|Newport Classic (2008)|
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Music Review: Blind Boone and the Marshfield Tornado
Of the one thousand residents living in Marshfield in 1880, ninety-two died, and countless others suffered minor to serious injuries. Children were orphaned; Dan and Mollie Wright perished, but their baby, still alive, was found in his father’s arms playing with a twig. Three month old Minnie Dugan lost her sister and mother. A neighbor discovered Minnie the next morning, suspended from a tree limb by her clothing.
While Marshfield suffered, a blind, Missouri-born, African-American piano player stood at the threshold of a successful musical career that spanned five decades. “Blind” Boone’s manager and future brother-in-law, John Lange, read a newspaper account of the tornado to Boone. Inspired by the story, Boone wrote a commemorative composition on the tornado; many consider it his masterpiece. The tune opened with chime-like sounds representative of the Sunday evening church service interrupted by the tornado, followed by a loud imitation of thunder and fire bells. Crashing, roaring chords depicting the destruction wrought by the tornado climaxed the piece which closed wit the soft sounds of the storm’s demise--including the sound of rainwater dripping from the ravaged structures.
During Boone’s first Marshfield performance,the musician’s rendition of “The Marshfield Tornado” turned the concert hall into bedlam. The realism of the piece evoked such strong memories that a number of people rushed outside, assuming another storm was approaching. Although he attempted to calm the audience with a performance of “Dixie” it was too late. Thereafter, Boone traditionally closed his performances with the tornado piece.
(excerpt from "Webster County: ‘Blind’ Boone and the Marshfield Tornado," by Ann L Rogers, in Marking Missouri History, edited by James W. Goodrich and Lynn Wolf Gentzler)