At the beginning of the 1850s, two blackface minstrel groups from the United States visited Sydney for the first time. They were the New York Serenaders and Rainer’s Serenaders. Groups like these were immensely popular in North America, Britain and Australia and these visitors were widely advertised when they arrived in town. Local publishers sold copies of the songs they performed and examples could be found in almost every domestic music collection in New South Wales. This edition of ‘O, would I were a Boy again’ was published by Henry Marsh who also sold tickets to the performances of ‘Rainer’s Ethiopian Serenaders’ through his music store in George Street, Sydney. This genre of music combined popular British melodies with white impressions of African-American vernacular life on the plantation fields. Rainer’s early performances in Australia were celebrated for their displays of ‘grotesque and figurative excesses’. Later performances became more stylised and polished and were combined with other forms of unrelated entertainment.
Miss Gittins’ Songbook