Musical Sojourn to the Big Easy
We visited the Old U.S. Mint just beyond the French Market. If you go there, be sure to see the exhibit of musical instruments once owned by famous jazz musicians. Among the items on display are the white grand piano owned by Fats Domino and the coronet that Louis Armstrong learned to play as a boy while he was living in a juvenile home.
The site that I was particularly eager to see on this trip was Congo Square, which today is part of Louis Armstrong Park, located on the edge of the French Quarter. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this area would have been outside the city limits. On the day that Charlie and I took a walking tour of the neighborhood, construction crews were completing the demolition of buildings damaged by Katrina not far from where slaves once sang and played handmade instruments on Sunday afternoons. Assembling in this way would have been illegal for enslaved people in the pre-Civil War south. The citizens of New Orleans took a different view. The emphasis that was placed on music and self-expression through all types of music is part of what makes this city unique. The existence of a variety of cultures in one place made it quintessentially American. These qualities provided a fertile environment for the creation of jazz.
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