Friday, December 18, 2015
Mark Meckel Volga German Pageant & Volga German Music M.D.M Productions 1976
Mark Meckel Volga German Music M.D.M. Productions 1976 CAT #USR 9150
It's taken me probably 3 months to sit through both of these albums...the first one I put on, Volga German Pageant Exodus to Freedom 1763-1976 is pretty boring, at least it seems that way. It's church music. And German. From Hays, KS. But, giving it a little more time, it is a pageant, meant to give an outline of Volga-German music, it's primarly choral, but outside of religious music, does have passed down folk music.
The other LP, Volga German Music is less boring, traditional German music with some gypsy aspects thrown in. It features a violin, organ, accordion and guitar. Not sure those were the instruments of choice back in the old Country, but you know, it works. The waltzes are nice enough.
I picked it up hoping there might be a connection to someone from the band, the Blue Things, seeing how they were also from Hays, KS. I figured I'd connect the dots with a band member, maybe even Val Stoecklien. If there is a connection to be found, I'm not enough of a sleuth to piece it together, though...so another reason I sat on these forever.
What is most interesting about the albums is the apparent rich Volga-German history that can be found in Hays, KS. The records are even copyrighted to the Volga German Centennial Association, so must have been legit. A Volga-German heritage came from Catherine the Great encouraging German immigration into Russia in 1763. The Germans moved, cultivated the land and history says kept their German identity while in Russia. In fact, they were allowed by Russia up into even the Communist era to keep their religions, language and identity. However, once Germany attacked Russia in World War II, the bargain was off. As cultural Germans, they were persecuted as an enemy.
However, that isn't how Volga-Germans ended up in parts of Kansas. Russian Czar, Alexander the II revoked the military exemption from the community in 1871. Groups left to America and arrived in Topeka, KS as early as 1875, primarily to help build railroads. Later, as farmers, they helped develop Kansas as the breadbasket introducing farming techniques used in Russia to yield high amounts of wheat and introduced a seed that could withstand the harsher climates. More amazing is that the community in Hays, KS, as late as 1976, still identified themselves as Volga-German.
***Also of note, Mark Meckel is not the musician in charge here, he appears to be more of the curator of the albums and as such is credited for the title.
Germans from Russia in Kansas