Feel like taking a road trip today?
Chicago-based singer and composer Cecelia Otto will be performing a free concert tonight, May 2, at 7:30p.m. at the town hall auditorium in at 120 East Main Street in Ligonier, Pennsylvania – her fourth stop during her American Songline journey across the country.
Cece is in the midst of a pretty awesome and ambitious project celebrating the centennial of the Lincoln Highway, America’s first named transcontinental highway. In April, she kicked off a six-month concert tour where she’ll be performing early twentieth century popular music and highway songs in venues along the original 1913 route of the Lincoln Highway. All concerts are free admission. You can follow Cece’s progress throughout her singing travelogue project through her website and social media.
After an inaugural performing in New York City, the site of the eastern terminus of the route, Cece has already traveled through New Jersey and headed west through Pennsylvania, stopping at historical sites and tracing the route of the highway as much as possible, until she arrived at the western terminus in San Francisco, California. Portions of the original 1913 route have been rerouted, renamed, decommissioned and even destroyed, so it’s a difficult yet fascinating endeavor that Cece is taking on.
Cece stops in Ligonier tonight, where she’ll perform with pianist Aaron Gray, a junior at Saint Vincent College. Her set list will include popular operettas, classical pieces and vaudeville songs, music written about the highway and two original songs composed by Dr. Nolan Stolz that are based on The Complete Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway, published in 1916. After corresponding with Cece over the last few weeks, I’m really excited to see her performance, meet her in person and hopefully have some adventures learning more about the Lincoln Highway and its impact on the Ligonier Valley and western Pennsylvania in general.
The The Lincoln Highway really changed the way people traveled by car from town to town and cross-country in the early twentieth century. Until bypasses were built to reroute increased traffic, the Lincoln Highway was the main thoroughfare through cities and towns like Ligonier, with visitors and tourists bringing revenue to the businesses and roadside attractions that sprung up along the route in 14 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. In Ligonier, the Lincoln Highway passes right through the middle of town along East and West Main Streets.
For more information on Cece Otto’s American Songline project, check out the April 29, 2013 edition of the Latrobe Bulletin, in which appears a feature article I wrote about her upcoming performance. I’ve written a section on the Lincoln Highway in Ligonier Valley Vignettes, but I highly suggest to anyone that wishes to learn more about this historic highway to consult books by Brian Butko, who I consider the foremost authority on the Lincoln Highway, especially in Pennsylvania. Also check out Brian’s Lincoln Highway blog, where he reports current news happening along the highway. If you want to see the different generations of the Lincoln Highway, the Lincoln Highway Association has a fantastic interactive map posted on their website. I hope to use this map to help me navigate during my own little Lincoln Highway journey that I’m planning for this spring or summer.