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Give Me Louisiana: Selections from the Doralice Fontane Papers

Posted in Exhibitions, Special Collections Tagged with: ,

Visitors to the Special Collections Reading Room are invited to view a display of materials from the newly processed Doralice Fontane Papers. Louisiana native Doralice Fontane was a music teacher, composer, and businesswoman. Fontane was also a prolific composer best known for composing one of Louisiana’s state songs, “Give Me Louisiana,” and a peace march, “Let’s March Together (People of the World),” inspired by the Korean War. Born on December 27, 1905 in Moreauville, Louisiana, Fontane began playing piano at the age of five and began her studies of the organ with the parish priest, a “famed organist from Nancy, France,” at the age of nine. She became the organist of her parish church three years later and began writing her own compositions at age fifteen. Fontane graduated from Louisiana State University with the class of 1927 with a degree in music.

AtPiano

Doralice Fontane at her piano, c. 1950.

At the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-1953), Fontane felt compelled to compose “a contribution towards ‘World Peace,’ to help soften the trend in a troubled world.” She called the song “Let’s March Together (People of the World).” Fontane then mailed out 2,000 complimentary copies it to United States governors, mayors, senators, diplomats, United Nations delegates, and religious leaders. She received 1,800 responses. The Doralice Fontane Papers, now available for research at Hill Memorial Library, contain many of these responses, including personal letters of acknowledgement from Eleanor Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover.

EleanorRooseveltLetter

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt, 1949.

Not only did Fontane mail copies of her song internationally, but she also enlisted her nephew’s help in dropping copies of “Let’s March Together” over North Korea. Roland Roy, Fontane’s nephew and a pilot during the war, wrote her a letter stating that, “On April 15th, 1952 … an attack bomber piloted by Ensign Leo Profilet took off from the flight deck and flew on a routine mission over North Korea and carefully dropped all copies of your wonderful ‘Peace March’… over the large coastal village of SO-HO-RI on the east coast of North Korea.”

Roland Roy

Letter from Roland Roy, April 25, 1952

RolandRoy3

Map included with letter from Roland Roy, 1952.

In addition to her entreaties for peace, Fontane was also a business woman. While living in New Orleans, she converted her other home on North Boulevard in Baton Rouge into a “house of weddings.” She later moved back to Baton Rouge and became the so-called “chatelaine” of Fontane House, which she opened on Dec 27, 1958. She knew that “in this medium, she could still apply her talent and love for music and also give happiness to young couples by creating a beautiful atmosphere in which to hold their wedding and reception.” Fontane loved to host parties and entertain the social set of Baton Rouge. She was known for her style and exquisite home décor.

In 1970, Fontane composed and wrote “Give Me Louisiana.” She wrote the song with the intention of securing it as the official Louisiana state song, stating that “I feel it presents appropriate and dignified lyrics and melody for general use as the official state song of Louisiana.” She sent state legislators complimentary copies of the song with a letter requesting their consideration in designating the composition as the official state song.  Late that same year, her song received the coveted designation.

GiveMeLouisiana_sheet music

Sheet music for “Give Me Louisiana,” c. 1970.

In 1976, the popular country music song “You are My Sunshine,” by former Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis, was proposed to replace “Give Me Louisiana” as the state song. Fontane attended the legislative session, taking note of which congressmen voted for or against the proposal. In the end, the bill fell through by a vote of 41-35. However, the following year “You are My Sunshine” was officially adopted as the second state song, sharing the designation with Fontane’s “Give Me Louisiana.”

Fontane passed away on August 20, 1981. Her papers, housed at Hill Memorial Library, consist primarily of letters of acknowledgements from various individuals for the complimentary copies of “Let’s March Together” and include her writings, official and legal documents, music education pamphlets, printed materials, and materials relating to making “Give Me Louisiana” the state song. The collection also includes sheet music and arrangements for songs that Fontane composed, songs she co-authored, and also from various other composers. The lead printing plates for the sheet music of “Give Me Louisiana” are also available.

Jennifer Mitchell is the Head of Archival Processing in the Special Collections department of the LSU Libraries.

Posted in Exhibitions, Special Collections Tagged with: ,

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