VINTAGE
SONGS
OF
YOSEMITE

By 
Tom Bopp 

For thousands of years,  
the songs and dances  
of human visitors  
have echoed off 
of Yosemite's walls.

To hear the "soundclips", click on the titles that appear as links. They're in Real Audio format.

(1940) "To Yosemite Falls"

The idea, originally to enhance the Park Service’s Centennial Exhibit, blossomed into my first edition of "Vintage Songs Of Yosemite" on cassette, released October 1990 (one is buried in a 100 year time capsule in Yosemite), and sold out by 1993.

"Vintage Songs of Yosemite", a project to perform and  preserve Yosemite's musical heritage, got its start in 1990, the year of Yosemite National Park's centennial, when David Forgang, curator of the Yosemite Museum Collection, sent me a few copies of sheet music from the collection.

(1914) "I'm Strong For Camp Curry"

  (1954) "Yosemite"

     While I wasn't entirely happy with the first version, it served an unexpected purpose: after awhile, people began digging in their piano benches and sending me more material. Also, I made the acquaintance of Harry McMillen, composer of "The Bridge By Yosemite Falls" (performed at Camp Curry dances in the late 40s), and heard from the grandson of Harry Mabry (composer of "Yosemite", pictured below), and got to know several people involved with the entertainment at Camp Curry in bygone days. Also some original recordings surfaced; thus, the recording time of "Vintage Songs" jumped from 40 to 60 minutes, and I was able to add some program notes. The recording is available in CD and cassette.  One of the challenges of "Vintage Songs", as a performer, was to determine what treatment was appropriate to each song (having only the sheet music and publication dates).

     It was gratifying to hear from Harry Mabry's daughter and grandson that they'd liked my rendition of "Yosemite", though I'd perked it up a bit more than the composer would have. The grandson wrote that Mabry, born in Kentucky, raised in Oklahoma, a lawyer in Los Angeles from the 1920s until his death in 1983, "liked to write songs about places he visited...none of the songs were considered much of a commercial success, but they gave him great pleasure."

     I found Harry McMillen through a Library of Congress search--he'd renewed his copyright in 1974--and found he had a couple of interesting things in his closet. One was a box of 1948 dealer-stock of his song; the other was a 1949 amateur recording of the same song by Dick Jurgens' orchestra! 

     McMillen had persuaded Jurgens to allow the recording during a rehearsal in the basement of the Clairmont Hotel in Oakland. Lacking a pianist, guitarist, and perhaps others (who had not yet arrived), as well as the verse of the song (having been excluded in McMillen's arrangement) or any rehearsal, Jurgens and McMillen gave me their permission to reconstruct the record, inserting the verse and the other instruments as innocuously as possible.

     This was a trick, but Mac is pleased with the results (Jurgens had a copy, but it’s uncertain whether he got around to hearing it before his death in 1995). Mac is retired from United Airlines, plays trombone in a Dixieland band, and is still active as an amateur songwriter (and tax-consultant).

(1945)"The Bridge By Yosemite Falls"

Program notes by the composer

     "Vintage Songs" includes a 1915 78 rpm recording of Walter De Leon singing his "I'm Strong For Camp Curry", and, from the flip side, "The Stentor March", recorded in New York, featuring the "stentorian" voice of David Curry performing his trademark yells: "Hello Glacier ...all's well... farewell."

     The first call was Curry's customary greeting from the valley floor to those at Glacier Point, 3,000 feet above, preparing to rake glowing coals over the cliff in that nightly show called the "Firefall."

     Regarding the last call, a contemporary observer wrote, "As the stage drives up to take its loads away he [Curry] reads the list and calls each name, shakes hands with each departing tourist, and as the stage pulls out he shouts "Farewell" in tones that nearly blow them off their seats" [quoted from the back page of "The Stentor" sheet music].

For videos, CDs and cassettes pertaining to the Firefall, please visit the MUSIC SHOP

For more history, sheet music covers, and an audio message from the composer of "Toot Your Horn For Camp Curry," please go to Page Two.