I bellied up to the bar at one of my favorite spots in the city, “The Place on Lexington Ave” and struck up a conversation with an interesting chap sitting next to me. Turns out he, Tom Naples, is a composer and is helping to put on a special program at the Kavinoky Theatre this Saturday evening.
Tom explained, “The story of the immigrant was a story of triumph. Getting here meant weeks in sub-human conditions in steerage. That was followed by unscrupulous landlords and politicians who inflicted great injustices on the immigrants. But few returned. They worked and made America their home and what we are today.”
“Immigrants & Ancestors” is made up of snapshots of this process. It touches on the real history and stories of immigrants from Russia, Italy, Ireland and Norway.
Some interesting facts:
- Over 50 million people came to the United States as immigrants.
- The largest wave was from the middle of the 19th century until the early part of the 20th.
- People came to escape poverty (Italians, Greeks, Irish) as well as political persecution. (Eastern Europeans)
- Twelve million people came through Ellis Island from its opening in 1892 until 1954 when it closed.
- During 1906 and 07 over 5,000 people a week were processed.
- There was a forceful opposition to immigrants led initially by Group of Boston Brahmins (Henry Cabot Lodge and Teddy Roosevelt) and later a much larger group. They aimed their efforts at southern Italians, Greeks and Eastern European Jews. Legislation was passed in 1924 restricting these groups because they were of an “inferior race.”
The narratives, written by Joey Giambra, John Cimasi, and Jean Rogers Downes will be spoken by Joey Giambra and Loraine O’Donnell. The songs, written by Tom Naples, will be played by Folk Street which is Phil Lewis, Jim Mumm, and Tom Naples. The songs are snapshots of the immigrant experience of Italian, Jewish, Irish and Norwegian immigrants. Some of the narratives give an in-depth description of the events mentioned in the song.
If there was a common mantra for the immigrants that came to America, it was the quest for their descendants to have a better life than they did. This belief was based in fearless optimism in the benefits of America. For themselves it was enough to escape starvation and political oppression. For their children it was to have a chance to enjoy freedom and prosperity. It was the hope that they could build a better life by becoming Americans.
I realize there is a bunch to do in Buffalo these days, but this event seems different, authentic, and is showing for one evening only. I hope you give this show great consideration.
Immigrants & Ancestors – One Night Only
One night only | 6/29/2019 | Tickets can be purchased at the door or reserved at www.eventbrite.com/e/immigrants-and-ancestors-tickets
Kavinoky Theatre | 320 Porter Avenue | Buffalo, NY 14201
By Joey Giambra, John Cimasi, Jean Rogers Downes