrian 3rd April 1891.
The South Wales Daily Post 20th February 1925.
The South Wales Daily Post 1st February 1905.
Ibid. 22nd February, 1919.
The South Wales Daily Post 20th June 1905.
The South Wales Daily Post 21st August 1917
Ibid 14th February 1920.
The South Wales Daily Post 7th September 1915.
Ibid 30th March 1920.

The South Wales Daily Post 14th February 1920.
Ibid 23rd December 1918.
Ibid 27th December 1918.
The South Wales Daily Post 28th November 1918.
Ibid 18thJanuary 1919.
Ibid. 4th February 1919.
The South Wales Daily Post 7th September 1923.

The South Wales Daily Post 27th March 1924
Ibid 25th April 1924.
Ibid 24th December 1920.

Ibid 4th January 1921.
Ibid 7th September 1922.
Arthur Loesser, Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Publications Inc., New York 1990) 232. In Wales New "Art" model pianos and organs could be purchased for 10/6d. per month from establishments such as The Western Piano Co. from their catalogue, or from the South Wales Musical Repository, Swansea.
Rosamond E. M. Harding, The Piano Forte: Its History Traced to the Great Exhibition of 1851 (Cambridge University Press. 1933) in Loesser 292.

Joanna Bourke, Gender, Class and Ethnicity: Working Class Cultures in Britain 1890-1960 (Routledge, London 1994) 18
Beddoe D. Discovering Women's History: A Practical Manual (Pandora Press (1983) 26
Jane Trais, Jones and the Working Girl: Class Marginality in Music Hall Song 1860-1900 in Bratton J. B. ed. Music Hall: Performance and Style (Open University Press. 1986) 48
Melody Maker Volume X No.64 August 1934
Spike Hughes, Second Movement (Museum Press Ltd. London 1951).124, 163.
Melody Maker Volume III No.28 April 1928
Ibid. Volume III No.29 May 1928
Ibid. Volume III No.32 August 1928
Ibid. Volume III No.36 December 1928
Melody Maker Volume IX August No. 11 1933
Ibid. Volume IX No.28 December 1933.

Melody Maker Volume II No.21 September 1927
Ibid. Volume VI No. missing 1931

South Wales Daily Post 24th September 1920.
Melody Maker Volume X No.61 July 1934
Ibid. Volume XI No.89 February 1935
Melody Maker Volume VIII No.33 January 1934