Thanks to David Weintraub and The Center for Cultural Preservation, mountain music’s legacy will soon hit the big screen.
The world premiere of Weintraub’s new film, “A Great American Tapestry: The Many Strands of Mountain Music,” featuring the history of Appalachian song and dance, is set for Thursday at Blue Ridge Community College.
“Tapestry” will screen at three venues in Western North Carolina in June.
The documentary tells the story of the southern mountains’ musical birth and evolution through the strands of the Scots-Irish legacy and oft-overlooked African-American tradition, and through the longest lived music in the Americas, the indigenous tradition.
According to Weintraub, the director and producer of the film, “Mountain music is often discussed as a Scots-Irish tradition that came over here by the Ulster-Scots — and that’s true. It is a fascinating story.
“But what often gets overlooked,” he continued, “is that the West African banjo was played in this country by blacks for nearly 100 years before it was ever picked up by white musicians. African-Americans also played a key role in developing the syncopated and rhythmic fiddle styles that symbolic of old-time and bluegrass music. The blended cultural result is exactly what makes mountain music as beautiful and captivating as it is.”
The film features the leading luminaries of the ballad tradition, including balladeer extraordinaires Sheila Kay Adams, Joe Penland and Bobby McMillon, as well as Grammy Award-winning founders of the world-renowned black string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops including Rhiannon Giddens, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, David Holt, and musicologists and historians who tell the story of the great melting pot that became Appalachian music.
“The reality of the southern backcountry was a diverse mix of Europeans, African-American and indigenous native peoples,” said Phil Jamison, professor of Appalachian Music at Warren Wilson College. “Not racially, culturally or economically homogeneous, it was home to wealthy landowners, poor tenant farmers, sharecroppers, merchants, subsistence farms and enslaved African-Americans.”
All of them shaped the region’s music, and each made it special.
In addition to a film screening, several musicians participating in the film will perform at the start of each program.
A brief discussion with the filmmaker and participants follows the screenings. Music will precede all screenings. In Hendersonville, featured performers include Sheila Kay Adams, local old time band Rhiannon and the Relics and rising star Amythyst Kiah.
In Asheville the program will begin with ballads by Joe Penland and others. And in Black Mountain, Rhiannon and the Relics and Bobby McMillon will take the stage.
Tickets are expected to sell out quickly, so it is highly recommended that they be ordered soon on the Center for Cultural Preservation’s website at saveculture.org. For more information about the program and for group sales, call the center at 828-692-8062.
For more information about future film screenings, online purchases of the DVD and more information about the film, contact the Center for Cultural Preservation or visit saveculture.org.
IF YOU GO
What: Screening of Mountain Music documentary, with performances and discussion before and after the film
In Hendersonville/Flat Rock: 7 p.m. June 22, in Bo Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College, 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock
In Asheville: 7:30 p.m. June 29 at Fine Arts Theatre, 36 Biltmore Ave., Asheville
In Black Mountain: 7:30 p.m. June 30 at White Horse, 105 Montreat Road, Black Mountain
Tickets: $10-$15 at saveculture.org or at the door
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