March 20, 2002 American Folklife Center Begins Concert Series

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Contact: Press, Library of Congress: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189 | Press, Kennedy Center: Erin Dowdy (202) 416-8453

"Homegrown: The Music of America" is the title of a new outdoor concert series of traditional music and dance drawn from communities across the United States that will be offered by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, beginning on April 24.

The series is co-sponsored with the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The noontime concerts will be held on the Neptune Plaza of the Library's Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, once a month from April through November. Inclement weather locations are the Library's Coolidge Auditorium (Jefferson Building) or the Mumford Room (sixth floor Madison Building). All concerts are free and open to the public. Closest Metro stops are Capitol South (orange and blue lines) and Union Station (red line).

"We have worked with federal and state folklorists, and other professionals from associated fields, to identify performing groups noted for their excellence in presenting authentic community-based musical traditions," said Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center.

Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, said, "After four summers of presenting the Millennium Stage at the Capitol, we are pleased to continue bringing free performances to a wider audience through our partnership with the Library of Congress."

The series will open with a performance by Eddie Pennington, a thumbpicking guitarist from Kentucky who was named a 2001 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment of the Arts. The full schedule follows. All concerts begin at noon.

"Homegrown: The Music of America" Concert Series

April 24

Eddie Pennington: Thumbpicking style guitarist

May 15

Zhengli Xu: Yuqin Wang-Chinese puppet theater

June 19

Karl & the Country Dutchmen: German polka orchestra

July 24

Chuck Brown: Father of DC GoGo, with blues and jazz influences

August 28

Campbell Brothers & Katie Webster: sacred steel gospel

Sept 19

TBA-2002 National Heritage Fellow

October 8

Bob McQuillan & Old New England contra dancing

November 13

Cellicion Traditional Zuni Dancers (presented in cooperation with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian)

Background on Eddie Pennington

The complex guitar-picking style known as "thumbpicking" was born in a particular area of western Kentucky, Muhlenburg County. Popularized by Merle Travis and further developed by instrumentalists such as Chet Atkins, this music had a common source in Mose Rager, a guitarist from the region. Eddie Pennington, the son of a coal miner, also learned to play guitar from Mose Rager, but he stayed home in Princeton, Ky., to become a county coroner and funeral director.

Music was a part of his family heritage. Relatives say that his great-great grandfather, Edward Alonzo Pennington, was a fiddler who was unfairly convicted of a murder and who played a tune still played today called "Pennington's Farewell" as he sat on his coffin watching the hangman prepare the noose. Eddie's father, a coal miner, played fiddle and exposed his son to songs about the life of a coal miner. Today, Pennington continues to play this ornamental instrumental style, enlivening his public performances with humorous stories about his experiences as a funeral director. He has recently been featured on stages at the National Folk Festival, as part of the Folk Master series at the Barns of Wolf Trap and on the Masters of the Steel String Guitar Tour.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Part of the Kennedy Center's Performing Arts for Everyone initiative, the Millennium Stage helps fulfill the center's mission to make performing arts accessible to everyone. The Millennium Stage introduces the performing arts to the local community and to millions of people who visit the center each year. These free, 6 p.m. performances are offered 365 days a year. Tickets are never required. Daily broadcasts of Millennium Stage concerts are available on the Internet. For a schedule and information on how to access the broadcasts, visit the Kennedy Center website:


PR 02-029
ISSN 0731-3527