Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 2, 2012

Celebrate America’s roots music on Georgia coast


CNHI

— Listen in to America’s roots with music on the Georgia coast all through August. Wild shrimp to eat, too, plus documentary films and lectures about musical traditions.

This is “New Harmonies,” created by the Smithsonian and presented by the Georgia Humanities Council.

Darien is the town, where families have shrimped for generations.

All month, they can also explore the musical roots of Georgia’s seaside with Saturday performances, Wednesday lectures and Thursday films, plus a Smithsonian exhibition in a former hotel.

Plenty of architectural history accompanies the music; Wednesday noontime lectures happen in the 1876 St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church.

The schedule is available at www.georgiahumanities.org/newharmonies.

I’m particularly interested in the Aug. 15 lecture because it’s all about Lydia Parish and I want to know more about her work to “restore the dignity of spirituals” as historian Deirdre Kindthistle describes it.

I’m a Yank who learned to embrace the music and history rural Southerners grew up with. In Darien until Sept. 1, people from all backgrounds can experience eons of musical history together.

Century-old wooden floors in the former Darien Hotel support info-panels and listening kiosks --- gospel and blues, mountain and folk, Zydeco and country, sacred and secular.

Roots music grows out of folk traditions, but the Smithsonian’s curator of this exhibition says, “Even today roots music is alive,” said Robert Santelli.

“Modern artists draw on nearly every genre of American roots music.”

Among those performing while New Harmonies is in Darien are saxophonist and jazz vocalist Michael Hulett.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra small ensemble presents roots music with the Gullah-Geechee Ring Shouters at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 in the McIntosh County Academy.

Here’s the Symphony’s inspiration: “Slave Songs from the Georgia Sea Islands,” a book written in 1942 by Lydia Parish.

Parish was an amateur folklorist, credited with forming the Spiritual Singers Society of Coastal Georgia around 1920.

Long history here with the McIntosh County Shouters who have been presenting ring shouts for decades, drawing from songs sung on slave ships arriving at the Georgia coast in the 1700s.

“Songs were given to us at birth,” Tarsia Palmer says of each member of the group, all related and ranging in age from 26 to 96.

“Our people always managed to make a way out of no ways, and the songs reflect that,” Palmer said.

An overnight or two in a Darien bed and breakfast could help experience several New Harmonies events.

Blue Heron Inn is the choice I made, 11 miles out of downtown, near the ferry to Sapelo Island.

Innkeepers Jan and Bill Chamberlain hail from Pennsylvania and now rejoice in all things marshy: abundance of birds, ecosystems in the grasses and tides touching their back yard, long growing seasons for fruits and vegetables they cook for their guests.

Even though the Music of ART exhibit with local artists influenced by music will lure you downtown to the former jail turned art association galleries, allow some lingering time at the Blue Heron Inn.

Gaze to forever across the marsh.

Seems like the right quiet place to contemplate ring shouts, Gullah-Geechee culture and all the music roots of Georgia’s coast.

Films too, every August Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the public library on Highway 17 in Darien. Where else would you find these gems?

-- “Daughters of the Dust” Three generations of Gullah women at the turn of the 20th century, language, song and imagery, Aug. 2

-- “Sing My Troubles By” Older women who perform gospel, blues, mountain music and ballads from their youth, Aug. 9

-- “Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old” Footage shot by folklorist Alan Lomax, Aug. 16

-- “We Juke Up in Here” Chitlin’ Circuit network of black musicians through the south and east, Aug. 23

-- “Desperate Man Blues” The story of Joseph E. Bussard Jr., self-proclaimed king of 78-rpm record collecting. Aug. 30.

Local exhibits about people significant in Darien musical cultural history through the past century too.

Check the Georgia Humanities Council website for three more 2012 New Harmonies celebrations. Six others in 2013.

---

Christine Tibbetts covers travel destinations for the Tifton, Ga., Gazette. Contact her at www.TibbettsTravel.com

x x x x

When you go:

www.GeorgiaHumanities.org/newharmonies

404-523-6220

www.BlueHeronInnGACoast.com

912-437-4304