Liner Notes

Tunes from the Aurora Violin Manuscripts

VRCD 383

The Aurora colony was a Christian utopian society led by charismatic preacher Wilhelm Keil, a German immigrant, who had founded a commune in Bethel, Missouri in 1844. He believed that the fundamental message of Christianity was "Love one another," and that therefore societies should be like the family, with all interests and property in common and all members working for the general welfare. Most of the colony members were of German or Swiss descent. The colony was self-sufficient, but not reclusive. They grew their own food, made their own textiles, clothing, shoes, tools, tableware, wagons, and furniture with a high level of craftsmanship.

In 1855 Keil led a group of his followers west to form a new colony, settling first at Willapa Bay in Washington Territory and then moving to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Here they prospered, and became famous for their hotel and its associated restaurant. Their brass bands won all the local band contests, played for local Fourth of July and other civic celebrations, and toured the entire region as far North as Nanaimo, B.C. The colony was dissolved in 1883, a few years after Keil's death, and the property was distributed among the members. However, the many musicians in the community remained active, both those who stayed in the area and those who moved away.

The town of Aurora still exists; it is about 20 miles south of Portland, and has a number of the original colony residences as well as a fascinating historical museum.

All but one of the violin manuscripts which are the sources of the tunes on this CD are in the archives at the Aurora Colony Historical Museum; the remaining one is in the archive of the University of Oregon in Eugene. The manuscripts contain all of the types of dances that would be included in a typical nineteenth century dance program: quadrilles (a type of square dance), waltzes, polkas, schottisches, mazurkas, gallops, and other couple dances. We have been unable to find published sources for many of these tunes; some may be original compositions by Oregon musicians, including Aurora members.

There were many musical families in the Aurory Colony, including the Ehlens, who are associated with five of these manuscripts. Henry Ehlen's manuscript bears the date 1884; the W.H.E. manuscript is dated 1888-89 and is probably from his younger brother William Hamilton Ehlen. When the two brothers moved to Uniontown, Washington in 1892, they formed a quadrille band and created the written music for first violin, second violin, clarinet and flute that we have called the Uniontown manuscripts. The 1880 manuscript belonged to their cousin William Henry Ehlen; he was not old enough to have written it himself and must have obtained it from an older musician. The earliest manuscript is the Sedlak manuscript, dated 1863, which came from Joseph Sedlak, a prominent Portland musician and music teacher. Although Sedlak was not a colony member, his manuscripts in the Aurora archives contain many of the same tunes as the other manuscripts, some in identical arrangements, indicating some kind of contact between him and Aurora colony musicians.

The dance bands of the day were usually called "quadrille bands,"" and standard instrumentation was two violins, cello or bass, clarinet, cornet, and flute. Pianos were often used for dance music, although the Aurora bands apparently did not do so. Brass bands also frequently played for dancing.

CD 1

1. Polka No. 5. This polka appears in the 1880 and Uniontown manuscripts.
2 - 6. Cadet Lancers Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The Lancers was a popular quadrille variant in the 19th century. A quadrille usually had three to six figures, with a different tune for each figure. The music paused after each figure while the dancers remained with the same partners in in the same squares for the entire set of tunes. Cadet Lancers was written by T. H. Rollinson, a prominent American composer, cornetist, bandleader and arranger. It was published in 1882, and appears in the W.H.E. manuscript.
7. Forest Waltz. This waltz is in the Sedlak, 1880, and Henry Ehlen manuscripts.
8. The Kirmess Schottische Militaire. This schottische with a ragtime flavor is from the W.H.E. manuscript.
9 - 13. Chesney Wold Quadrille Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Chesney Wold is the setting for Charles Dickens' novel Bleak House. This quadrille was composed by Frank Green and published in Philadelphia in 1873, and is in the Uniontown manuscripts.
14. Nachtigall Polka. This tune is in both the 1880 and the Uniontown manuscripts. The Andante introduction provides the opportunity for much improvised bird-call embellishment on the flute.
15. Ballfreuden Waltz. This tune is from the 1880 manuscript. "Ballfreuden" means Pleasures of the Ball.
16 - 19. Le Tres Facile Quadrille Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4. Composed by French music teacher Guillaume-Arnaud Lacout in 1850, this is in the Sedlak manuscript.
20. Esmeralda. The Esmeralda was a popular couple dance, combining steps of the gallop and the polka. This tune is from the Sedlak manuscript.
21. Mazurka (1). The mazurka, a couple dance originally of Polish origin, was popular all over Europe and America in the 19th century. This is from the 1880 manuscript.
22 - 24. Nine Pin Quadrille Figures 1, 2, and 3. Nine Pin Quadrille was published in Elias Howe's 1869 Quadruple Musician's Omnibus, and appears in the 1880 and Uniontown manuscripts. In a nine pin quadrille, there is an extra gentleman in the center of each square of four couples. At a certain point in the dance he steals the partner of another gentleman, who then becomes the new nine pin.
25 - 27. Waltz Quadrille No. 92 Figures 1, 2 and 3. In a waltz quadrille, the couples are in square dance formation, and dance the quadrille figures using waltz steps. This is from the W.H.E. manuscript.
28. Agnes Gallop. This gallop (or gallopade) is in both the Uniontown and Sedlak manuscripts. Since it resembles a Mexican polka, we have taken the liberty of using mariachi-like instrumentation, although a guitar would not have been typically used for dance music in Oregon in the 19th century.

CD 2

1. Salem Gallop. This tune is in both the 1880 and the Sedlak manuscripts.
2. Assembly Schottische. This is in the Sedlak and the 1880 manuscripts.
3. No. 17 Waltz. This is from the Uniontown manuscripts.
4. Gold Seekers Polka. Charles Bray, a well-known composer and bandleader in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote this polka. It is in the Uniontown and W.H.E. manuscripts.
5. Tyrolienne. The Tyrolienne is an Austrian folk dance; this is in the Sedlak manuscript.
6. Operatic Quadrille Figure 1. Quadrille sets using tunes from current operas were popular in the 19th century, and are found in the Sedlak, 1880, and Uniontown manuscripts. Figure 1 uses music from Friedrich von Flotow's Martha, written in 1847.
7. Operatic Quadrille Figure 2. Music from Daniel Auber's 1830 opera Fra Diavolo.
8. Operatic Quadrille Figure 3. Music from Michel Balfe's 1843 Bohemian Girl.
9. Operatic Quadrille Figure 4. Music from Auber's 1841 Crown Diamonds.
10. Operatic Quadrille Figure 5. Music from Auber's 1830 Le Dieu et la Bayadere.
11. Polonaise No. 52. The polonaise, a stately dance in three-quarter time, is of Polish origin, and was often used as a grand march at the start of a formal ball. This one is in the 1880, Henry Ehlen, and Uniontown manuscripts.
12. Hand Organ Polka. This tune was written by New York piano teacher Mathias Philippi in 1855, and published in the 1856 Orchestral Journal, by Firth, Pond & Co., New York. It appears in the Sedlak, 1880, and Uniontown manuscripts.
13. Hand Organ Waltz. This tune and Hand Organ Polka were published in the same edition of the 1856 Orchestral Journal, which is in the Aurora archive. It is also in the Sedlak, 1880 and Uniontown manuscripts, and it seems likely that both tunes were copied from this published source.
14. Moltke March. This is from the W.H.E. manuscript. The composer is listed as "C. Koch."" It seems unusual to find this type of tune, normally associated with a brass band, in a collection of music for the violin.
15. Casino Ball Polka-Mazurka. The polka-mazurka was a simplified form of the mazurka. This tune was written by Bohemian composer Ferdinand Preis and published in Prague in 1861. It appears in the W.H.E. manuscript.
16. Quadrille No. 3 Figure 1. The first part is in Anton Diabelli's Zweites potpourri nach Motiven der Oper Rigoletto for piano, published in Vienna in 1855. The second part is the chorus "Scorrendo uniti remota via" from Rigoletto, written by Guiseppe Verdi in 1851.
17 - 18. Quadrille No. 4 Figures 2 and 4. Quadrilles Nos. 3 and 4 are from the Uniontown manuscripts. It was common practice to re-combine figures from different quadrille sets into a new set, as we have with these three tracks of quadrille tunes.
19. Vernell Waltz. This beautiful and challenging waltz is from the Henry Ehlen manuscript.

We have assembled a fine group of Seattle musicians for this project. Karen Iglitzin is a music educator devoted to teenagers, a world class performer, and former first violinist of the Philadelphia String Quartet. She plays first violin on CD 2, tracks 15 - 19. Sande Gillette is retired from the Seattle Symphony, and has played for contra dances and English country dances for many years. She plays first violin on CD 1, tracks 9 - 13 and 28, and on CD 2, tracks 1, 3, and 5 - 14. Vivian Williams is a champion fiddler and long time dance player, and editor and publisher of the Aurora Violin Manuscripts book; she plays first violin on the rest of the tunes. Vivian and Sande share the second violin duties. Terry Wergeland, who plays piano, cornet, and trumpet on this CD, performs and teaches in classical, jazz, and folk idioms, and is much in demand as a dance musician. Clarinetist Eric Likkel is a freelance player, composer, and teacher, active with several local jazz, chamber music, and dance ensembles, including the Valse Café Orchestra, Smilin' Scandinavians, and TORCH Quartet. Diane Tuttle Tremaine plays cello with Philharmonia Northwest and is a prominent chamber music player. Charles Coldwell plays flute; he is a recorder player specializing in Renaissance and Baroque music and playing for historical and English country dance. WB Reid, a well-known multi-instrumentalist in several traditional American styles, plays guitar.

Track 1 and tracks 3 - 14 on CD 2 were arranged and conducted by Toby Hanson, who studied at the Cornish College of the Arts, is bandleader and arranger for the Smilin' Scandinavians and Valse Café Orchestra, and regularly performs with The Jangles, Rouge, and the Highball Boys. Tracks 8 and 28 on CD 1 and tracks 16 - 18 on CD 2 were arranged by Terry Wergeland. Track 2 on CD 2 was arranged by Vivian Williams. Recording and mixing was by Gerard Hranek at Acoustic Prism Recording, Woodinville, WA, with additional recording by Julian Anderson at London Bridge Studio, Shoreline, WA. Liner notes and artwork by Vivian Williams. Produced and edited by Gerard Hranek, Terry Wergeland, and Vivian Williams.

Special thanks to Sarah Comer for the loan of her cornet, and to Dennis Calvin for use of his computer and printer.

This project is dedicated to the late Phil Williams, without whose enthusiasm and participation in the research and preliminary planning it would not have been possible.

Cover: Aurora dance band ca. 1890; detail from quilt by colony member Emma Wagner Giesy, 1850's

The book entitled "The Aurora Violin Manuscripts," containing 250 tunes from the manuscripts, along with more historical information, is available from Voyager at

Return to CD Catalog Return to Voyager's Home Page