By Tess Malijenovsky
Through February 4, 2012, the Beaufort library presents the Smithsonian exhibition New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music.
The exhibit has several interactive kiosks dedicated to the music genres of America’s history: jazz, blues, gospel, country, bluegrass, zydeco, Cajun and folk. The roots music reflects American values such as freedom, democracy and diversity, music that often bridged the immigrant experience and the process of becoming an American.
The Humanities Council of South Carolina worked with the Smithsonian museum of Washington, D.C., to bring the exhibit to the state. The library began the grant process over two years ago to bring New Harmonies to Beaufort and was selected as one of the 12 cities for the tour. “This is the first time the library has had an exhibit of this kind,” said librarian Amanda Brewer, who applied for the grant.
The music timeline ranges from the sacred songs of Native Americans and African gospel to the Roots Revival with artists like Bob Dylan. While visitors walk around they can pick up instruments like the banjo, Diddley bow, spoons, washboard or drums and start to jam. Or they can tune into the hillbilly station on Nashville’s WSM radio station from 1927.
Locals will see that the touring exhibit actually holds ties to the region, like the backdrop of the famous painting “That Old Plantation” by John Rose of Beaufort. “The aim of the Smithsonian is that we not only celebrate America’s root music but also our region’s music,” Brewer said.
In addition, local partners and friends of the Beaufort library have matched the grant and made in-kind donations so that the community can enjoy free concerts, hands-on workshops, lectures and art displays during the exhibit’s stay in town.
Accompanying exhibits that are paying tribute to New Harmonies include “Music within the Art” at Red Piano Too (870 Sea Island Pkwy) and “Celebration of American Music” at the Photography Club of Beaufort (311 Scott Street).
The exhibit is free and open during library hours. To learn more information or see a schedule of the free music concerts and events, log on to www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/newharmonies.