Back to our roots
In late 2007, we read that a traveling Americana exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution would be coming to four West Virginia locations in 2009. Called "New Harmonies," the exhibit showcases the roots of American music by focusing on the greats of the past, such as Bob Wills, Mahalia Jackson, Woody Guthrie and a bunch of others.
We knew the Morgan County Public Library had hosted another Smithsonian show a few years ago so we contacted them. Soon we were meeting regularly with librarian Larry Springer, Jeanne Mozier and Morgan Arts Council director Mary Hott to plan what turned into the most ambitious music and cultural project that Berkeley Springs has ever seen. In fact, with several events per month, it would be an ambitious program for a community of any size.
Dubbed "Back To Our Roots," the year-long series will feature exhibits of American music and folklore artifacts, concerts, presentations by experts including WVU professors, a film series and events in various schools. Everything is free or at a nominal cost to cover expenses.
It all begins this week with some traditional dancing on Friday night and Sunday afternoon at the Ice House, as well as with fourth grade students. The traditional mountain theme continues next week with the opening of the film series on Wednesday evening, January 21. The first movie will be "Songcatcher," a 2000 film about a ballad collector in the Appalachians.
Next month will see an exhibit of items from the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame on display in the library. More West Virginia lore will come in March with a "John Henry" exhibit from the West Virginia Humanities Council and your editor's talk about that Mountain State railroad ballad and hero.
Then in April comes the Smithsonian's "New Harmonies" show. Along the way, there are lectures about Berkeley Springs artist Porte Crayon, jazz singer and pianist Eric Byrd doing his take on Ray Charles, a gospel weekend and much more.
If you want a fuller schedule, pick up one of the brochures around town or check out the Morgan Arts Council's website. Of course, there will be information about "Back To Our Roots" in The Morgan Messenger as things progress.
As we said, this is an ambitious project that will not only entertain and educate local people, but should bring a number of visitors to town in what may be a slow year. You won't have to travel far for some quality programs.