SIUE Choir will perform union songs at March 5 concert

THE UNION PROTEST SONG ‘Which Side Are You On?’ has been a standard, performed by folk singer Pete Seeger (above) and numerous others, since it was written a coal miner’s wife in 1931. The SIUE Concert Choir will perform this and other songs of the American Labor Movement in a concert March 5 at the university’s Dunham Hall Theater.

Illinois Correspondent

Edwardsville – Songs of the American Labor Movement performed by the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Concert Choir will be featured in a concert at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at the university’s Dunham Hall Theater, in the center for theater, music and journalism studies and performance on the southwest side of the campus.

Songs performed will include:

  • “Which Side Are You On?” – written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of Sam Reece, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Ky., after the local sheriff and his men, hired by the mining company, illegally entered the family’s home and terrorized Florence and her children in an attempt to discouraged Sam Reece’s organizing efforts.
  • “Banks of Marble” – written by Les Rice, a New York State apple farmer and one-time president of the Ulster County chapter of the Farmers Union. The song, written around 1948-49. deals with the problem of “parity” and how it affects the farmer’s life.
  • “Casey Jones – the Union Scab” – written by labor figure and later martyr Joe Hill in San Pedro, California, following the first day of a nationwide walkout of 40,000 railway employees in the Illinois Central shopmen’s strike of 1911. It is a parody of the song “The Ballad of Casey Jones” and is sung to its tune.
  • “Union Maid” – written in 1940 by Woody Guthrie in response to a request for a union song from a female point of view. The melody is the 1907 standard “Red Wing.”
  • “Solidarity Forever” – written in 1915 by Ralph Chaplin, the popular union standard is sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The song was written as an anthem the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), but other union movements, including the AFL-CIO, later adopted the song as their own.The event will also include a message to students and faculty
    from Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president the National Education Association.


Tickets are $12 for general admission, or $9 for students and seniors. Contact the SIUE Fine Arts Box Office at 618-650-2774.


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