Since its debut last April, our Music for Your Eyes tour has become one of our most popular programs selling out each time it has been offered (click here for tour information). I am one of the “hosts” for the musical experience as is Meg Nowack, our curator, and Syeira Budd, Villa Finale’s Community Programs Coordinator. During the past four months, my colleagues and I have enjoyed sharing historic information behind Walter Mathis’s music machines as well as demonstrating these wonderful items.
Walter Mathis loved music and enjoyed filling his home with its beautiful sounds. Among the demonstrations on the tour are the circa 1912 Deluxe Model Violano Virtuoso, two Victorian music boxes, an Edison Cylinder Phonograph, and the grand finale of the 1910 Bechstein-Welte reproducing piano – I cannot tell you how many people have left the tour humming or whistling to the piano’s melody! People on our tours have enjoyed hearing the rich history of the machines and the background information to some of the songs played. All of the items on the tour are diverse in machinery as well as origin.
South Texas as a whole has a wonderful musical history which is influenced by its diverse population. Once part of Mexico and strongly influenced by Mexican border states, “Tejanos” of the era soon mixed their musical traditions with those of European immigrants. It isn’t difficult even for the most “untrained ear” to hear the Waltz and Polka influences in Tejano music. Make sure you check out the “Tejano Explosion” event during Fiesta San Antonio.
Speaking of European immigrants, German music in Texas can be traced back as early as the 1830s with the arrival of the first settlers here. The polkas we all associate with the very popular Oktoberfest originated in 19th century Bohemia. The German version of this genre, also known as “Oompah,” is very identifiable by its use of the tuba, clarinet, trombone and of course, the accordion. If you would like to get a feel for what the King William neighborhood would have been like during the late 19th century, visit the Beethoven Maennorchor on Pereida Street on First Friday or during one of their Gartenkonzerts – you will not be disappointed!
Of course, any mention of Texas and music wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Country music. In Texas, the genre is uniquely influenced by its many immigrants: Spanish, Mexican, French, German and more. San Antonio has a variety of historic venues where people enjoyed live country music performances during the genre’s golden era including The Majestic Theater, the Empire Theater – where Gene Autry performed – and the Aztec Theatre. If you would like to take a trip back in time, the Aztec Theatre hosts the San Antonio Rose Live show which is a tribute to classic country music in an equally classic venue.
If you enjoy music, and enjoy little historical tidbits like those I mentioned, make sure you join us on the next Music for Your Eyes tour. The experience is a treat for your eyes … and ears.