Traveling Smithsonian exhibit celebrating American roots music comes to Beaufort library

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comDecember 17, 2011 

  • The "New Harmonies" grand opening runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Beaufort library on 311 Scott St. Vic Varner, Beek Webb, Kirk Dempsey, Queen Quet and Crosstuned will perform. Admission is free.


The gulf between today's hip-hop and the spirituals of 100 years ago might seem vast. But listen closely enough and that chasm slowly starts to narrow.

"New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music" seeks to bridge that gap. The Smithsonian Institute's traveling exhibit opens Saturday at the Beaufort library and runs through Feb. 4.

The exhibit features interactive kiosks with instruments and items critical in roots music -- fiddles, banjos, drums, accordions, sheet music and program bills. Listening stations play the folk, bluegrass, gospel and blues music of yesteryear.

"It's not every day that you get a Smithsonian-quality exhibit in your backyard like this," said reference librarian Amanda Brewer.

The exhibit has turned into a community affair. The next two months feature an array of events and exhibits that piggyback off the roots music concert. The Red Piano Too features the exhibit "Music Within The Art" consisting of local artists' work. The Photography Club of Beaufort's annual exhibit at the library is called "Celebration of American Music."

Concerts will be held throughout Beaufort that feature Appalachian, folk, gospel, barbershop and jazz music. Documentaries will be screened on Sacred Harp singing, gospel and Mexican corrido music.

The exhibit has been a two-year process for the library from when it first applied for the grant to bring it to Beaufort. The Smithsonian is bringing the exhibit to largely rural towns across the country. Beaufort was one of 12 sites selected in South Carolina.

Brewer, a musician, is even holding a concert of country classics.

"It's been a dream for me," she said. "The progression of music tells our history as a country. It's important for people to know where they have been to tell where they're going."

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