PERF 600 – Graduate Scholarship in Performance Studies (Spring 2021)
In this presentation, I analyze the Tejo estuary as a contested space where a series of transport and construction projects are creating ecological controversies and increased sonic baselines. The Tejo estuary and Natural Reserve is surrounded by commercial exploration projects that expand its potential as a logistical hub, connecting several ports in Portugal. Alongside it projects such as a new airport and floating city are planned to answer to the recent tourism boom in the city of Lisbon, leading to significant alterations of the sonic landscape. Coastal areas and other aquatic infrastructures are being designed in alliance with the blue economy agenda and the 2030 sustainable development goals, with contradictory applications of sustainable politics.
I draw parallels with socio-economic and ecological conflicts that have taken place in recent years, with a focus on migratory work in the estuary, increased cruise traffic, or the 2017 Portuguese fires. To do so, I introduce different activist movements and scientific research studies developing awareness campaigns in the area, as well as my practice as a sound artist, and educator.
Humans have categorized unwanted sounds in the environment as noise. As such, noise is typically associated with negative human and ecological values, especially when derived from an anthropogenic source. Although evidence has confirmed that anthropogenic noise has negative impacts on animal behavior and animal communication, noise is often dismissed in ecoacoustics as an outside factor of acoustic habitats rather than an integrated sonic component of their ecological dynamics. Yet, the proliferation and extent of anthropogenic noise in the Biosphere are unavoidable.
Conversely, “background noise” classified as geophonies (rain, wind, water), is a significant component of environmental acoustic studies. In fact, the geophonies have very important sonic implications to the communication, behaviors, occupancy, and evolution of soniferous species. Even though these sounds are seemingly ever-present in ecoacoustics and bioacoustics studies, very little work has addressed the role of noise in ecological processes. New techniques to process large data sets and separate geophonies within recordings using ecoacoustic metrics like the Acoustic Complexity Indices open new possibilities to understand the ecology of geophonies in the context of their sonoscapes.
This presentation shifts the focus from sustained work on cities as sites of noise to explore how urban wastelands can serve as ‘sonic refugia’; breathing spaces from the sensorial intensities of urban life. Urban ecological research has drawn our attention to the presence of nature in abandoned spaces. Former railway yards, decommissioned airports, and other technological relics provide the substrate for new ecological assemblages. At the same time, these abandoned ecologies have particular ambient qualities that speak to the corporeal experience of urban space. Drawing on a range of historical and contemporary examples from Berlin, the presentation examines the sonic qualities and cultures of urban wastelands.
Main sources of ocean ambient sound at low frequencies include anthropogenic activities such as shipping and seismic explorations (<200 Hz), and physical events such as winds and waves (up to 1 kHz). The contributions to ambient sound from anthropogenic sources have been increasing, although the patterns differ across different spatial scales. We investigated low-frequency (<1 kHz) ambient sound across the North Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic. One site in the eastern North Pacific has been monitored intermittently from 2004, but most other locations had data recorded only during 2010’s.
The highest recorded levels of low-frequency ocean ambient sound were in the Gulf of Mexico and the lowest were in the Arctic. However, there was a large level of variability within each area, as well as between the ocean basins. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, there was 10 dB of variability in ambient sound at 40 Hz (shipping noise band) across sites, but only about 4 dB at 100 Hz. Most of the difference at 40 Hz was likely resulting from the location of the recorders relative to the main shipping lanes and seismic exploration areas. Sites in Southern California also had large variability in sound at 40 Hz and 100 Hz (up to 20 and 15 dB, respectively) with the variability linked to the local bathymetry and exposure of recorders to different local basins or the open ocean. Generally, southward facing sites in Pacific and Atlantic Oceans had lower sound levels at low frequencies, likely corresponding to lower levels of shipping traffic across those areas. Long-term time series from a site in the eastern North Pacific showed decrease in low frequency ambient sound in 2009-10 relative to 2004, presumably the result of decrease in worldwide shipping during the global recession. However, the trends since then have been variable and harder to interpret in the light of shipping trends.
At most monitored locations there was a strong seasonal contribution to ambient sound from marine mammal calls, most commonly blue and fin whales, but also humpback whales. Understanding of ambient sound trends is important for developing baselines on the levels of noise marine animals may be exposed and used to in their environment. Additionally, it allows placing any increases in noise and experiments on noise impacts into appropriate context of ocean ambient sound.
Initiated in the 1960s at Simon Fraser University with the composer R. Murray Schafer at its helm, the World Soundscape Project (WSP) was a sprawling venture that sought to document and analyse soundscapes across Canada and Europe. The WSP did so as a means of educating lay as well as professional audiences about sonic sensory perception, soundscape change, and the importance of listening, through the production of field recording LPs, radio programmes, books, and pamphlets. This body of work was instrumental in laying the theoretical and methodological foundations of soundscape studies, and it continues to influence academic as well as practice-based work, including soundscape policy and the sonic arts.
Much has been made of the normative intentions of the WSP, particularly through critiques of the ways in which urban ‘noise’ and rural ‘tranquillity’ were seemingly constructed within their writing, but there has been little in the way of direct engagements with the vast audio archives produced and collated by the WSP. This presentation delves into the first archival project embarked upon by the WSP, in which members of the team catalogued the sounds of Greater Vancouver between September 1972 and July 1973 through field recording. Through a listening and reading of this archive, I will consider the ways in which noise was conceptualized, documented, and discussed by members of the WSP. From this, I set out a typology of noise, examine the broader context in which the WSP were operating and the modes by which they engaged with Vancouver’s sounds, and ultimately demonstrate that noise holds an ambiguous position within the Vancouver archive.
Brazil is a leader in the Global South in terms of rapid installation of wind power capacity, which has been built near host communities that are politically and economically marginalized, giving rise to numerous forms of subtle contention and overt opposition. Knowledge is increasing with regards to land-tenure conflicts, licensing fraud, and opinions of host communities, but sound impacts from wind turbines in Brazil are poorly known in comparison with North American and European contexts. Here we quantitatively investigate noise levels and qualitatively analyze how residents of the community of Xavier, comprised mainly of artisanal fishers, in western Ceará state perceive the noise of the turbines of a wind farm installed only 250m away from the nearest residence.
Measurement of sound levels determined that noise levels between 34 and 57.2 dB(A) by day and 46.2 and 60.4 at night, which are greater than recommendations of the Brazilian government (40 dB and 35 dB, respectively). Survey data obtained for the host community (n=78) indicated that approximately 20% of respondents experienced discomfort from turbine noise or difficulty adjusting to noise, although one-third indicated that they worried about human health impacts from wind turbines. Qualitative data suggest that opponents of the wind farm have negative reactions to noise from turbines. Future research on noise from wind farms in Brazil should apply rigorous methodologies that allow for international comparisons. Wind farm operators should measure noise levels before and during construction of the wind farm and establish a measure routine during operation to identify irregularities and make comparisons to pre-wind farm noise levels.
Newly designated as pollution in the 1960s, noise shifts from “nuisance” to a dispersed, undefined, and atmospheric condition. Noise pollution echoes and amplifies environmental imaginaries of its time while prefiguring a logic of climate change. This coalesces around noise’s atmospheric qualities: emergent in and through perception, it is at once ephemeral and indeterminate. Noise prepares us for the unwanted, undesirable, and unpleasant sensations of climate change—an atmosphere becoming too hot for human habitation, in which the comforts of contemporary life are potentially lost. At the same time, a generalized concept of climate echoes the pervasive and systemic nature of noise pollution. Like noise, climate change is inherently uncertain and indefinite. Yet the spatiotemporal scale of noise limits its perdurance as a concern both in itself and for environmental imaginaries. This has consequences not only for the parameters of “noise” that count as noise pollution but for the import of the category and its relation to environmental thought. If noise pollution had been based on something like “whistlers,” it might have taken a hemispheric scale. Instead, noise pollution falls away: there is no place for it in a totalizing rubric of climate change.
During the past decades, much has been learned about how fish and marine mammals hear, and how they react to and make use of sound while diving for fish. Many species of fish, seals and whales react to human-made sound, sometimes causing them harm. Much less is known about how marine birds hear, and how they react to and exploit underwater sound cues. For the past years, we studied the hearing abilities and reaction to underwater sound in fish-hunting species such as cormorants, murres and penguins. Cormorants were found to have acute hearing abilities under water, and both gentoo penguins and common murres reacted to under water noise bursts of moderate sound intensities. This indicates that many species of marine birds can perceive underwater sound and react adequately to it. What underwater sound cues would be important for marine birds to listen in to while diving, and how vulnerable would marine birds be when exposed to different kinds of human underwater sounds?
Soil mostly presents itself to us as a diverse surface, the interior of which remains hidden from us. We cannot see the manifold organisms and life processes present in soils, but we may hear them if we listen more closely. Soil animals use the substrate as communication medium and form a complex soundscape. Land use and land management as well es climate change may have a big impact on the soil soundscape – the acoustic complexity of a local soil animal community can serve as indicator of a functioning soil ecosystem. In the Sounding Soil project, we implement and apply ecoacoustic methods to investigate the spatial and temporal dynamics in soil biodiversity and community composition.
All videos recorded by Davi Diógenes in 2014-2015.
A 13-minute mix of recordings from along Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet shoreline. Starting from underneath a flapping flagpole at Canada Place, from where we hear a series of horns sounding out the first four notes of the Canadian national anthem (a daily noon occurrence), we encounter the sounds of grain terminals, seaplanes, and the percussive thump of cars over Lions Gate Bridge, before taking a ferry across Vancouver Harbour to listen to waves breaking at Starboat Cove. This audio portrait was recorded in the summer of 2018, while retracing the steps of the World Soundscape Project’s 1972-1973 Vancouver recording project. The piece was originally transmitted on Radiophrenia arts radio station, Glasgow, in November 2020.
Recorded on November 6, 2015, at 7 pm.
For my portion of Task 1, I used the resource sheet that we received from guest speaker Bill Page and contacted Greg Bailey of Cushing Library to do an interview about the history of basketball at A&M.
Basketball started off as just a recreational sport for the students that generated enough players to become a small team. When they first started competing, it was in 1912 with Coach Steger and Captain Eddie Dreiss whose interest in basketball and effort help build the team. During the first year, they played teams like Marling High, Galveston YMCA, and Houston High never really going against any college teams. As more students got involved it turned into a competitive sport with conferences and intramurals, and for the work that Steger did in 1915, the Longhorn was dedicated to him. After establishing themselves as a basketball team for the university, they began to face other universities and realize they were a force to be reckoned with. They became undefeated at times with their longest-running coach Shelby McKaff, and today has made name for A&M basketball. However, it was the Big 12 NCAA Championship game in 2011 with Coach Gary Blair that made history for women’s basketball at Texas A&M.
Gary Blair is pivotal in A&M Women’s basketball. Historians of the area including Greg Bailey say that since Gary Blair became coach in 2003, he turned the women’s program around and made it into the team it is today. First, it was the post-season Big 12 title the girls won in 2008 against Oklahoma State (64-59) that made waves in the history for A&M basketball. During the 2011 championship, the team went from the bottom to the top building momentum from their first win in the region against McNeese State (87-47) to the big win before the championship game against Baylor University (58-46). Coming down against Notre Dame (76-70) the team had great encouragement from fans, Aggieland, Coach Blair, and motivation from their point guard at the time A’Quonesia Franklin. As a freshman, A’Quonesia Franklin (PG), was voted Rookie of the week three times straight. She was also a starter on the team along with other players such as 4 Sydney Carter, 15 Maryann Baker, 20 Tyra White, 21 Adaora Elonu (C), 23 Danielle Adams (MOP), 34 Karla Gilbert, and 51 Sydney Colson they were able to motivate each other to the victory. Together as a community, they were able to make history for basketball at Texas A&M University.
In analyzing the Texas A&M vs. UNC Ashville basketball game there is a great deal of structure and organization put into the performance. The performance is organized through the use of time periods split into 4 quarters of 10 minutes each. Referees are present to ensure the game is played as fairly as possible and to keep the game structures across the board, regardless of the teams involved or the location. Lastly, there are additional rules and regulations put in place to keep the game structured such as limiting the number of players on the court at one time to five per team and having boundary lines for the court. There are climactic moments throughout the game such as when one team steals the ball from the other. However, the most suspenseful moments included each time a team member tried to shoot the ball, which was followed by a celebration by one side or the other. Free-throws played a major role in the climatic moments for it provided a great deal of suspense for the entire auditorium at one time, and put the spotlight on a single player. The performers are not only the athletes on each team but the coaches as well who are calling the shots and providing instructions to the team members. Although these are the performers, everyone is most focused on, everyone in the stadium participates as performers as well. Those in the audience play a major role as performers as well; the fans provide enthusiasm and set the mood of the game through cheers, holding signs, and providing encouragement for their respective sides, and this includes the reporters and broadcasters narrating the game as well.
I attended the basketball game held at Reed Arena when Texas A&M played Texas A&M International. The immediate shape of Reed Arena caught my eye. Unlike most buildings, the structure was circular. Opening the doors to the actual court was like another world. The lights were bright and everything was focused to the center of the room. Reed Arena is structured to involve every person in the room. There are three levels of Reed: upper level, lower level, and the court. The seats for the audience surround the court and makes sure that every patron’s attention is to the center of the arena. Reed Rowdies, which is a group of students, sit on both ends of the court cheering back and forth getting every person involved. This circular shape enables every attendee to participate and receive the best experience possible. There is a very definite distinction between who is playing and who the audience is. The audience is elevated while the players, coaches, dancers, etc. are in the center of the building on the lowest level, again ensuring that the attention is on them. Like any performance, this game was staged to enhance every element to make sure the audience had a great time and also boosting the morale of the players. Loud music, flashing lights, yelling fans, and even squeaking of tennis shoes on the court is what makes the game come to life.
Dylan Shick is a Sport Management major from Cibolo, TX; but most importantly, he is the loudest, and the proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2017! This year is his 15th year playing basketball and is his 2nd year playing in college. He was about 5 years old when he started recreationally and competitively. A toy basketball is what got him to start playing; it was one of the first toys he remembers playing with. Dylan would play every day after school with his dad and a little plastic hoop. The most memorable game of Shick’s basketball career happened during his state semi-finals in his senior year of high school. His team was the underdog, and no one expected them to be playing at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas; also known as the home of the Texas Longhorns. This was also the last game of his high school career. Although they lost the game, it was an unbelievable experience. His team played in front of the biggest crowd they had ever encountered, and he was able to make lifelong memories with some of his best friends. His funniest basketball moment happened during one of his high school playoff games of his senior year, one of his teammates passed him the ball since he was wide open and he so graciously tripped over his own feet and slid into the wall. He didn’t believe it was funny at the moment, but after the team won the game, that’s all that people were talking about. Shick’s favorite basketball player is Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. Cibolo is extremely close to San Antonio, so Dylan grew up watching Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Shick expressed that Duncan is selfless and is one of the best examples of a team player he’s ever seen. Dylan has been able to see how much of an amazing role model he is for young basketball players. Aside from Duncan, the people that inspire Shick the most are his parents. From the advice they’ve given him in his 20 years to just being all-around great people, they’ve inspired Dylan to be not only the best player he could be but also the best person. It was their unconditional love and support that has gotten him to where he is today and he strives to become a parent like them. They inspire him to succeed in life and his goal is to do well enough to where he can give back to them because they have given him so much.
Performance by La Orquesta Salmerum Salsa Concert and Dance
5:00 – Interview with Salsa Fusion dancer David Cuevas
8:03 – Interview with Kim Fox, Worldfest Coordinator
The first Brazos Valley Worldfest was held on November 17, 2007. Texas A&M and the cities of Bryan and College Station created the event, planning the first one over a year in advance. Kim Fox has been the Festival Coordinator since the first festival in 2007. The first Worldfest had a little over 15 groups. These groups include the International Sports Club, Tipi Tellers, Hungarian and Indian food vendors, a Houston flamenco dance group, and a Japanese drummer. Bryan Public Library and Brazos Children’s Museum were also involved.
The first Worldfest was in the streets of downtown Bryan in 2007, but since 2009 it has been hosted in the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater. The first year had 3,000 guests in attendance and the number doubled in 2008. As the audience grows, the festival grows. In 2009, it grew from 15 groups to 60 groups. Worldfest 2012 had the first salsa tasting contest and the first Aggie tailgate with Bus 12. Worldfest 2014 was the first time alcohol was offered. Worldfest conducted a “Beers Around the World” tasting. It was also the first year traditional Argentine dances were performed. Worldfest 2015 had the most cultural booths with a record number of 58. Some groups that have been added are the Aggieland Cloggers, Pied Piper of Percussion, Indonesian Student Association, African Safari Program, Fightin’ Texas Aggie Belly Dancing Association, Laya Dance Group, and the Brazos Valley Czech Heritage Society.
Brazos Valley Worldfest is promoted in a couple of different ways. Their biggest promoter is The Eagle newspaper, which has written several articles about the festival since its origins in 2007. The Eagle helps the Brazos Valley Worldfest gather volunteers, gives the community plenty of notice before the event and writes good reviews after the event. The Brazos Valley Worldfest website has also promoted itself and its activities since the first festival. In recent years they have put on events that not only promote the event but also help raise money for it. In 2010 the Worldfest put on their first 5k: Run for the World. Currently, Worldfest also runs Zumbathons to raise money and awareness.
This past weekend was the ninth Brazos Valley Worldfest and it took place at Wolf Pen Creek yet again. Although there were only approximately thirty performances this year, they were supplemented with many other crowd-pleasing and educational activities. A Global Village, Global Marketplace, and Kid’s Village were spread throughout the festival field. Within the Global Village, cultural displays were present for Asian, European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and many other various ethnicities. The Global Village provided culturally themed cooking demonstrations. The Global Marketplace was comprised of a myriad of ethnic vendors, an international food court, and “Beers Around the World.” Finally, the Kid’s Village provided international games, arts and crafts, and the Franklin Safari Petting Zoo.
I attended the festival on what seemed to be a busy Saturday, wherein I could see that this particular day was a family day. There were many kids running around, riding horses, eating sweets, and participating in the games and activities that each cultural booth made available. The kids and families seemed to all be happy and ecstatic to go from booth to booth to see what other pieces of information, jewelry, or food they could get their hands on. Those who ran the booth also seemed to enjoy explaining their culture to everyone and seemed very eager to hand out informational pamphlets or other items that related to their culture. The weather also seemed to contribute to the festive atmosphere, as it was a cloudless, sunny, blue-skied day. The air was cool and there was a nice breeze, making it perfect weather to run around in, or set up a blanket on the lawn to watch the cultural performances.
There was a variety of performances throughout my time at the Worldfest, but the majority of these performances consisted of traditional dances performed by children. Some of the performances I saw that intrigued me the most were traditional Indian dances, performed by young girls, a traditional Spanish Flamenco dance, also performed by young girls. These experiences interested me the most because of how well they seemed to be performed by children of such a young age.
When I attended Brazos Valley Worldfest on Saturday, November 21, I decided to analyze the performance of a Native American Storyteller at the Spirit of Texas Bank Community Stage.
This performance was a one-woman show by Eldrena Douma. Ms. Douma is part of the Pueblo Nation. She was wearing an authentic Native American dress and moccasins. She began the performance by introducing herself and said that her goal was to help us better understand the Pueblo Nation as well as other Native American Nations through her story-telling. Each folklore story she told explained why certain things in the world are the way they are. The first story she told was about the reason why bears no longer have long fluffy tails. According to the story, bears no longer have long tails because a bear was fishing one cold day using its tail, and the tail got stuck to the ice and broke right off. She used a long furry tail as her prop and she acted out certain motions from the story. The second story she told was about the watchdogs of the Hope Nation and how as long as you always take care of your dogs, they will always be your best friends. As she told this story, she howled and barked and truly sounded like a real dog. The third story she told was about Prairie dogs and the effect they have on the rain. She said that the Prairie dogs were able to make it rain when the lands were drying up by dancing and singing in a circle with rattles. As she said this, She had a rattle in her hand and shook it as if she was dancing for the rain to come. When the prairie dogs wanted the rain to stop because the land was starting to flood, they would fill a bag with stink bugs and shake the bag to make the stink bugs upset. When they would open the bag the stinkbugs would release a stench so fowl the clouds moved away and it stopped raining. Ms. Douma used a bag to demonstrate and she got the audience involved by having us hold up imaginary bags and shake them like crazy to make the stinkbugs angry. The fourth story was about ants and she brought a big fake ant as her prop. She said that at one time, ants had just one body segment. Then, however, an ant played tug-a-war with baby coyotes, and when the ant stopped paying attention for a moment, the coyotes pulled so tight that they almost cut the ant right in half. This is why she says ants have different segments in their bodies now. Ms. Douma ended her performance by talking briefly about the different Native American Tribes in Texas. She said the government recognizes three tribes here in Texas. Each tribe has its own way of singing and dancing as well as their own language. Although there are many differences between tribes, one thing that connects them all is the ancient tradition of storytelling.
Eldrena Douma did not necessarily organize her performance in chronological order, but rather more in a topical order; organizing according to subtopics. Each story she told had a different plot, and either taught a lesson or explained a natural phenomenon. In each story Douma told, she took on the roles of different characters, acting out different movements and fully immersing herself in them. Her introduction at the beginning of the performance gave the audience an idea of who she was as a Pueblo woman, as well as what her goal was in the performance. In between each story, Douma used transitional statements that included both an internal summary and internal preview. She briefly re-stated what her last story was about, and then went on to tell us what her next story would be about. Since she told multiple stories, there were multiple climactic moments throughout the performance. For example, in the first story, the climactic moment was the moment she said that the bear’s tail just broke right off. Another great example of a climactic moment was when she was talking about how the coyotes were pulling so tight and almost tore the ant in half in the last story. In her conclusion, she summarized what all she had talked about, motivated the audience by stating that she hoped her stories helped the audience understand more about her people, and finally provided closure.
The Brazos Valley World Fest takes place at the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater. The main performances take place on the amphitheater stage itself. It is a very simple concrete and modern structure with no ornamentation other than the nature surrounding it. The performers are separated from the audience by a moat surrounding the stage. Beyond the moat, there is a concrete area that stretches the length of the stage and is large enough to be used as a dance floor or an extension of the stage itself where the performers can interact with the audience. The rest of the immediate theater area is the hillside that slopes down toward it. The World Fest performers utilize this space to create an atmosphere where families can come to participate in the cultural displays, no matter the age range. While the performers play their music, the couples take the dancefloor and participate in the performance itself and children play along the hillside as others lay down blankets and take in the music. This space also does not limit the different number of cultural displays that can take place as some may be more audience involved and some may require more listening. Along with stage, the rest of the surrounding area is staged so you are exposed to multiple cultural booths and smaller temporary stages before you make it to the heart of the festival at the amphitheater. It is essentially contained on the path that leads down to the theater and no part is separated from the rest. Not only does it catch the eye but it also creates a sense of unity with so many cultures in one place, sharing with one another in peace.
0 – National anthem
1:10 – Opening speech
1:50 – History and purpose of Aggie Muster
4:01 – List of deceased Aggies
9:06 – Firing of riffles by Core of Cadets
Aggie Muster is a tradition of Texas AM celebrating the remembrance of fellow alumni that have passed away within the past year as well as coming together and cherishing the time spent as an Aggie. The tradition started on June 26, 1883, where the alumni of Texas AM gathered to celebrate their time spent within the University. The tradition evolved further within the same year when the Ex-Cadets Association established the ”Roll Call for the Absent”. This evolution incorporated remembrance of deceased Texas AM alumni who were not able to attend the gathering. This event became an organized tradition celebrated annually but did not have a set date until later. In the year 1889, the administrators of Texas AM declared San Jacinto Day as an official school holiday. This date is particularly important in Texas history because it is the anniversary date of the Battle of San Jacinto in which Texas gained Independence from Mexico. Texas A&M University president, David Franklin Houston, made plans to cancel to school holiday. In 1903 many students disapproved of the idea of getting rid of the holiday, and thus President Davis Houston proposed to retain the holiday if students were to use the school holiday in a constructive manner. On April 21, 1903, Aggie Muster merged with the Texas Independence celebration and featured athletic events and banquets to honor alumni. This tradition remained unchanged for fifteen years. The origins of Aggie Muster during this time period featured a celebration of Texas independence, camaraderie, and fellowship. In 1918, many of the Texas AM alumni were involved in World War I so many of these former students were unable to return to campus. On April 21, President Bizzell encouraged students and alumni to gather together. President Bizzell became the first administrator to official support Aggie Muster. After the end of the war in the early 1920s Aggies returned and formed regional AM clubs in order to reunite with fellow alumni. The formation of these groups helped formalized the Aggie Muster tradition. The Aggie association magazine, Texas Aggie, furthered the formalization of the tradition by encouraging Aggies to gather and relive the days spent attending the university. The date April 21 became officially recognized as the official day of events for all Aggies in 1922. In 1924, the Aggie Muster tradition evolved by the addition of reading aloud the roll call of the dead. In 1927, the song Taps was also incorporated into the current Aggie Muster tradition. The tradition continued to grow in strength, spirit, and meaning. In 1929, the meetings spread worldwide and in 1942, Aggie Muster gained international recognition. Currently, Aggie Muster is celebrated in more than 300 locations worldwide; the largest Muster is held each year with over 12,000 attendees in Reed Arena on the campus of Texas AM University in College Station. The current tradition celebrated on campus involves a camaraderie barbecue, recitation of several poems and speeches as well a Roll Call of the Absent- in which Aggies honor a remembrance of an Aggie that has passed away within the last year. The Roll Call of the Absent involves family members or friends to answer ”here” and light a candle in remembrance when the name of the affiliated deceased person is called. Following the roll call, Ross Volunteers give a 21-gun salute, and the song Silver Taps is played.
Aggie Muster is truly an amazing event because it doesn’t just take place in one day. Muster starts at the beginning of the week with the “Reflection’s Hall” in the MSC, where families can put memorials to their lost family and friends. On the day of April 21, Aggies will meet and have lunch with the 50th-anniversary class on campus. Later on, that night Aggies will get dressed in nice clothes and make their way to Reed Arena. Once there Muster is started with an opening speaker. Muster is filled with tons of traditions that keep Muster similar to how it was held in 1942, the first Muster. Speakers of all kinds speak about Muster and discuss the many reasons Aggies feel the need to celebrate and come together every year on April 21. The main speaker is also invited and asked to say a few things about his experience at Texas A&M and how it has affected his life since. After the speakers have all sat down, the lights all went out and the names of all of the fallen Aggies in the past year and all of the fallen Aggies from the class of 1966, or the 50th anniversary class. With each name called a candle is lit and people all around the room say “here”. Once all the names are called the candles make a square around the families of the fallen Aggies sitting on the bottom floor. Muster is about so much more than recognizing fallen Aggies; it is about remembering why we are all here and how much we still have in common.
Aggie Muster occurs every year on the 21st of April. And it has been held in Reed Arena for many years. One of the reasons it is held here is because of the massive amount of people that attend the service every year. The first Muster held on campus, in 1924, was held in Guion Hall, and since then the service has moved around in order to make room for the ever-growing number in attendance each year. This space symbolizes the connection between the students and their school. Because the service is held on campus it makes it easier for more students to get to. That is one of the main reasons that service is held at Reed Arena.
There is a clear definition between the people who are physically taking part in the service and the people attending. Since the people who are participating in making the service happen are located on the ground, and the audience sits up in the stands surrounding the ground. This makes them use a theater in the round style stage; however, they chose to only speak to one side.
The way the stage is set up is by putting it up against a wall and having the speaker talk only to one side. However, the people participating in the candlelight part of the service are facing all directions. There are several elements that take place in order to make this service run well. There is a huge staff of volunteers that help prepare everything that needs to be done. In order to prepare the space, they need to take out the basketball court, set up chairs and a stage, and finish with any decorations. Once this is done the space is ready for the annual Muster. This is a very heartwarming performance.
We interviewed Reilly Lowe class of 2018 Muster Camaraderie Coordinator and Jeff Bales class of 2016 Traditions Council. We each asked the same questions and were given very similar answers as to things such as why they felt Muster is an important cultural performance. Lowe said, “I think it’s such an important tradition to A&M, and for a lot of people it is the most important tradition at A&M. [Muster] is something that every person that goes to Texas A&M will be a part of.” Bales replied similarly with his statement, “I feel like [Muster] is extremely important to those who live here and far away and that it is recognized fairly well to those of us living near or around campus.”
Both Lowe and Bales got involved in this cultural performance in different ways. Lowe stated, “I applied to be Muster Host and got that position my freshmen year. I fell in love with the camaraderie aspect and Muster made me see the school through a different light. I grew up with the nostalgia of people gathering together and talking about their days as students at A&M. This year I am on Muster Committee and I specifically work on the Camaraderie BBQ.” While Bales was introduced he said his roommate “practically dragged me to every event that he could get me to go to and I’m very glad that he did because now I have the chance to share [Muster] with new aggies through Traditions Council.”
When asked about the common misconceptions both Lowe and Bales agreed that many people see Muster as a very solemn and serious event. Lowe stated, “Muster is not just about sadness, it’s about remembering those people that have passed and celebrating the class of 1966.” Bales had a ever similar response to this same question saying, “while [Muster] is a ceremony of remembrance, it is more like a giant family reunion where at the end of the day we simply remember those who weren’t able to make it another year with us.”
Over the years both Lowe and Bales seem to agree that while the tradition has changed, “Muster has grown tremendously from its humble beginnings and I guess you could say that the amount of Muster’s help worldwide has changed and the ability to use social media to spread the word about it also helps for it to continue to grow” (Bales). When asked if the promotion of Muster should change in any way, Lowe stated, “There shouldn’t be more or less promotion because [Muster] is promoted in a respectful way. People are going to come if they want to come; and most make the time to come. Promoting Muster is more along the lines of reminding people about when Muster is and what it is about. I am very happy with the way it is run.” Bales agreed by saying, “I think that the Muster Committee does a wonderful job of spreading the news and for those who attended Fish Camp or Transfer Camp.” Muster is a cultural performance that is important to Lowe and Bales, but also the Aggie community as a whole. People view Muster in the same way, even if they come from different backgrounds.
Group: Rafael Alvarado, Farrukh Botirzoda, Emma Campos, Courtney Cowan, Stewart Lach, Jeniffer Oyee, Francisco Santiesteban, Meghana Sharma, Megan Tracy, Brandon Warner
April 10, 1:05 pm at Olsen Field – Texas A&M vs. University of Georgia
Baseball has been a longstanding historical part of Texas A&M, ever since its founding in 1894, it has both grown and changed over the years but has remained a core sport that students and alumni have participated in over the years, showing their support as the spirit of the 12th man. The third layer, localized rituals, plays a big part in the overall experience of the game as baseball is very dependent upon the participant’s interaction with the players, as the fans allow a unique home-field advantage for the Texas A&M team over visitors. At Texas A&M, fans are not only viewers but performers due to their involvement. The 12th man is close enough to the field that they are able to heckle and disturb the other team’s players and coaches, not even umpires are safe at times, however, all of this is all in good fun. These fans have a variety of different chants that they know together and perform in unison that can increase noise and affect the visiting team, even more, creating distractions through both noise and the comments made. The split between the performers and the audience is very defined and the audience is able to have a unique experience at each game as they are all different. Baseball in Aggieland is not only a game, but it becomes a weekend-long event that can take over as older generations of former students, as well as upcoming students, come into town to tailgate and stay to watch the series that occur at Blue Bell Park. This boosts the economy in the city of College Station as well as creates a better home environment for the players (the performers) that can change the outcome of the game. No other stadium possesses an audience like Blue Bell Park, containing the spirit of the 12th man which boosts the morale of Texas A&M’s players by showing them support, regardless of what the scoreboard may say. We’ve seen them win, we’ve seen them lose, but we’ve never seen them quit. The school spirit and pride shown at each game are unmeasurable and are an unstoppable force that cannot be calmed. Whether you go to a Texas A&M Baseball game for the social aspect of the game itself, there is something for everyone to experience. No matter your background or current state, all those in attendance come together as one body. This creates a mixing of generations as well as the mixing of cultures as people from all nationalities that attend the school also attend the game. Blue Bell Park essentially becomes a melting pot, creating one harmonious environment for all present, regardless of background. The game itself also contains many traditions of the University that are integrated into the performance that perform the city. These are cultural performances that occur in the representational space that the audience experiences and participates in. For example before and after every game, both the players and fans participate in the War Hymn together and fans wear maroon in order to show support for the team. Texas A&M Baseball at Blue Bell Park is truly a unique and remarkable experience you can find nowhere else.
The Aggie Baseball event attended was on April 22nd at BlueBell Park. We were seated
in the student section by first base. Like any Aggie event, it is important to get there early to get decent seats, the best place is to sit by the first baseline because that’s where the visitors’ side is.
The audience can get very rowdy, and half yell at the players, sometimes it can be obscene to the visitors, and nice only to our boys. There are no specific yells involved, but more so individual comments made by the audience, and the players react to it since they’re closer than if you were at a football game. For example, they would learn the names of the players on the other team and taunt them throughout the game, like the pitcher and try to get them off their game by yelling and saying pitches would be a “ball 4” or “ball 5”. There are also interactions between the coaches and the crowd as well, they tip their hats to each other and the crowd interacts with the announcer as well. Fun fact, any time the aggies score a run, there are celebratory bubbles blown by bubble machines the audience brings, and honestly, it feels magical. Overall the mood is very lively but of course, it depends if we win or lose. This game was a rather close one until the 10th inning when we scored a run in the last moments. I’ve been to other baseball games in both major and minor leagues and I’m glad that college games like these are exciting to attend.
On February 19th sitting on the grass mound along the side of the baseball field and seeing everyone rooting for the men in maroon, I realized as a freshman how alive the 12th man was not only in football games but in baseball games as well. The most noise, not including the applause and hoots that happen whenever the Aggies get a run, surprisingly happens towards the opposing team. The student section is where most of the noise comes from, for Aggie’s research the opposing team, find the names of the pitchers of that team and scream his name while he is trying to concentrate on striking out our boys. The noise suddenly dissipates as soon as the small white ball leaves the pitchers hand so the Aggie on deck can concentrate on batting.
In Aggieland, Olsen Field was the original university baseball park, built in 1978. However, thanks to a sponsor by Blue Bell Creameries, Olsen field was remodeled into the Blue Bell Park that we go to watch our favorite baseball team play. Blue Bell Park was opened in February of 2012. Like many other Texas A&M University sports venues, Blue Bell Park is top of the line and is arguably one of the best baseball stadiums in the collegiate league.
There were some significant architectural changes that were made during the remodel that critically changed the way the audience would experience the performance. The designers created spots that would be of the utmost convenience to guests with special needs. Although there is a clear spatial division between the audience and the performers, the fans are closer to the performance because the builders reduced the space between the home plate and the guests. Guests now also have the option to sit in the lawn along the 1st and 3rd baselines. There are 20 Suites available to rent. Blue Bell Park can hold 6,100 Aggies. There were also some remodels that were done to benefit the performers such as weight room, training rooms, locker rooms, and coach’s offices.
Overall, these remodels improved and will continue to improve the performance experience for both the audience and performers. Performers don’t want to perform in a rundown facility, and audiences don’t want to go watch a performance if it’s not up to par.
1) A friend of mine Jaden Mongozy play baseball at Texas A&M so one afternoon we sat down and had an informal interview. During this time I followed the tips provided to me and from that I learned things that I would have never known before about his cultural performance. When I asked him about his preparation he explained how every day, year round he does something to make himself a better baseball player. From multiple practices a day to working with trainers each athlete has to be in the best shape possible to perform at a high level. Then when it comes time for the games the players themselves have rituals that they perform just like the fans sitting in the stands. Unlike a play or other traditional forms of cultural performances this performance is not scripted so everybody has to be ready for everything at a given moment. This doesn’t just refer to the players, he was extremely adamant that if you attend a baseball game you need to be paying attention if you’re not sitting behind a net. At any time a foul ball could come flying at anyone, and this is a dangerous situation that is unavoidable during the game of baseball. He finished off the interview with me by informing me that he has a true love for the game and that he will continue to play for as long as he possibly can.
2) Savannah Ortiz is a current student at Texas A&M University and a member of the Aggie Diamond Darlings. When asked to explain the Diamond Darlings program, Savannah said it is a “student support group that promotes school spirit and supports the Aggie Baseball Team… Our game-day duties include but are not limited to, selling programs before and during the games, assisting with on-field activities, serving as bat-girl, running the Guest Service booth and providing assistance to visitors at the stadium”. Savannah started school at A&M in August of 2014 and has been in love with the school and the community since. She has a family background in baseball and played softball growing up, so she is thrilled to be a part of the Aggie baseball community.
Savannah enjoys the very traditional aspects of the cultural performance of Aggie baseball. She sees many traditions that are “so distinct and original to Aggie baseball games, such as the John Wayne video clip that plays when a pitcher strikes a batter out, blowing bubbles through fish-shaped bubble machines when the Ag’s score, ordering a pint (yes, a pint) of Blue Bell ice cream, singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” during the 7th inning stretch”. She tells me “it’s so fun and rewarding. It’s something I’ll hold near and dear to my heart forever. I love and cherish all the connections I’ve made through it”. Savannah’s personal involvement in Aggie baseball gives insight to one the individual trajectories involved in this cultural performance.
1) Cinco de Mayo is often confused as Mexico’s Independence Day worldwide when in reality it is actually the date of a significant battle victory for Mexico. On the fifth of May, 1862 2,000 Mexican soldiers led by General Ignacio Zaragoza face 6,000 French troops led by General Charles Latrille de Lorencez at Puebla de Los Angeles. This battle lasted from Dawn to later that evening. It finally ended when the French retreated with a loss of almost 500 soldiers while the Mexican army had less than 100 soldiers killed. This battle victory marked Mexico’s ability to defend its freedom against powerful nations. Cinco de Mayo is a relatively small holiday in Mexico, but it has evolved throughout the years in the United States. Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage throughout the U.S., especially in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Some traditions used to celebrate Cinco de Mayo include parades, Mariachis, musical performances, and street festivals (History.com 1).
Here in the Bryan/College Station area, it is celebrated in Rudder Plaza on Texas A&M University campus. This event is called Fiesta 505 and the MSC Committee for the Awareness of the Mexican American Culture (CAMAC) hosts this event. The first Mexican- American students at Texas A&M University founded CAMAC in 1974. This organization consists of various Hispanic/Latino and non-Latino background students working together to educate the community about Hispanic/Latino culture through events, such as Fiesta 505 and many more (MSC CAMAC 1). Student volunteers that are members of CAMAC plan this event (Sanchez 1). This event was originally hosted in Bryan by the City of College Station Parks and Recreation Cinco de Mayo Festival organization and then in 1998, Bryan canceled the event and CAMAC took over since then (The Battalion 1998). Once the CAMAC took over this event they began to include a Cinco de Mayo talent show and awards ceremony that was held in Rudder Theatre. They also include traditional Mexican food, music including live bands and mariachis, contests such as jalapeno eating contests, games, dancing, and performances (Coggins 1). This event included the participation of several groups from campus throughout the years including the Kappa Alpha Psi stepping team, Aggieland Mariachis, Aggie Salseros, and the MSC Salsa club. Over the previous years, this event has been held at the George Bush Presidential Library but it has been recently moved to Rudder Plaza and since the fifth of may land during finals week this event usually takes place a few weeks in advance (The Battalion 1998). This year’s event wasn’t as interactive and developed as the previous years due to rescheduling because of weather interference on the original date. CAMAC still provided food, games, and live music to set the mood. They also had a “Grito” Challenge to see who could scream the loudest and gave free t-shirts to the winners. The goal of this event is to spread the diversity that lies within the Bryan/ College Station community (The Eagle 2004).
Coggins, Katie. “Group to Reenact Cinco De Mayo.” The Batt. The Battalion, 29 Apr. 2005. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
“Cinco De Mayo Celebrated on Campus.” The Battalion [College Station] 5 May 1998: 1. Print.
Sanchez, Laura. “Fiesta 505.” The Batt. The Battalion, 1 May 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
“Students Honor Cinco De Mayo.” The Battalion [College Station] 5 May 1998: 1. Print.
“Culture Celebrated at Fiesta.” The Eagle [Bryan-College Station] 3 May 2004: 1. Print.
History.com staff. “Cinco De Mayo.” History.com. 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
MSC CAMAC. MSC CAMAC, 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
2) Every year MSC Committee for the Awareness of the Mexican American Culture puts on an event to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The purpose of MSC CAMAC is to inform the student body about the Hispanic/Latino culture. The organization was founded in 1974 and is, therefore, celebrating its forty-second anniversary. Fiesta 505 is just one of many events they host throughout the year. The first celebration of Cinco de Mayo that the MSC CAMAC hosted was in 1998. MSC CAMAC started hosting this celebration on campus when the City of Bryan stopped hosting a Cinco de Mayo festival. The 1998 Cinco de Mayo celebration included a talent show and awards ceremony. The celebration was held in Rudder Theater. 2004 was the third year that MSC CAMAC hosted Fiesta 505. In that year, MSC CAMAC also partnered with Fiestas Patrias to help with the celebration (The Battalion). Fiestas Patrias is a non -profit organization from the city of Bryan focused on promoting the Mexican culture and educating the community about their traditions and values (Fiestaspatrias.org)
The purpose of MSC CAMAC working with Fiestas Patrias for the event in 2004 was to bring a more diverse crowd to the celebration. Organizers of Fiesta 505 hoped that by partnering with Fiestas Patrias, they would bring in people from the traditionally Hispanic areas of Bryan. The event in 2004 drastically changed from the talent show and awards ceremony that was held in 1998. The 2004 Fiesta 505 not only included the typical mariachi bands and dancers but also added some newer elements. The newer elements included Tejano music and low-rider cars. The new additions were another part of MSC CAMAC’s intent to draw a more diverse crowd to the celebration (The Battalion, 2004). In 2005, the chair of MSC CAMAC wanted Fiesta 505 to be a reenactment of typical Cinco de Mayo celebrations in an attempt to spread awareness. Fiesta 505 of 2005 included many of the same attractions as the year before, such as the low-rider car exhibition and bands, but added a few more. Different organizations on campus were invited to have booths and there were performances by the community and high school groups. In order to add a little fun more fun to the event, a jalapeno-eating contest was also included in the festivities (The Battalion, 2005). The celebration changed a good amount throughout the years. First promoted through fliers and newspaper articles, Fiesta 505 now has its own Facebook page. Throughout the change, the purpose of Fiesta 505 stayed intact and the Mexican American culture is both promoted and celebrated. Attending the event is both educational and exciting.
“Fiestas Patrias.” Fiestas Patrias. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2016.
“Culture Celebrated at Fiesta.” The Eagle [Bryan] 3 May 2004: n. pag. Print.
Coggins, Katie. “Group to Reenact Cinco De Mayo.” The Batt. The Battalion, 29 Apr. 2005. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
“Cinco De Mayo Celebrated on Campus.” The Battalion [College Station] 5 May 1998: 1. Print.
Sanchez, Laura. “Fiesta 505.” The Batt. The Battalion, 1 May 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. .
“Students Honor Cinco De Mayo.” The Battalion [College Station] 5 May 1998: 1. Print.
1) Before attending the Cinco de Mayo event held at Texas A&M University, I personally did not understand the true meaning of the holiday. I was feeling excited and nervous at the same time. For the event, I even dressed up for the occasion wearing a festive Cinco de Mayo shirt, bright colors, and accessories. I was eager to attend this celebration because growing up it had been one of my favorite holidays for families and friends to celebrate together, but I never understood the origin of the holiday. When the day finally came around, I arrived at the Cinco de Mayo event, and I was immediately overwhelmed. I had not expected the number of people to attend this event. Everyone around me was wearing festive colors and accessories, tasting the different types of foods, dancing, and enjoying the celebration. I felt welcomed and ready to join in. As I got in line for the food, a group of people approached me and began to explain their experiences of Cinco de Mayo. They explained to me that this holiday was popular and important to their families and friends back in their hometown. I enjoyed learning about what they had to say and decided to stay with their group. The food presented at the event was definitely astonishing, very delicious. The group of people I was with gave me a brief explanation of everything I encounter. They even taught me how to dance! As the event came near to an end, I realized why I enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo holiday growing up. This holiday allowed me to learn something new and to interact with people different than me. The group of people I had met at the event is now friends of mine. In the end, the celebration was a great experience.
2) The day was clear and extremely sunny as I was getting closer to Rudder Plaza for the Fiesta 505 event held by MSC CAMAC, I could already hear the music blasting through the speakers. The DJ was switching it up between reggaeton, bachata, and cumbia so it was a good mix of upbeat Latin music which created an inviting environment. We were to check in at a table where once our IDs were swiped we were each given a paper with an incomplete fact that we were to fill out by visiting each table/ booth where after completing the activity we were to be given a clue to complete the fact. Once the fact was complete we turned the slip in to get food. The food was really good, it was not the real deal as far as authentic Mexican food like the one I’m used to but it was close enough as it gets. They served rice, beans, and chicken and beef fajitas with a side of pico, guacamole, and salsa. The music was really good in my opinion really catchy upbeat songs, which was good background music while visiting each booth activity. One booth consisted of trivia questions asking about the history of Cinco de Mayo and various categories, such as history, entertainment, and geography. The next booth was a matching activity where we were to pair up images to make up a picture of a historical Mexican figure. The last one was a trivia activity, but “pin the tail on the donkey” version. There was also a booth where you could sign up to participate in two competitions they were having, one being the traditional Mexican “grito” competition and the other being a jalapeno eating contest, which I was not brave enough to participate in. The students working the booths were very easy going and inviting and extremely easy to talk to, making jokes and inviting us to continue on to the next activity. After completing the activities and finishing up my food, there was a performance by the CAMAC crew, they danced various Latin genres such as bachata, salsa, merengue, and a traditional Baja California dance, which was interesting to see given that we really don’t see that region of Mexico performed very often. It was good to see how they incorporated the various dances. The next performance was a surprise, it was a group of children dancing to Mexican Folklorico, they danced the traditional “Son De La Negra” other Jalisco songs along with a group of girls dancing some songs from the region of Veracruz. It was nice seeing how children still want to participate in traditional dances like that, the girls wearing the big beautiful flowy squirts and the boys all dressed up in their charro outfits. I knew most of the performers from the CAMAC crew and got to talk to them after their performance, they were all out of breath and still a little nervous but overall they were glad to have performed for the crowd. I also got to talk to one of the moms whose daughter was performing. And she told me how her little girl liked to dance Folklorico and that she hoped her opinion stayed that way as she got older, which is understandable because there are not many teenagers still wanting to perform those dances. I am part of the Texas A&M Mexican Folklorico dance group and was kind of disappointed we didn’t get to perform for this event, but it was really nice seeing children perform the dances we do in a much more adorable way. I was glad to see how the history of Cinco de Mayo got incorporated in the activities and how the audience got to experience a Mexican Folklorico performance during the event. After the performances, the DJ announced an open dance floor for anybody that wanted to dance, which was really fun, dancing to cumbia and bachata until the event concluded.
Fiesta 505 was a celebration of Cinco de Mayo, “La Batalla de Puebla”. The performance began at 6:00 pm and it was located in Rudder Plaza. The plaza was divided into different sections. CAMAC the organization in charge of the event decided to have different booths where you learned fun facts about Cinco de Mayo. Each booth had about three volunteers. Each section had different activities. In order to participate in the event, we had to sign in and receive a slip of paper. The slips of paper contained sentences with blank spaces. The sentences were fun facts about the Cinco de Mayo. The participant had to complete a task in order to obtain a clue or the actual answer to complete the sentence. In the first booth (section) we had to yell as loud as we could something patriotic about Cinco de Mayo or something about Mexico; “Viva Mexico!” For the second booth, we had to find the match of important Mexican historical figures, such as Pancho Villa. The third and final booth had a jeopardy game. The presentations were entertaining and informative. After the students/participants were able to fill in all the blanks they would receive food from Rosa’s Café. The food tables were located by the MSC building. For these tables, MSC ALOT volunteers were in charge of serving the students food and drinks. Throughout this process, the background music was bachata, rancheras, and other types of latino music. The DJ was located on the small stage next to the fountain. The climactic moment of the performance was when people started to eat and dance in the plaza. The music began to get louder and people began to show their moves.
The space in which the “Cinco de Mayo” performance takes place can be described as something that is, in fact, not something that really represents the “Battle of Puebla”. The space could also be described as spatial practice because the space in which the cultural performance took place was space as is in everyday life. There are several architectural elements present in the space where the cultural performance takes place. For example, the Memorial Student Center can be described as a modern work of art due to the complexity of its nature. There were not many decorations to hint what type of performance there was going on but something that stood out was the water fountain in the middle because it complemented the music well. There was not a very clear distinction between the cultural performance and audience because the point of this performance was to include the audience in the performance as much as possible. The only exception to this was, of course, the dance. Also, there was a space where people could grab traditional Mexican food, a space where people could learn more about the Battle of Puebla, and lastly, there was a space where the audience could dance to traditional Mexican music.
0:00 – band from the school music club,
1:02 – country singer in front of Daniel Stark Law
2:36 – belly dance performance
5:00 – keyboard player in front of an attorney’s office,
6:37 – children’s choir at the Palace Theater,
9:48 – band performing at the Revolution Cafe,
12:25 – artist performing folk covers of pop songs.
First Friday is an event in downtown Bryan, Texas that occurs the first Friday of every month. It includes art exhibits, live music, food, and various other types of entertainment, games, and shopping opportunities. Most of the event is held in the center of downtown Bryan, taking up the majority of the main streets. Bryan was founded in the mid-19th century by William Bryan and began as a stop for the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Bryan continued to grow and has now flourished into a thriving city with many historic buildings. The Downtown Bryan Association has been working for many years to improve Downtown Bryan’s infrastructure and revitalize the city. First Friday was one of the ideas the Downtown Bryan Association came up with to stimulate the city and foster a sense of community. The event was started in 2005 by Greta Watkins, a business owner in the downtown area. She began the event by having live music and food in her art store, The Frame Gallery, in downtown and then began to invite other stores and groups to participate. These store owners wanted to increase foot traffic in the area and specifically in their stores, which stay open late during First Friday.
Over the eleven years that First Friday has occurred, the event has changed greatly. It started with one shop in a small section of downtown Bryan, now almost all shops, restaurants, and other businesses participate in the event. There are also food trucks and multiple local bands that perform throughout the night. The groups that participate in this event apply online and are approved by the Downtown Bryan Association. First Friday has also increased tourism in downtown Bryan and elevated the art scene. It is advertised all throughout Bryan and College Station on flyers and posters. It is also promoted heavily online through Downtown Bryan’s website and numerous social media sites. Archived information about First Friday can be found online at Downtown Bryan’s website. First Friday is an important and entertaining event that has helped revitalize downtown Bryan and brought the community together.
I attended First Friday in Downtown Bryan on April 1st. The weather was fair; a bit chilly
even for the spring month and most attendees that night were wearing jackets. I thought the
crowd to be most likely small compared to usual and I assumed that it had to do with the
unseasonably cold weather we were experiencing. Regardless of the size of the turnout, I found
the mood to still be very cheerful and lively. Several bands were playing in restaurants and street
corners echoed with aspiring guitarists strumming a tune.
There were booths set up along on the main strip every few yards or so. Most of them were
Texas A&M clubs handing out brochures in an attempt to promote their club, and others were
there to feel the thrill of performing. I appreciated the clubs that went there to perform for fellow
passersby, and I decided to stop and indulge one club in particular: The Order of Aggie
Illusionists. They approached my date and me, and asked if we would like to see a magic trick—I
was not going to say no. One man from the club demonstrated an amazing trick where he found
my card, which was originally colored black, and somehow managed to turn it red. I was
impressed, and so were the people that had begun to crowd around us midway trick to see what
all the commotion was about. I really like to see people come together and “ooh” and “ahhh”
over things such as this (a magic trick on a sidewalk); it gives a sense of community and shows
that we do in fact live in a fun town!
Overall First Friday appeared to be a hit. Not many people walking around because of the
chilly weather I suppose, but the restaurants were packed; drumming up a great business in that
little, historic downtown.
As I walked around the streets of downtown Bryan, I witnessed a variety of not only musical performances but dance as well. At the end of singers and musical performances, there was a man who was singing his heart out to the current mainstream music with only his voice and a guitar. As I continued walking around downtown Bryan, I noticed that there were two to three more musicians who sang in this same fashion throughout the night. Next, there were your small bands playing in the street like, the Critters and Shills, who were a small group that played folk type music. Then you had your large group performances, like the Texas A&M Century singers (sang current and old classics in a more jazzy bluestone), the Neal school choir consisting of elementary kids singing current and classic jams, and the big performance of the night at the Grand Stafford Theatre, The Quiet Company, playing rock music, a band originally from Austin, Texas. I encountered only one dance group the, Freestyle Underground Street Dancers, a group of 4-5 dancers who danced in a very versatile and robotic manner. By the end of the night, the group of dancers was the highlight of my experience during First Friday.
First Friday takes place in downtown, Bryan; city center that everyone gathers to see street performers, stores, and artists. Even though the downtown is not as big as New York or New Orleans, it was representing their own stage and performances that only this town can show. This small amount of space did not seem to affect performers to perform and other people to have fun. I think that it was nice for us to see most of the performances without getting too crowded because there was lots of space for people to stand outside to enjoy the performance. We were close together so that the music was clearly heard. Since it is a small downtown, I thought that it was great for us to see every single one of the performances and arts; I did not feel like I was missing out.
Not only was there performances outside (street performers), there was also music and arts and craft going in many stores. One of the stores had space in the corner where a little band was playing and next to it, there were arts that children can participate in and lastly there was an art exhibition. Even though there were a variety of activities going on in one store, a stage for the band and table for arts and crafts was clearly separated. The set up in this store was not only for one activity, it was set up to enjoy music while looking around to see arts and participate in arts and crafts.
Lastly, there is the Palace Theater. This stage is shaped for concerts, festivals, and shows. There is a space where 400 people can sit and enjoy the show as well as for performers, there are dressing rooms, marquee, and a stage to prepare for the performances.
While attending the performance on March 4th, we had the opportunity to interview Park Place Boulevard, a band composed of two artists (a pianist, Kade, and a guitar player, Matt) who composed original songs and also sang popular music of many genres.
We spoke with the pianist Kade, who has lived in the Bryan College Station area his whole life. He and his friend Matt have been together as a band for only four months after previously breaking off from a larger band. Both Kade and Matt are students at Texas A&M University and have been performing at First Friday for a little under 3 months. Since performing at First Friday, their fan base has widened and they have been invited to perform at other events including Sorority events and in the theatre as an opening band. As Kade grew up in Bryan, he has been a part of this performance since it started in 2005, when he attended as a child. He says the performance has grown a lot since then in both size and diversity and that it will likely continue to grow as the years go on. It is a widely popular event and is a hallmark for the region as a whole. It brings a lot of business to the downtown area and has been known to attract many tourists as well as locals. He says some of the misconceptions about this performance are that it is infused with more international performances, rather than local American cultural performances. As far as changes go, Kade said he would like to see the number of diverse performances (not just music) increase. He also mentioned he would like to see some of the older businesses grow and renew themselves while maintaining their rich history since they are the reason these performances take place. Kade says they intend to continue to perform at First Friday as it has greatly affected their ability to reach out to fans.
The name of their band Park Place Boulevard was inspired by their street performances on First Friday each month. The specifics of the name were also influenced by the fact that many names they had looked into were already taken by other bands. They hope to grow their brand in the future to include more members and grow a larger fan base. As far as careers go, they hope the band takes off and becomes their main job rather than their hobby.
Catholic Churches [PERF 301 Group Project, Fall 2015]
Canter leads in singing as the priest, deacon, acolyte, altar servers exit out the front entrance
The founding of the St Mary’s Catholic Center community can be traced back to one man named John Glessner. Father Glessiner was born on October 31st, 1865 in Bavaria, Germany. He later immigrated to the United States to enter a seminary. He became a priest on July 10th, 1889 in Galveston, Texas. While serving in St. Joseph’s Parish in Bryan, Texas Father Glessiner became aware of the importance of serving college students. From there Father Glessiner held mass in a classroom inside of the old Civil Engineering building. The altar consisted of only a crucifix and two candlesticks. This was surely a modest start but it “planted the seeds” (Our History) for the Catholic Center that we see today. After moving to a few temporary chapels over the years because of the lack of space the Catholic Center was built in 1956 and still stands today with only enlargement renovations made to accommodate the growing and diverging community.
The impact that the community has had on St. Mary’s has made it what we see today. The community pushed St Mary’s from the humble beginnings of an old classroom with only a small crucifix to a chapel with a full-blown alter complete with rows upon rows of pews as well as a balcony and also a sound system with speakers used by the priests and by the choir. The community also found ways to serve the mass with multiple choirs and they sought even more spiritual growth with youth groups, men’s and women’s clubs as well as the introduction of the Aggie Awakening retreat. One of the biggest things to arise from the community is the Catholic Student Association (CSA). The CSA is used to promote the catholic faith and community to the new students of the university.
It is a beautiful, sunny Sunday in College Station as I walk from my parking spot and into the church, where I am immediately in need of my cardigan because it is a bit chilly inside, but the sun streams through the gorgeously ornate stain glass windows making a beautiful array of color all over the church walls and floors. Walking into a Catholic church you see the high ceilings and ornate decorations that line the walls. The congregation is seated in pews quietly making conversations with their neighbors and family members. The general mood of the congregation is one of reflection and respect. When the organ begins playing an upbeat hymn, the congregation quiets down, stands up, and opens their hymnbooks and sings along to the words. The audience for the entirety of the performance is respectful and devoted to the worship of the Lord. If a child begins crying during the performance the parents immediately run out with the crying child so its cries do not disturb the otherwise peaceful silence that is the congregation during mass. The mass begins with a procession of people, the priest, and three children wearing white robes, two carrying candles, and one carrying a cross. The procession accumulates at the front of the raised stage at the front of the church and then the priest starts a bow that ripples out toward the outskirts of the group. Two readings, one from the New Testament and one from the old testament, are read by members of the congregation. After that, the Priest reads an excerpt from the Gospel, which is a recollection of Jesus’s life told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. After this, the priest stands in the center of the stage and says his homily, which is the explanation of the readings and the message he would like to give the congregation on how to learn from these readings. After the priest’s homily, the congregation sits in reflective silence for a minute and then the preparation of the sacrament of the Eucharist begins. Wine is blessed and poured into different cups for people to drink from in this holy sacrament. At the same time unleavened bread, known as the Eucharist is blessed a bowl of this bread is given to selected people to hand to the congregation who are able to take Eucharist, meaning they have been baptized in the Catholic church and have had their First Communion. An interesting detail I was able to attain from the performance was how completely in sync the congregation was with the performers on stage. The congregation stood and sat and kneeled with no visible signal to do any of these things. The only time I interacted with the performers is when I sang along to the hymns the choir sang and when I received the sacrament of the Eucharist from the Priest. The Eucharist is a piece of unleavened bread that the priest prays over to make it holy, the priest holds up the bread and puts it into the person’s hands from which the person quickly puts the bread in their mouth and makes the sign of the cross. Only those baptized in the Catholic Church and who have gone through their first communion sacrament may take place in this holy ritual. After a person receives the Eucharist they go back to their seat and then kneel and pray. After everyone has received the Eucharist the congregation rises from a kneel to a sit as one. Then the closing ceremony begins and the priest says a closing prayer over everyone to “go out and serve the Lord and each other.” I interacted with various members of the audience when at the beginning and end of the mass the congregation shakes hands with their neighbors and says “peace be with you.” An aspect of the performance that fulfilled my expectations was the ritualistic manner in which the mass was organized and performed. Every action the priest or congregation made was tradition and has been done for hundreds of years. What surprised me the most was some of the things the priest said were not as conservative as the Catholic Church is infamous of being. The priest’s homily, or his message he wants to impart from the readings, was very much fitted to reach the college-aged audience.
I initially signed up to research Catholic churches as I am not a churchgoer and believed that I could offer an interesting observation and evaluation of Catholic services as a performance. Although I am not a churchgoer myself, I do have a little familiarity with the Catholic faith as I have attended mass several times throughout my life, both here in the U.S. and in Europe. However, with this project instead of simply attending, I was now specifically concentrating on experiencing and analyzing mass as a performance. For this project, I attended Sunday mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in College Station and St. Paul’s Catholic Church in my hometown of Killeen, TX. Given my observational research and previous experiences (as these experiences can affect how one evaluates a performance), I came to the conclusion the defining aspect of a Sunday Catholic Mass is as a performance is the synchronization of the service.
As a performance, Sunday mass in any Catholic church is highly organized with a specific standard structure; the performance at both St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s was extremely similar. First, the priest would come in a procession towards the altar, flanked by children carrying a cross and candles, and then greet the congregation and then say the usual rites. After, there was a reading from the Old Testament, a psalm from the congregation, and then a reading from the New Testament. Next, the priest read from the Gospel followed by a homily that came across very personal for such a seemingly standard ritual. Then, the priest and congregation say a Profession of Faith followed by a prayer (either silent or spoken by the whole congregation). Next is what I would consider the “climactic” point of the service, the liturgy of the Eucharist. The priest then prepared and prayed over the altar. Many members of the congregation then go up to the altar to receive the Eucharist and afterward another prayer is said by the congregation. The priest says a final prayer and then ends the service.
The spatial elements of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in College Station, TX, have much to do with the performance that is the Catholic mass. The mass takes place in what is called the sanctuary of the church. The sanctuary is the space between the first steps of the building to the end of the wall behind the two altars. The central altar is called the altar of the Eucharist, where the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood takes place. The second altar (called the ambo) is known as the altar of the word and is where the priest proclaims the gospel from the Bible kept there. Other architecture and symbols found in the sanctuary include the Stations of the Cross along both sides of the walls, the presider’s chair, the tabernacle, as well as a long walkway to the altar where the procession of the priest and other leaders of the mass proceed at the beginning and end of each mass. Additionally, the architecture includes upward columns and high ceilings, which symbolize the extension into Heaven. Everything in the art and architecture of this church and many others serves to reflect the essential encounters of God and man by means of helping use performance as a means of worship. In other words, the architecture allows the congregation to encounter divine reality.
The space of the church helps shape the performance through the movement of the congregation throughout the mass. The congregation comes into the building from the outside, moves into the sanctuary, and looks forward and upward at the performance that is mass − including during communion. Through looking forward and upward, this symbolizes the movement of man in his worship of God. The architecture and spatial elements serve to help promote this process and also serve as boundaries between the outside, and sacred inside, and what is hoped for in the fullness of Heaven through the presence of God in the mass. The doors of the building are a clear distinction between the outside world and the sanctuary. The steps of the base of the sanctuary are a symbolic reminder for us to look for divinity above, and the congregation being seated together is a symbol of a united people with their gaze on Christ to worship him alone. Furthermore, there is a clear distinction between the main performers (the priest, deacon, etc.) and the audience (the congregation). This is accomplished via the mass being led on a slightly raised platform separated from the rest of the congregation by only a few stair steps. Additionally, the priest, deacon, and altar servers all wear elaborate or distinct garments that distinguish themselves from the rest of the congregation. The choir is also part of the group of main performers and is set apart by their own corner of the church to the right of the altar, which is obviously reserved to them by the presence of musical instruments and seating facing the congregation.
As one can see, the spatial elements of St. Mary’s Catholic Church play a vital role in the performance of mass. The architecture and symbolic elements of the church help stage the performance as a very routine yet beautiful procession of events with each individual (main performers and audience alike) assigned a distinct part. Additionally, the congregation is not only acting as the audience, they are actively participating as worshippers during the service. Likewise, the main performers (the priest, deacon, etc.) are also worshipping while leading the performance that is mass. In this respect, everyone is a performer at the mass.
Group: Alexander, Jenna; Byers, Megan; Eubank, Brandon; Havel, Christian; Horak, Shelly; Kenebrew, Jennifer; Mares, Gerardo; Pham, David; Woods, Kendyl
Excerpts recorded 12-2 pm, between 21st and 23rd streets.
Fiestas Patrias was created by Mr. Roy Lopez and his father, Mr. Emilio Lopez Sr., in the early 1990s with the purpose of commemorating their Mexican heritage. They chose September as the month to celebrate this event because it is relatively close to the actual dates in which the Mexican Independence day is celebrated. The city of Bryan, having a significant number of Hispanic community members, helped Mr. Lopez and Mr. Lopez Sr. start this community performance. Elementary, Middle, and High Schools in the Bryan/College Station area contributed to the start of Fiestas Patrias by providing the social capital and resources for the traditional parade and the festival to take place. The Fiestas Patrias celebration is very similar to the Mexican Independence celebration known as El Dia del Grito, except for some differences in spatial practices and representation of space. Fiestas Patrias has successfully unified the many Mexican-American culture denominations which include Hispanics, Chicanos, and Tejanos by adapting the performances in the parade and celebration to fit all the Latino traditions in the Bryan/College Station area. The promotion of this event attracts more than two thousand five hundred Bryan/College Station residents. A big source of promotion comes from advertising that is sponsored by many local businesses and other international corporations such as Coca Cola, Inc. Flyers are distributed in both English and Spanish in order to maximize the reach of the event’s promotion and increase event attendance. Another form of promotion for this event comes from the virtual space. Radio stations around the Bryan/College Station area, such as Radio Alegria and Brazos Radio, promote Fiesta Patrias in a similar style in which promotion is done among Latino cultures. T.V. commercials are also an important part of this event’s promotion technique. Like the propaganda flyers, T.V. commercials that promote Fiestas Patrias also come in both English and Spanish to reach out to the Hispanic community and to invite those who want to learn more about Mexican culture. Enhancing the promotion of Fiestas Patrias, Texas A&M promotes this event to college students and university staff. The event of Fiestas Patrias also promotes higher education by offering a variety of scholarships. One is not required to be Hispanic to receive this scholarship, but an application must be submitted and part of the application does require some knowledge of Mexican traditions, culture and/or history.
Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas is not only an event for those of Mexican heritage to celebrate their culture, but it’s an opportunity for those who aren’t of Mexican heritage to learn and experience a different culture. The location of the parade is very significant to the parade itself, is located at the center of Bryan, and only a few minutes away from the center of campus gives the citizens of Brazos County the opportunity to participate in this celebration. Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas gives Mexican- Americans the opportunity to feel at home, if only for a few days. Bryan is known for it’s elaborate downtown events such as Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, or first Friday, but with most of these events, space is mostly kept original- with its original downtown feel with flowing lights, and etc.
On September 20, 2015, I attended Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas in downtown Bryan, TX. This is an annual parade that’s purpose is to celebrate Mexican culture as Bryan has a large Hispanic population. The performance was organized as a parade down one of the main roads in Historic Downtown Bryan, with the surrounding roads closed off so the parade would not be interrupted. Throughout the parade, there was a mix of the different types of performances. There were musical acts, civilians dressed traditionally, people from the local government and the local high school, and local police officials on horses. The musical acts included the local high school band and the Texas A&M Fightin Texas Aggie Band, both playing traditional march style music with a Hispanic flair. The mayor of the town rode in a car and waved to the parade watchers, as well as the homecoming king and queen from the local high school. There was an array of citizens dressed some traditionally and some not walking in the parade to display their pride in their heritage. Disney Channel celebrity Raini Rodriguez who was born in Bryan made an appearance to show her support for her hometown as well as her culture. The entire parade was a mix of the different people participating so I don’t think there was one particular climatic moment however, it was very exciting for us when the Aggie Band marched by because they were performers that we recognized. The parade lasted for slightly longer than one hour, and following the parade there various performances and presentations until late into the evening.
There were two “stages” for Fiestas Patrias, the streets of Bryan that were surrounded by buildings similar in construct to the buildings in the small towns in Mexico for the actual parade, and an open field that contained an alley of booths to the left and right that led to a stage that held the performances like the various Mariachi Grupos and other performers. For the parade, audience members stood and sat on the crowded sidewalks, while the floats and marchers were in the middle, typical spatial practice for a parade. As floats and groups of marchers represented different aspects, religious to popular culture, of the Mexican society, were all decorated differently, essentially each group established their own stage. In a more general sense, the main stage, which molded the atmosphere of the entire event, were the streets of Downtown Bryan, and each group had a smaller, more personal, stage to showcase their aspect of the Mexican culture. Elements that were present in both the parade and the performances that took place on the designated stage was audience interaction, like hollering, cheering, and dancing. The audience members were encouraged to become a part of the performance, slightly blurring the line of division between the audience space and performing space.
1) I interviewed Adrian Rodriguez, Texas A&M Class of 2016 from Fort Worth, Texas, and a member of the Mariachi Anillos de Oro, or the Aggieland Mariachi. The Aggieland Mariachi performed at the Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas in downtown Bryan and, after I watched the performance, I was able to learn more about the organization and Adrian’s involvement. The Aggieland Mariachi was formed by Texas A&M students in 2002 and performs all around the Bryan and College Station area throughout the year. Adrian joined as a freshman in 2012 and is a member of the mariachi’s harmonia section, which means he plays the guitar in performances. He learned the guitar in middle school, where he was enrolled in a mariachi class. After learning the basics of mariachi music and the guitar, Adrian began playing more performances outside of school, which led to his desire to join the Aggieland Mariachi when he got to Texas A&M. Adrian says that on average, the Aggieland Mariachi performs at twenty events each semester, with most events occurring during the fall. The Aggieland Mariachi commonly perform at tailgates during the Texas A&M football season, but Adrian prefers playing events similar to Fiestas Patrias Mexicanas. He enjoys performing for what he considers to be the largest event the band plays each year, as well as sharing the Hispanic culture through mariachi music.
2) I interviewed Alma Villarreal, from Chicago, Illinois. She is a member of the Fiestas Patrias programming committee. I chose to interview a committee member to see why putting on this event was so important to them and the Bryan/College Station community. Alma is originally from Chicago but moved to BCS in 1993 after living in Houston for a while. Her family originally came to Bryan to get away from the large city and enjoy the small town charm of Bryan.
She stated that she loves being involved with her community and feeling connected to the people who live around her. This connection to the community is one of the reasons she became a part of Fiestas. “I originally got involved because I wanted to feel close to the community. I have always been this way, when I lived in Dallas I worked with the Blood Drive, when I lived in Chicago, I worked all of the church events. I have had a connection to the community ever since I was young and I enjoy small neighborhoods.” Alma said that even though she grew up in Chicago, in a Polish neighborhood, she has always embraced her Hispanic background and feels best when she gets to express that. Her Hispanic roots and her love for the culture are one of her main influencing factors but overall having a connection to the community was the purpose of her involvement. Being able to see the kids reach educational goals is why she does this. Hearing about the success of the young men and women who receive our scholarships is her motivation. The parade and festivities are great, but the scholarship funding is the best part. Her involvement with other community organizations like the Board of Regents and the Junior League influenced her to tap into her culture and get involved with Fiestas.
Over the years she has been able to see the program grow tremendously. Alma started out as a volunteer and is now working with the directors. The program started with the plan to give one young lady (queen) a 500 dollar scholarship, but over the years the funding has grown and they now give out several scholarships and name a Queen and a King. In the last 15 years of working with Fiestas, she has seen the program evolve and raise up to 20,000 dollars for the kids. This growth has allowed new possibilities like having the Aggie band come to the parade.
This growth has allowed the event to create more involvement and community outreach. “This is great,” says Alma, “but for me, the reward is seeing students achieve educational progress and having the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work.”
Group: Banda, Adriana; Contreras, Ana; Cottrell, Nathan; Dominguez, Oscar; Florencio, Guadalupe; Glancey, Cara; Gonzalez, Irma; Maloney, Morgan; Thompson, Carly; Tzou, Lawrence
0 – 2:37: Recorded a small amount of live music performance by the Cannibal Tudors at the Seapirate Pub. The music featured basic medieval instruments, which included a flute, a lute, a basic drum, and vocals.
2:37 – 5:31: Attended a comedy show at the Gypsey Dance Theatre, wherein I recorded a brief bit where a comedian was paid by audience members to insult their friends and/or anyone else around them.
5:31 – 6:46: Recorded a jousting event at The Arena, featuring the host of the tournament, who served as a herald and introduced the four champions competing in the tournament.
The Texas Renaissance Festival started in Todd Mission, Texas by George Coulam in 1974 with only 3 stages on 15 acres of land. George Coulam founded the festival with a few vendors selling their goods, a small group of entertainers who performed medieval acts, and some dedicated patrons in wonderful renaissance clothing. The festival takes place over 8 weeks starting in October and ending in late November. Each weekend, the festival takes on a different theme such as Oktoberfest or Pirate Adventure which influences the performances, costumes, food, drink, art, shops, contests, and games throughout the festival grounds. The festival is a large reenactment of a 16th-century English township with hundreds of authentic shops and characters in 8 different themed villages. There are hundreds of performances every day from musicians to jousting competitions capturing large audiences. The festival has undergone quite a few changes over the 40-year span it has been open to. Large remodeling and additions have been made to the park to hold the growing number of guests, shops, and participants of the festival. Safety and family friendliness have also changed, although naked people still walk the grounds. When the jousting performances first began, the participants actually hit each other, causing injuries such as broken arms, legs, concussions, and more. Today the jousters only perform tricks and recited tournaments to prevent further injuries. Participants in the festival are required to maintain proper character roles throughout the entire length of the festival to preserve the authenticity of the atmosphere. The festival is known by the majority of the residents in the surrounding counties and cities. Large billboards are displayed along major highways and intersections catching the eye of people passing by. Some schools send their theater arts program students to the festival to perform and field trips are a common sight.
The festival’s grounds are a spacious grassy field, where small old fashioned buildings are positioned into “towns.” For instance, you may be walking through old-world China one minute and the next to find yourself in Spain, where we were greeted by performers, dressed in Renaissance-era clothing, welcoming us and demanding that we smile. The whole festival is very interactive. In one section there was a large arena surrounded by concrete benches and in the middle was a jousting tournament. Across from the jousting were pirates performing at a tavern, most of the audience was dressed up either in their Halloween costumes, we went on Halloween weekend, or a version of late 1800- early 1900’s dress. There were performers dressed in relatively accurate Renaissance-themed dress as well as workers dressed as fantastical creatures. There was one young woman dressed as an elf and walking around on stilts that made her almost eight feet tall. In the many shops and stores scattered across the festival, you could buy anything from elf ears, wings, tails, and even swords, as well as beer and all kinds of food. The performers would come right up to you, they would talk to you and try to lure you to their event or shop. One man hugged me and tried to physically drag me into his tea store, much to my party’s amusement. As well as the shops and creative performances, there are many activities to join in on as well. Men can throw tomatoes at a performer who is yelling insults at them, there are a few small rides for children. There is a dragon den to explore, a rock wall to climb and games to play.
The way the Festival is organized is into countries. There are places for maps located near the entrance and getting one is crucial because there are places like Germany, England, Greece, and Spain each with respective cultural performances like belly dancing in Greece. Aside from that, there wasn’t really a structure, most of the area is taken up with shops and places to get food. You meander around and stop from place to place and just join in at your own pace because the Festival goes all day with multiple shows playing at multiple times. The shows were sectioned off into each country, with one show per country, like jousting in England. Jousting showed four times in a day and that was an interesting performance! Four knights came out and jousted for the prize of the Golden Dagger. There was no climactic moment because the whole day went at your own pace. Obviously, if you stopped by random shows like jousting you’d see someone get knocked off a horse, but for the Festival overall there: there was no specific climatic defining moment since all of the shows were sectioned off. This sectioning made the overall Festival more focused on social interaction with shows on the side, as opposed to people showing up to see one specific show.
The space in which the festival takes place is elaborately decorated and constructed in order to pull the audience back in time to the Renaissance days. The performance takes place in a forest with trees that canopy over the space in which the audience will walk, play, and eat. Many buildings looked like castles and displayed architectural elements such as pointed arches and flying buttresses, which in turn gave the space a gothic architectural theme. The space allows for many performances to be going on at once, the audience is surrounded by merchants selling all sorts of products, places to get food and drinks, games and rides, and performers dressed in renaissance attire that you can take pictures with. With multiple performances going on within the same space, the line between performer and audience is blurred, space allows for an interactive experience. However, there are certain events that take place where there is a clear line between performers and audience. Jousting tournaments, the fire whip show, Shakespeare readings, gypsy dances, and plays, for example, are all events that take place separate from the audience. Performers used Renaissance dialogue and the stage on which they performed contained columns and pilasters, placing emphasis on symmetry. The elements present in the performance space included Gothic style architecture; the performance was placed inside the forest to give it a medieval vibe.
We interviewed a handful of performers from the Texas Renaissance Festival and asked them a few questions in order to get a better understanding of the cultural performance as a whole. From each interview, we were able to see how each performer contributes to the festival, some common misconceptions about the performances, how long each performer has been involved with the performance, who or what influenced them to become a part of this performance, and what the performers would like to see be changed in the performance. Most of the people that we interviewed have been there for more than 10 years; a couple has been performing at the Texas Renaissance Festival for only a few years, but plan on continuing to perform there for many more years. All of the performers we interviewed loved living in the area. Most of them started out as a patron and eventually ended up working there. Many of them stay there because that’s their career and if not that, they stay because of the positive atmosphere of the festival and because of the passion they have for performing. Only a couple of interviewees stay because of the attention they receive. The festival has grown over the years in population and the vendors are changing for the worse. All these performers stayed because of the atmosphere as mentioned earlier, the money they are getting, and the people they get to meet and talk to while they’re there. All of the performers are very passionate about what they do, whether it’s belly dancing or hunting dragons, they are very passionate about this cultural performance. Most of the performers were influenced by their friends, some were self-influenced, and some were further influenced by the other performers they met. A couple of performers we interviewed were influenced by a famous performer in their specific performance. The renaissance festival is definitely important to the area because it brings a presence to the area, which in turn creates temporary jobs and boosts business for the local shops and restaurants. Common misconceptions are that everyone there is uneducated, drunks, flooded with freaks hippies, or “naked party animals jumping over fires”. A change that most of the performers would like to see is more artisan booths. A few of the performers would like to see the festival last longer than just a couple of months so they can perform longer. They have an internal conflict of handmade items vs. imported items at the booths. This can be seen as a form of reverse gentrification if you will. The handmade wood statues that can go for thousands of dollars are being beaten out by Chinese imports. The handmade swords are also being beaten out by the cheap 440 steel knives that are sold for as little as $10 compared to a $3000 sword. There is also some capitalism going on in the mini economy of the festival. There is a shop called “Ravenswood Leather” that can be found in the market street and has been criticized as being a monopoly. All of the performers we interviewed plan on continuing to perform at the Texas Renaissance Festival every year because of their passion for performing and the positive environment. After interviewing each performer, we can see that the festival is growing more popular every year and is continually helping the local economy.
Group: Chamberlain, Alexandra; Gessner, Dean; Gutierrez, Adriana; Kana, Jacqueline; Martin-Burgos, Alejandro; McClintock, Patrick; Richardson, Brooke; White, Mackenzie
Course: Performance in World Cultures course
Students: Beristain, Amy; Hernandez, Myra; Hodges, Mackenna; Lipton, Jeanette; Macias, Alexia; Meyer, Kelli; Padgett, Tyler; Wallis, Lydia; Winningham, Ross
Caldwell, Texas is home to a unique festival known as the Kolache Festival that celebrates Czech heritage. The festival contains many activities related to the Czech culture from kolache eating contests to polka dancing to hand made arts and crafts. Eventually, Caldwell came to be known by some as the “Kolache Capital of the World.” In the early 1850s, Czechs started migrating to the United States near the gulf coast in search of land to farm and to get away from religious oppression. They mostly settled in central Texas where the most suitable land for farming was available, such as Burleson, Brazos, and Fort Bend counties. To raise awareness and interest in the Czech ethnicity, the Slavic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas and the Texans of Czech Ancestry held festivals and celebrations. In 1984, the Kolache Festival in Caldwell was founded and is now held every year on the second Saturday of September. Initially, the Kolache Festival started out as a kolache bake-off. A kolach is a fruit stuffed pastry that comes from the Czech and Slovakian cultures. Eventually, the kolach became popular in southeast Texas and has transformed into what we know today as a kolache, a bread filled with a sausage link like a “pig in a blanket”. Throughout the years, the bake-off transformed into a festival that holds a 5k run, a classic car show, and musical entertainment like the Ennis Czech Boys Band and the Shiner Hobo Band. The festival also includes the famous kolache eating contest, the crowning of Miss Kolache, a quilt show, and even a carnival for kids. The Kolache Festival in Caldwell is only one of many cities where the festival is held. It is also held in Prague, Oklahoma, in Hallettsville, Texas, in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and in Verdigre, Nebraska. The Kolache Festival is promoted through Czech communities and organizations, the local news, and Facebook. The Czech Heritage Society, the Czech Catholic Church, the Czech Heritage Museum, and the Fayetteville Museum.
My time at the Caldwell Kolache Festival was definitely interesting to say the least. Walking in I was immediately immersed in a completely new culture and surrounded by sights and sounds I had never experienced before. My favorite part of the experience was seeing all the beautiful handmade products that were for sale. From quilts to woodcrafts and carvings, there were so many amazing artworks on display. I could tell they were devoted to their craft and it was amazing to see all of it and know that it was all handmade. Another part I super enjoyed was watching many talented people dance the polka.
The heritage festival was a fairly standard affair, food and trinket vendors, and music, but the performers themselves were where the Czech heritage was. There were three main groups: the Shiner Hobo Band, the eating contest, and the bakers. The Shiner Hobo Band was as interesting as their name. Seventeen members, all wearing artfully, and colorfully, patched clothes with hats and suspenders, played polka music from memory – the toilet plunger baton of the conductor and three accordions were particularly eye-catching. Such elements are a part of the band’s personal history as a casual association of band members parading and playing for their and audience’s enjoyment. The band also formed the backdrop for the eating contest. Judging from attendance and overall excitement, this was the climax of the festival, rather than the bakers’ awards in the afternoon. The participants were all ages in different divisions and were outfitted in Texas A&M shirts rather than anything Czech. But, contrasting the eating contest’s audience participation, the kolaches throughout the day, and the bakers’ awards in the afternoon were comprised of veteran competitors. The vendors were mostly younger adults, but the awards later in the afternoon went to mostly adult and older women, frequently with a single or a pair of competitors sweeping the board in a division.
I met an elderly man that just so happened to own a very old house located at the event. The house he owned was one of the oldest standing homes in Caldwell that he owned was passed down in his family to him. He currently uses this home as a museum to show what early life was like in Caldwell like Now, my interviewee was not of Czech descent but he had lived in Caldwell his whole life and grew up around Czech neighbors. My interviewee has basically been attending the event since it first occurred back in 1986. Since he has been living in Caldwell his entire life he’s been able to see the progression of the event. I asked my interviewee if he felt the event accurately portrayed Czech culture and got an interesting answer. He truly felt that the event displayed the culture accurately with the different events and live music they do but he did tell me that Caldwell does not actually have a large Czech population but a larger German population instead. In his opinion that was why the event had such a great turn out every year because the Czech population is so small and people are interested in the Czech culture. I asked my interviewee what a typical kolache was to him and promptly scalded for pronouncing it incorrectly. He told me it was actually pronounced kolach and he never heard what a kolache was until people started attending the Kolach Festival. The flavors that most of us are used to are not actually what kolaches were. We have actually made a new twist to the traditional pastry. The traditional flavors that he got from his Czech neighbors were actually cottage cheese, prune and poppy seed.
Course: Performance in World Cultures
Group: Becker, Madison; Cordell, Kayla; Dalwadi, Tulsi; Ellsworth, Charlotte; Elvig, Caroline; Fauley, Brittany; Gorrebeeck, David; Hendrix, Charles; Rodriguez-Oliveros, Brandon; Zeutschel, Ryan
Reverend Roy Reeds and the Zion Jubilees is a Christian gospel quartet that originated in Bryan, Texas in 1958 under the group name of “The Reed Brothers.” As they started to gain more fans and followers, there was a high demand for live performances, personal appearances, and concerts. Because of this popularity, Jewel Records, the nation’s largest gospel label, signed The Reed Brothers in the early 1970s. Shortly after they reached number one on the gospel charts for their record “Tree,” in 1974. Consistently between 1974 and 1979 they were at the top of the gospel charts for songs like “I Believe,” “Cross the River,” and many others. Today, Rev. Roy Reed and the Zion Jubilees are still performing (more local shows) and making albums. In 2004, they released two self-produced albums, “In the Precious Name of Jesus,” and “One More River to Cross.” In these albums, the group started to experiment with more contemporary sounds, rhythms, and melodies. In 2014, Rev. Roy Reed and the Zion Jubilees released the album “Let’s Give Him Praise,” which was produced by Tony Sharper’s Sharp Records (est. 1994). In this album, the group went back to their bluesy, southern groove with their classic quartet sound.
It was a pleasant evening on Saturday I went to see Roy Reed and the Zion Jubilees play gospel music. I had been to a few Baptist churches where everyone was very friendly but reserved, and when I walked in it seemed like it was the same way there. People were shaking hands and talking quietly at first as they sat among the pews, but soon afterward, everything changed. The music began, and instead of a slow hymn it was up-tempo and everyone would clap and stomp to the music. It was so amplified that I had trouble understanding the lyrics. The singer would sing a line and then gesture to the audience to sing a line in response. As it picked up, people even danced in the aisle. After the first few songs, a speaker came up to tell us they were honoring a member of the church, and then a different group of musicians approached the stage. This switching out of musicians happened about five times and I was surprised just how many musicians there were. The third group was the original Roy Reed and the Zion Jubilees. Also surprising to me was that one of the acts was a dancer that danced in sort of a mime-like style that used symbolism to convey the lyrics of the music he danced to. Afterward, a preacher gave us a short sermon on the importance of being “real” (or genuine). And finally, after playing a few more songs, they closed with a short prayer.
As soon as you walked in you were greeted and felt apart of this family culture that they had cultivated. Since it started as a family group, various members of the family performed ranging from all ages. Little kids age 6 to the elder musicians and singers all added a sound that reached every generation. They started with the younger artist and newest songs, which was really nice because it incorporated many new beats and tempos that most definitely appealed to the younger generation. As they gradually moved into the older and more classic gospel songs you could feel the shift in the room as the moms, dads, and grandparents began to worship and praise the songs of their childhood. Finally, it was time for the Zion Jubilees to make their debut. The Zion Jubilees reminded everyone, as they were jumping, shouting, and praising, that you are never too old to worship like a child. Their performance was very joyous and enjoyable and I consider it an honor to be apart of it.
The performers of this group don’t need a specific type of performance space. They don’t even need a stage to perform on. All they need is a bit of empty space on the floor, enough for all of the performers to stand and a few of them to play their instruments. Their surroundings do not affect their performance or how they perform. This group is more focused on the message they want to give rather than drawing attention away with their surroundings. The types of places they perform are nursing homes, town shows, and most churches. Honestly, they would be willing to perform anywhere. They sing about Christianity in a very upbeat form. Each performance has the same hope-filled vibe. The audience always engages with the performance. The fourth wall doesn’t exist for most of their performances. The audiences usually sing along, stand up, and clap.
On November 8, 2015, we had the wonderful opportunity to interview Reverend Roy Reed and his brother. As young men, the group grew up hearing their father sing, as he was a member of a quartet. This influence was pivotal in their musical upbringing. We were shocked to find out that as they grew up their first mode of transportation was horse and buggy. They got their first pickup truck in 1952 which helped them travel to different churches to sing. Reverend Roy Reed remembers moving to the Bryan area when he was about 19. They got their first opportunity to record in 1969 with Jewel Records in Louisiana. From there they became very popular topping the gospel charts for many years. The group has in recent years been asked to travel to England to help revive the congregations there. The group includes two generations of the Reed family. Currently, the group also consists of two of the member’s grandsons, who love and cherish singing just as much like their grandfathers. The overall message that they wish to share with their audiences is the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel. They feel blessed and privileged to have been able to see the wonderful blessing their music brings to the people of their community and of the world. They shared with us a special story of a mother who sent one of their CD’s to her son who was in prison. After he listened to the CD the son felt as if he had been changed, and attributes this change to the message and spirit brought to him by the Zion Jubilees’ music.