The pursuit of a dream
Local storyteller Paulette Friday was recently awarded a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council to produce a story and music ensemble reflecting the immigration experience of the early 1800s.
The show, titled "In Pursuit of a Dream: Stories and Songs of 19th Century Immigration," is an intermingling of stories and songs that will take audiences to a time when the country was new to thousands of immigrants.
Friday and her ensemble will give two free performances of the show. The show will premiere on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 5 p.m. outside at Fort Alexandria, adjacent to the Runestone Museum in Alexandria.
A second performance will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Railroad and 2nd Event Center in Evansville.
The troupe will also perform for the Discovery Middle School students who will be studying immigration.
The musicians include Terry Kennedy of Alexandria, guitar, mouth harp, and vocals; Patty Kakac of Evansville, autoharp, penny whistle and vocals; Al Lieffort of Alexandria, mandolin and vocals; Anne O'Flynn of Elbow Lake, accordion and vocals; David Bengtson of Long Prairie, vocals; Todd Nelson of Ashby, bass and vocals; Rachel Nelson of St. Paul, violin and vocals; and Sara Schwabe of Corcoran, vocals. Storytellers are Sara Schwabe and Friday, who is also the writer, director and producer of the show.
"To many, these stories and songs will be reminiscent of the stories of our own ancestors' journey across the ocean," Friday said.
Friday conducted research on early 19th century Western European emigration to America. "I chose this particular group of immigrants as it represents the heritage of the majority of those settling in south central Minnesota," she said.
Through her research, Friday collected historical facts and era-specific music and crafted stories to pair with the songs.
"Music played a vital role for those who traveled across the ocean to a new life in the early 19th century," she said. "Travel on a sailing ship was no luxury cruise. As well, there were tremendous hardships leading up to their decision, and the decision itself weighed terribly on them. Were they abandoning their homelands?"
Funding for the grant is made possible by the Minnesota Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, which supports arts education and arts access to preserve Minnesota history and cultural heritage. The Minnesota State Legislature makes these appropriations possible with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota.