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  The original Discovery String Band
Win Grace, Cathy Barton, Paul Fotsch, Dave Para,
and Bob Dyer  
"Most Perfect Harmony"
Lewis and Clark: A Musical Journey

cover art for the album "Most Perfect Harmony"This is a 70-minute CD of period, traditional and original music interpreting the epic journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery.  The album features a wide variety of traditional instruments, fine harmony singing, excellent original compositions and a 28-page CD booklet representing the research relating the music to the journals and the journey.  The CD has been designated a Notable Recording by the American Library Association.

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          "At this moment every individual of the party are in good health, and excellent spirits; zealously attached to the enterprise and...act with the most perfect harmony."
          -- Meriwether Lewis April 7, 1805

On This Page:
CD Song List -- Listen!
Instruments Played on the CD
Liner Notes and Journal Entries

Songs of "Most Perfect Harmony":

  1. Bonaparte's Retreat
  2. Come Up Me (I Am Missouri) by Cathy Barton
  3. La Bastringue
  4. Listen:  Going Up The River by Bob Dyer
    Click here for notes 
  5. Springfield Mountain/Rattlesnake Song
  6. Chester by William Billings, 1770
  7. Rakes of Mallow
  8. Through the Garden by Bob Dyer
  9. C'est L'Aviron
  10. Listen:  Black Moccasin by Cathy Barton
    * Notes 
  11. Journey Song for Pomp by Cathy Barton
  12. Ursus Horribilis (by Dave Para) / Jefferson and Liberty (trad)
  13. Metis/French Canadian Fiddle Medley
  14. Meriwether Lewis (by Bob Dyer) / The Way Home (by Cathy Barton)
* ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^ * ^
Win Grace: accordion, piano, autoharp, feet (seated clogging!), voice
Bob Dyer: guitar, Indian drum, jawbone, triangle, voice
Dave Para: 6 and 12-string guitars, banjo, bones, jawharp, voice
Cathy Barton: Indian flute, hammered dulcimer, lap dulcimer, guitar, banjo, voice
Paul Fotsch:
fiddle, mandolin, guitar, harmonica, voice

Song Notes and Journal Entries:

THE EXTRA-ORDINARY BEAST (words-Cathy Barton to the tune of Revolutionary Tea) / ROAD TO BOSTON (Trad.)
Cathy-banjo/voice, Dave-guitar/voice, Paul-fiddle/voice, Bob-voice, Win-piano/voice

"Discovered a village of small animals that burrow in the ground....it covers about 4 acrs of ground...and contains a great number of holes on the top of which these little animals sit erect, make a whistleing noise and when alarmed slip into their hole."
William Clark

"Captain Lewis and Captain Clark with all the party except the guard, went to it, and took with them all the kettles and other vessels for holding water, in order to drive animals out of their holes by pouring water, but though they worked at the business till night they only caught one of them."
Patrick Gass

      On September 7 1804, Lewis and Clark encountered a most unusual animal they had never seen before, called by the French petit chien or the prairie dog.  The captains were fascinated and set to work with many of the men to attempt to catch one, but the animals quickly darted into their burrows.  For many hours the men in high spirits tried every means they could think of to snare the animals, by digging a full six feet down into their burrows, and by hauling vessels of water to try and flush them out. After a protracted struggle they finally killed one of the animals and caught one alive.  The live prairie dog was later sent to Thomas Jefferson and it not only survived the long journey to the east but lived for a short time in Jefferson's home.

The musical setting for The Extra-ordinary Beast is a tune called Revolutionary Tea that appeared some years after the Revolutionary War.  The original song is a musical allegory about the famous Boston Tea Party.  We combine this song with a tune highly popular during and after the Revolution, Road to Boston, a dance piece still played today in New England.

Cathy-flute, Dave-guitar

"Of the fourth village, where the Minnetares live, and which is called Metaharta,we made a first chief, Ompsehara or Black Moccasin."
--William Clark, Oct. 29, 1804

This tune on the Indian flute is named for one of the Minataree (Hidatsa) Indian leaders recognized by Lewis and Clark during the expedition's winter sojourn near the Mandan villages in 1804-05.  Although given scant mention in the journals, Black Moccasin apparently thought much of the Corps leaders, particularly William Clark whom he called Red Hair. When artist George Catlin visited the Hidatsas in 1832, Black Moccasin was by then a very old and much revered leader of his people.  He enjoyed relating stories about Lewis and Clark to the artist and wished to send his regards to Red Hair.  When Catlin painted his portrait, (which can still be seen today in the Smithsonian American Art Museum), Black Moccasin was believed to be 105 years old.

Bob-guitar/voice, Dave-jawharp/guitar/voice, Cathy-banjo/voice, Win-accordion/voice, Paul-fiddle/voice

"Rained hard all last night.  Some thunder & lightening hard wind in the forepart of the night from the SW."
-William Clark May 28, 1804

"Rained the greater part of last night, the wind from the West raised and blew with great force untile 5 oClock p.m. which obliged us to lay by…".
William Clark, May 31, 1804

"As the wind blew all this day…we Could not Stur, but took advantage of the Delay and Dried our wet articles examined provisions and Cleaned arms…men verry lively Dancing & Singing &c."
--William Clark, June 11, 1804

This song celebrates the tenacity of the men of the Corps of Discovery as they moved their boats up the difficult Missouri River.  There is also mention of Pierre Cruzatte, a one-eyed, half-Omaha, half-French river boatman who was one of the few people on the crew who had experience with the Missouri River.  He was also a fiddle player and frequently entertained the crew at their encampments as they moved up the river.

Win-accordion/feet/voice, Paul-fiddle/voice, Bob-triangle/voice, Cathy-banjo/voice, Dave-guitar/voice

We passed the evening very agreeable dancing with the French ladies.
Private Joseph Whitehorse, May 18, 1804

A sergeant and four men of the party destined for the Missouri Expedition will convene at 11 o'clock today on the quarterdeck of the boat and form themselves into a court-martial, to hear and determine (in behalf of the captain), the evidences adduced against William Warner & Hugh Hall, for being absent last night without leave, contrary to orders; and John Collins, first for being absent without leave; second, for behaving in an unbecoming manner at the ball last night; third, for speaking in a language last night after his return tending to bring into disrespect the orders of the commanding officer.
--William Clark, May 21, 1804

On May 16, 1804, the men of the Corps of Discovery stopped at St. Charles to reload the boats and to wait for Captain Lewis to join them. St. Charles was a settlement of about 450 people, predominantly French speakers, but as Lewis remarked, a considerable number could "boast a small dash of the pure blood of the aboriginees of America."

The people of St. Charles held a ball in honor of the Corps, which must have been quite an event, as several of the men were court-martialed the next day for misconduct and subsequently "mouthing off" to the captains. 

La Bastringue is a well-known song dating back to 17th or 18th century France, as well as a dance of the common people. Our French dictionary defines la bastringue as a low public hall dance, with reference also to making a row. This seems to fit with what apparently happened at the ball.  The lyrics tell of an older man trying to dance the Bastringue with a younger woman, but, being unable to keep up, acts concerned for her stamina. He finally gives up complaining about corns on his feet.  This fine old French song could easily have been a part of the ball in St. Charles.

AFTER ALL I HAVE SEEN (words-Cathy Barton to the tune of Samanthra)
Cathy-banjo, Dave-guitar, Paul-voice

"I did wish to do well by him [York].  But as he has got such a notion about freedom and his emence Services, that I do not expect he will be of much Service to me again."
--William Clark, Dec. 10th, 1808

York, William Clark's slave, was the only African-American member of the Corps of Discovery.  During the expedition York labored, ate and hunted with the rest of the men and even voted with them when it came time to determine their winter quarters along the Pacific Northwest coast. But unlike the other Corps members, York never received compensation for his services after the trip was over.  

When he asked for his freedom so he could join his wife in Kentucky, Clark was insulted and refused to grant him this wish.  The relationship between the two men who had grown up together quickly deteriorated; at one point Clark sent York away, hoping that "if he has a Severe Master a while he may do some service and get over that wife of his."  Ten years after the expedition Clark did, at last, free York, who shortly went into the freighting business for a time.  Most historians believe York died of cholera before 1832, but there are stories that he eventually returned to the West to live out the rest of his years among the Indians, who years before on the expedition had generally treated him with respect, calling him big medicine because of his black skin.  The tune for this song is an early American hymn called Samanthra.

Dave-guitar, Win-accordion, Cathy-hammered dulcimer, Paul-fiddle,

"Passed two Islands on the S[tarboard] S[ide] and at first Bluff on the S.S. Serj. Floyd Died with a great deel of Composure, before his death he Said to me, 'I am going away…I want you to write me a letter.  We buried him on the top of the bluff 1/2 Miles below a Small river to which we Gave his name, he was buried with the Honors of War much lamented; a Seeder post with the Name Sergt. C. Floyd died here 20th of August 1804 was fixed at the head of his grave—  This man at all times gave us proofs of his firmness and Deturmined resolution to doe Service to his Countrey and honor to himself   after paying all the honor to our Decesed brother we Camped in the mouth of floyds river about 30 yards wide, a butifull evening."
---William Clark, August 20, 1804

Set to an older, traditional British tune, "Langolee," John Tait's song of separation begins: "'Twas summer, and softly the breezes were blowing, And sweetly the nightingales sang in the trees." The singer remembers her Jamie who has gone "to quell the proud rebels" in America, and she hopes for his speedy return to her on the banks of the Dee. "The Volunteers of Ireland," commemorating Irish volunteers in the British army, was also written to this tune at the time of the American Revolution. Tait's song is probably how the tune spread in America. It prompted patriot Oliver Arnold to write a cutting, anti-British parody in 1776. The 1812-era "The Banks of Champlain" also was inspired by this song.

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