Smithsonian Exhibition Explores Roots Music Traditions

(Elizabeth City, NC) The Museum of the Albemarle, in cooperation with the North Carolina Humanities Council, will explore the many aspects of America’s roots music as it hosts the local showing of 'New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music', a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. New Harmonies will be on view June 19 through August 1.

When you stop and listen, you quickly realize that music is all around us - at a local festival, at a dance hall on a Saturday night, or on your radio or mp3 player. Whether you’re hearing blues, country western, folk, or gospel, American roots music reveals the American story – people reshaping themselves in a new and changing world. As Americans from a variety of heritages and shared cultural influences, musicians found new ways to play unique sounds learned from new neighbors on traditional instruments. The inevitable intermingling of musical influences created exciting new sounds - new American music.

The Museum of the Albemarle and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by the North Carolina Humanities Council to host 'New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music' as part of the Museum on Main Street project – a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations.

Through a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles, 'New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music' will explore the distinct cultural identities of American roots music forms. The exhibition will examine the progression of American roots music, as rich and eclectic as our country itself. Other musical genres profiled include zydeco, tejano, bluegrass and klezmer.

“We are very pleased to be able to bring New Harmonies to our area,” said Don Pendergraft, Exhibit Design Chief. “It allows us the opportunity to explore this fascinating aspect of our own region’s musical history and we hope that it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of our community.”

Some free events for New Harmonies include a family program titled Kindermusik, classical bluegrass from the Long Family, music discussions and performances from Douglas Jackson of ECSU, Jazz from Larry Thomas, Benjamin Filene, PhD on Lead Belly, today’s sounds from DJ Tami from Miami, musical performances from Jonkonnu, and much more.

New Harmonies Programs:

June 12, 2010
2pm: Uphill presents “Mojo 101” in the Gaither Auditorium of the Museum of the Albemarle. The one-hour presentation discusses differences in regional blues styles. What makes our Piedmont Carolina blues sound different from Chicago blues? Following the presentation, Uphill will play blues straight out of the Swampland with a mix of original blues and revitalizing versions of lost classics from Chicago. Members of Uphill are Deacon Blues capturing the soul of guitar legends from Muddy Waters to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chris “Catdaddy” Palestrant on keys and the Deacon’s Down-home blues harp. British bassist Tim Orton and Virginia Beach-cased drummer Isaiah Hunter provide a powerful heartbeat.

June 19, 2010
10am: A ribbon cutting will occur in the entrance to the “Our Story” gallery. Once the ribbon has been cut by Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle’s President Barbara Snowden, visitors will be allowed to enjoy the exhibit at their leisure. Trained docents will be available throughout the day in the New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” exhibit to guide visitors and answer questions.
11am: Mr. Douglas Jackson, Assistant Professor at Elizabeth City State University, will present a lecture in the Gaither Auditorium of the Museum of the Albemarle. Mr. Jackson will discuss the role of the trumpet and cornet in American roots music and how the trumpet and cornet evolved through early American march music, blues, jazz and current styles. Mr. Jackson will also discuss influential trumpeters and provide demonstrations on the trumpet and cornet. In the lecture, Mr. Jackson will provide an introduction of Max Roach who was born in Pasquotank County and became a very important jazz drummer. The music of Max Roach and selected recording will be discussed in the lecture. Once the lecture is over, Mr. Jackson will be available in the New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music exhibit. To coincide with the 9th Annual Juneteenth Celebration at 2:00 pm, Mr. Darrell Stover will read a poem on Pasquotank County Native Max Roach to the beat of a drum.

June 26, 2010
The Museum of the Albemarle will host Kindermusik with Mrs. Marsha Neal. Mrs. Marsha will present America’s (Family-Style) “Musik-al” Merge. Families will actively explore the many rhythms and sounds of America along with energetic movement, vocal harmony and percussion instruments that stimulate the senses. The educational program will be geared toward pre-school and elementary age children. Mrs. Neal has worked with children from birth to 18 years of age but currently focuses on birth to 7 years of age. Mrs. Neal travels throughout Currituck, Dare, and Pasquotank counties offering families the wonderful opportunity to listen to various genres of music with movement, musical instruments, and interactive play.

June 27, 2010
The Long Family will perform. Originating from the Piedmont of North Carolina, the Long Family will perform traditional bluegrass, folk, and gospel songs played with guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, dobro, bass viola, and mandolin. The Long Family’s roots are in farming, particularly tobacco. The lineage originated from the Colfax area of North Carolina. Their musical efforts are very much a family tradition. The Long Family is in its fourth generation of carrying on the family tradition of playing musical instruments. However, the fifth generation is taking an active interest in tradition music at a relatively early age. Carrie Long will describe some of the family influences and background information including how certain family members chose the instruments they play. Some song histories and legends will also be shared. One featured song, steeped in legend and lore, is Brown Mountain Lights. Legends associated with this phenomenon are numerous. The Long Family will also perform songs passed down from parents to children and connect North Carolina’s past. Some of the titles included in the program will be: Salty Dog Blues, I’ll Fly Away, Church in the Wildwood, Dooley, Rebel Soldier, Wildwood Flower, Grandfather’s Clock, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The songs are based in oral traditions and southern Appalachian Mountain customs.

July 10, 2010
The Museum of the Albemarle will host a variety of educational opportunities for all ages with the focus being the 'New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music' exhibition. The activities will begin at 10am with Douglas Jackson, Professor at Elizabeth City State University, performing and discussing the difference in trumpets and the role the trumpet has had in various music and on Jazz. Visitors will be able to listen and dance to the tunes of DJ Tami from Miami on the porch from 11am-1pm. DJ Tami from Miami will play a variety of music ranging from beach to appropriate rap, alternative, and pop music. Beginning at 1pm, Jonkonnu will take center stage with activities of mask-making with visitors and at 2pm the group will perform. Selected visitors will be asked to participate in the performance. In the 1800s, enslaved Africans living in eastern North Carolina celebrated “Jonkonnu.” The festive holiday event blended African and English traditions. Musicians and dancers dressed in masks and multi-colored costumes and armed with drums and cowbells would parade from house to house. Musicians and dancers formed a parade going from house to house. Slaves would follow the parade, clapping, dancing and singing to the music. The slaves performed at each house until the person inside came out and paid them with coins. This was the only time during the year that an enslaved person could expect to meet his or her master on terms that seemed level or equal. Ms. Sharon Bryant, African American Outreach Coordinator for Tryon Palace will present the scholarly portion during the actual performance. During the mask-masking hour members of Jonkonnu assisting visitors to the Museum of the Albemarle will provide the scholarly information to visitors. Mr. Larry Thomas, a veteran jazz writer/radio announcer/historian, will speak at 3:30pm in the Gaither Auditorium of the Museum. Sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council, Mr. Thomas’ program will consist of a series of interviews, stories and information about the Carolina jazz connection. It is a refreshing and entertaining way to answer the puzzling and intriguing questions: Why are there more than seventy jazz personalities who were born in North Carolina? Some say it’s in the water, others that it comes straight out of the church, and still others who say it just comes from the old-fashioned blues. The Carolina Jazz Connection contends that the answer may be a little of all three, and that the connection tells the history, struggles, triumphs, and evolution of the African American from chattel to citizens. Throughout the day, visitors to the Museum will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities such as making sand blocks, clappers, harmonicas, banjos and a dancing doll.

July 11, 2010
Paper Mountain is an acoustic duo comprised of singer/songwriters Alice Conner and Sean Parker. The duo will perform in the Gaither Auditorium at 2:15pm sharing with the audience a variety of gospel songs, while sharing how they became interested in music, their song selection and knowledge of the music instruments they play. Alice and Sean have been performing together for years melding their different musical influences into a soulful package of blues, folk, country, jazz, rock, and everything in between. They are most at home playing at vineyards, weddings, in cozy coffeehouses, private parties, and festivals. They have had a great deal of success from their debut CD entitled, "View from Above" and have performed live in-studio sessions on 93.7 BOB FM, 89.5 WHRV, and 100.9 WRRW. During the day, they are both full-time private music instructors in Virginia Beach, VA with almost 25 years combined experience - Sean teaches bass, mandolin, and guitar and Alice teaches voice, piano, and guitar. Sean has been playing in many bands for over 15 years and grew up in the Roanoke area where he has performed alongside such well-known musicians as Dave Matthews, Cool and the Gang, and KC and The Sunshine Band. Alice has been singing and writing songs on the piano and guitar since she was a small child, but decided to pursue it as a career as a teenager and started taking piano, voice, and guitar lessons simultaneously. She was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, and in 2004, earned a B.A. in Music from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She was fortunate enough to perform with university choir at Carnegie Hall and to study abroad in Germany while attending O.D.U. Since graduation she has been busy teaching, writing, and performing her own music with Sean.

July 15-16, 2010
9am-12pm: “Roots Music 101” Summer Camp - Children that have completed Kindergarten through third grade will take a more in-depth look at roots music will be provided to registered participants through exhibit text, guest presenters, and hands-on activities. Instruction will be provided by a North Carolina certified public school music teacher.

July 20, 2010
10am: Summer Fun Day. To begin the day, Mr. Bert Berry of Chesapeake, Virginia, will provide visitors to the Museum with a brief history on the dulcimer and demonstrate by strumming a few tunes. Mr. Berry will bring additional dulcimers with him and allow visitors the opportunity to strum a few notes themselves. C-Shells will follow for the listening enjoyment of the young and the “young at heart.” C-Shells is a children’s musical duo that has been performing together for the past 15 years. As a children’s duo they use string instruments such as the guitar, banjo, dobro, and mandolin, as well as various percussion instruments, puppets, and entertainment props. The children and adults are encouraged to participate with hand motions and singing. Their song repertoire ranges from traditional and contemporary folk songs to original songs. C-Shells are regulars at many festivals and libraries throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. To bring the day to a close at 12:15pm, Mr. Douglas Jackson, Assistant Professor at Elizabeth City State University, will perform and discuss the difference in trumpets and the impact that the trumpet has had on jazz. A variety of hands-on activities will be provided throughout the day.

July 22, 2010
Benjamin, Filene, Ph.D. will present “Lead Belly, the Lomaxes, and the Construction of America’s Musical Heritage” in the Museum’s Gaither Auditorium. Dr. Filene is Associate Professor and Director of Public History at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Dr. Filene’s lecture will explore how today African-American music is exalted as fundamental to American culture - the roots of rock and America’s premier cultural export. However, it was not always so. In the 1930s, John and Alan Lomax, a father-son team of folk song collectors for the Library of Congress, took their 350-pound “portable” recording machine to southern prisons, gathering songs from inmates cut off from the pop sound of the day. Their prize find was Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, a convicted murderer with a vast repertoire of songs that astonished the Lomaxes. Upon Lead Belly’s release, the Lomaxes took him to New York City and promoted an astonishing claim: This was American’s finest music. Why did the Lomaxes’ claims for Lead belly strike such a chord in urban America? Why did Lead Belly’s criminal past enhance his appearance? How did the Lomaxes create a “cult of authenticity” that shapes how we understand American music today? Dr. Filene will explore these issues, drawing on musical examples and inviting discussion.

July 25, 2010
Listen to the sounds of The Albemarle Sounds, Edenton barbershop singers, in the comfort of the Gaither Auditorium at the Museum of the Albemarle. The Albemarle Sounds held their first meeting in the fall of 1991 with 18 members and continue strong today. They give numerous performances throughout the year, as well as deliver singing Valentines

'New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music' is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation, and local host institutions. To learn more about New Harmonies and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

SITES connects millions of Americans with their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of art, science and history exhibitions. State humanities councils, located in each state and U.S. territory, support community-based humanities programs that highlight such topics as local history, literature and cultural traditions. To learn more, visit

The Museum of the Albemarle is located at 501 S. Water Street, Elizabeth City, NC. Contact them at 252-335-1453. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9am-5pm., and Sunday, 2pm-5pm. Closed Mondays and State Holidays. Serving Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties, the museum is the northeast regional history museum of the North Carolina Division of State History Museums within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information is available 24/7 at


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