Smithsonian music exhibit comes to the Arts and Heritage Council

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:03

    A Smithsonian Institution exhibit exploring the roots of American music comes to Newton NEWTON — “As I go walking that freedom highway...This land was made for you and me.” We hear Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and we hum, whistle or sing along. Most of us know it because it’s an American song. It’s 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. We swing low with our chariots, hammer with John Henry, and blow in the wind. The roots of American music are deep and wide. Old Protestant hymns from Britain and storied rhythms from Africa were altered, blended, revised, and reborn into folk, county, blues, and gospel. Add an Eastern European polka and a Native American chant, and you have quite a mix. 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 September 3 to October 1. “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 listening modules visitors hear and learn about gospel, spiritual, sacred music, and African and Native American music, country music, including bluegrass, mountain, cowboy, western swing, the southern sound and banjo. Visitors will also learn about rural and urban blues, the harmonica, and even spoons. Another exhibit called Other Sound, Other Songs, will feature 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.