“Hosts Plan Evening of Melody,” the headline in the Syracuse Journal read, “Skaneateles Summer Colony Invited to Unusual Treat.” On August 7, 1922, Irving and Carolyn Merrell hosted “an evening of plantation songs and negro spirituals” presented by singers from the Tuskegee Institute of Tuskegee, Alabama, at the Skaneateles Country Club.
Afterwards, the Journal reported, “The week has been of unusual social import on account of the unique entertainment provided by Mr. and Mrs. Irving Merrell, Monday evening, when the Tuskegee Institute singers presented an artistic program enjoyed by 150 men and women all appreciative of high class music.”
Music was fundamental to the Tuskegee Institute and its founder, Booker T. Washington. “Quartets” of four to eight singers from the Institute toured to promote the school’s message and mission. The group’s repertoire at this time included “Steal Away,” “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See,” and other classic spirituals. To hear what the Country Club heard, listen here to songs recorded between 1914 and 1927, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
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Photo above: the Tuskegee Singers in 1907.