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Sounds of the Pioneers Exhibit Opens at Pioneer Museum in Lander

Music written and composed in Lander to be heard for first time in decades

Three pieces of music written and composed by Lander residents will be heard again for the first time in decades at the Pioneer Museum in Lander.

Museum employees came across the music while putting together a new exhibit on pioneer music. “All three were in our archive of sheet music,” said museum Visitor Services Coordinator Randy Wise. “We first noticed the titles were specific to Lander, then realized they had been created by people that lived here.”

The first piece, called “Where the Rails End and the Trails Begin,” was written by Judge Edgar Fourt, a leading figure in the early history of Lander. Fourt was born in Wisconsin in 1864. After getting his law degree, he moved to Lander in 1890. Fourt was a respected lawyer and businessman, and was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives. In his spare time he was a talented writer, photographer and historian. He also wrote music, including the song “Where the Rails End and the Trails Begin,” in 1924.

“It is a very classical sounding piece, almost operatic” said Sarah Trembly who sang the vocals on all three pieces of music. “It is a complex piece of music vocally and instrumentally, and was a real challenge.”

Trembly, a graduate of Lander Valley High School and the University of Wyoming, teaches music in the Shoshoni School District.

Equally challenging was the second piece of music called “Sacajawea,” written and composed in 1923.  The words were written by Porter Byron Coolidge and the music composed by Frederick Boothroyd, both of Lander. The driving orchestral score tells the story of the Shoshone guide to Lewis and Clark.  One line from the song prominently mentions the Popo Agie River: “I stooped where the swift Po-po-sia flows and plucked for her a fresh wild rose.”

Porter Coolidge was another lawyer who moved to Lander from the Midwest. He was born in 1865 in Illinois, moving to Lander to practice law in 1906. Coolidge was also a poet and songwriter who had several volumes of his work published and had some of his songs used in several movies in the 1920s.

The third and oldest piece is called “By Popo Agie’s Silvery Stream,” words and music by Harry F.  Spealman, 1909. Spealman is listed in the census records as having been born in Colorado, but living in Lander in 1900. Little other information is available about him.

In the lyrics of “By Popo Agie’s Silvery Stream” the author proclaims his love for “Elsie,” and sings “In Wyoming’s lovely clime, where the sun shines all the time is the charming little spot I love so well, In a valley cool and green, on Popo Agie’s silvery stream…” The song is in the style of American standard music and is very melodic.

“We had two terrific musicians working on this project,” said Wise. “Singer Sarah Trembly and pianist Miyuki Cox spent many hours practicing this music, so people today can hear these interesting and long lost songs.” Cox is a professional pianist and piano instructor in Lander.

The music was digitally recorded by Rocky Harting and Ted Brigham. Harting is a professional musician who plays lead guitar with the Lander band Full Blown Mosey. Brigham ran a recording studio in Colorado, and offered his expertise. According to Wise playing the music was only part – a high quality recording was important to preserve the music and allow it to be heard in the museum.

The music will be on a tablet and visitors will be able to choose which song they want to hear. The display features instruments played and owned by Fremont County pioneers, old radios, Victrolas and photos of area musicians. According to Wise being able to actually hear music composed here will add an interesting dimension to the display.

The display is one of several new features at the museum. Wise said a new Emigrant Trail exhibit is in the works as well as a major exhibition of western art coming soon.

The museum begins its winter hours October 1 and is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information call 307-332-3373 www.fremontcountymuseums.com