American music roots exhibit comes to Newton

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:10

NEWTON — “As I go walking that freedom highway . . .This land was made for you and me.” Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” is part of our roots, roots that make America the birthplace of more music than any place on earth. Clicking through the music channels is a sound jaunt through pop, hip-hop, jazz, blues, rock, county, and—the lists goes. The New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music exhibit is bringing this diverse and broad range of music to cities and towns across the United States. The traveling exhibit is part of the Museum on Main Street project, a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and state humanities councils nationwide. In New Jersey, six sites were chosen by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities to host the exhibition. All New Jersey venues will present the exhibition sometime this year, and the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council in Newton, the only site north of Trenton, is the presenter from September 19 through October 30. Coinciding with the spirit of New Harmonies, Photos with a Beat, a show of photographs with musical themes, will be shown at the Arts Council from Sept. 3 to Oct. 1 and All-Woman Show, also a music-themed exhibit that features artwork in all mediums created by women, will be on display from Oct. 8 to Nov. 12. For the duration of the exhibit, concerts, shows, performances, and other music-related events are scheduled throughout Sussex County: Sept. 24 is Evening with the Stars at the Lake Mohawk Golf Club in Sparta where the a cappella group Zephyr Vocal Ensemble will sing early American music. Steve Chapin and Family will be at Salt in Byram on Oct. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m. The New Harmonies exhibit consists of seven interactive listening stations where visitors can hear and learn about America’s musical past and present, from the Bay Psalm Book of 1610 to a Polish accordionist from 1998. Through a selection of photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics, and artist profiles, 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. “It’s very exciting for the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council to be able to host a Smithsonian exhibit,” said Executive Director Mary Jo Mathias. “To bring an exhibit of this caliber to Sussex County will hopefully broaden the appreciation of American music in residents old and young. Using the listening module The First Sounds: Sacred Songs, visitors hear and learn about gospel, spiritual, sacred music, and African and Native American music. From The Hills, Hollows And Plains: Country Music has bluegrass, mountain, cowboy, western swing, the southern sound, and banjo. Can’t Be Satisfied: The Blues explores rural and urban blues, the harmonica, and even spoons. Other Sound, Other Songs features Zydeco, Tejano, Cajun, Klezmer, polkas and accordion. Odetta, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan are part of Come Gather Round People: The Roots Revival, which centers on music from the 1960s, and includes powwow music and the Chicago blues. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Aunt Molly Jackson can be heard in Stand Up and Sing Out, music that rallied people and who sang for freedom. Originally composed of two main groups, British Isles and African slaves, American roots music evolved first into folk ballads, country, blues, and gospel. Immigrants added their own musical traditions and jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and rap evolved. As the process goes on and Middle Eastern, Asian, and South American music are added. For additional information and an updated schedule of corresponding events, go to the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council’s website or call 973-383-0027. The Arts Council is located at 133 Spring Street in Newton. Hours for the duration of the show are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.