We began out Open Rehearsal series at the Mission Branch Library. Musicians Idris Ackamoor, Minna Choi, Ahkeel Mestayer, Diana Gameros, Marcus Shelby played together for the first time. The piece of sheet music selected by Josh Kun was The California Pioneers. Photos by Beth LaBerge.
Depicting two rifle-holding explorers, mountains, wilderness and pine trees on the cover, The California Pioneers declares itself as “the first piece of music published in California.” Published in 1852 by San Francisco’s Atwill & Co., the song was written and composed by Dr. M.A. Richter and dedicated to Mrs. J. Emerson Sweetser, who was the wife of a “leading merchant of the city,” according to Erika Esau. Esau sees this dedication as “further indication of the small circles then constructing a cultural life in San Francisco and the important place that Atwill, as owner of a music shop and publisher of illustrated sheet music, occupied in this incipient society” (88). You can check out Esau’s full essay here.
The song’s lyrics and its cover art capture the popular imagination surrounding the mid-1800s settlement of the city and Northern California more generally. Like the cover, the lyrics move between celebrating the state’s “sunny clime” and “golden sands,” on the one hand and romanticizing the figure of the quintessential explorer, who left his home in search of conquest and significantly, to “make this land renown’d & free.”
[Click on sheet music to view full size]