On the first weekend of November, 2011, Austin, Bremond, and Westphalia, Texas all welcome Joe Weed, documentary film maker from San Jose, California. He will show his new production, “The Waltz to Westphalia.” He will also explain why he produced this 60-minute film about a tune known and loved by Texans for more than fifty years.
The documentary tells the fascinating story of a Polish folk song’s transformation into an American country fiddle classic. The film captures a wide array of people, places and artifacts significant in the tune’s regional and national development. Because the tune evolved in the twentieth century, some of the primary sources are still living. They shared their memories with Joe Weed. In 2006, he began traveling around the United States to speak with them, their children, and their grandchildren. Many of those interviewed are from Waco, Westphalia, Houston and Bremond.
The melody of the Westphalia Waltz derives from a Polish song known by several titles — “Pytala Sie Pani,” “Wszystkie Rybki,” and others. Citing references from Poland’s National Library in Warsaw and the Polish Museum of America in Chicago, the film describes the song in Poland and the United States. It includes interviews with descendants of the Polish immigrants who worked the mills in Massachusetts and the coal mines in the Alleghenies. The grandson of the lead trumpet player in RCA Victor’s 1930 recording recalls his grandfather’s musical and professional life. The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner relates his father’s insistence that he learn to play music. As a musician, he had the opportunity to escape the hard life of a miner. Through old photos, music, and recordings, the film provides a glimpse of the early Polish–American culture that embraced this delightful folk song.
With first-hand accounts from Polish-Texans, the film explains how the piece made its way to Bremond, the largest Polish settlement in Texas during the Great Depression. Dance musicians playing in nearby Waco and Westphalia also picked up the tune. Fiddler Cotton Collins, who played with Waco’s “Lone Star Playboys,” re-interpreted the piece as a Texas fiddle waltz. He recorded it for a small Dallas record company, and called it the “Westphalia Waltz.” Collins’ friend Hank Thompson brought the tune to a national audience with his release on Capitol Records in 1955.
Texas Premier Showings:
Friday, Nov 4, 8:00 PM Austin: Fiddler’s Green Music Shop, 1809 W.35th Street (512) 452-3900, ($8.00)
Saturday, Nov 5, 7:30 PM Bremond: Texas SLAV & German Warehouse, 210 Main Street, Bremond, (713) 410-2540 (free admission)
Sunday, Nov 6, 3:00PM Westphalia: Parish Hall, (254) 583-4768 (free admission)
Contact Joe Weed for more information.