Appalachia: A Cultural Crossroads

WED, NOV 6, 2019 (1:07:49)

Cambridge Forum and the Revels present musicians Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer, who perform and explore the history and roots of traditional music of Appalachia.

The Appalachian Mountains south of the Mason-Dixon Line, is one of the birthplaces of American music: the mountains of southern Appalachia, where Native American, African American, and European traditions combined to foster an astonishing wealth of artistic expression. The forum celebrates the quiet of the mountains in the songs passed on by Appalachian musicians from generation to generation, and examines the ideas that resonate in this music that speaks of the natural world, the hardship, the dark and light in human relationships.

Image: Cambridge Forum Event Image

+ BIO: Patrick Swanson

Paddy Swanson began his career in London as an actor at the Arts Theatre in the West End. In 1969, he toured Europe with La MaMa Plexus and subsequently got his world theater education from Ellen Stewart at La MaMa E.T.C. in New York. His numerous directing projects include opera, ensemble, music theater and circus. He was a founding stage director of Circus Flora.

Paddy taught acting and improvisation at the London Academy of Dramatic Art (L.A.M.D.A.), the London Drama Centre, and New York University. He served as artistic director of the Castle Hill Festival at Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts, directing and co-producing opera and theater works, including the premiere of Julie Taymor’s Liberty’s Taken and Peter Sellars’ production of Cosi fan Tutte. Other directing credits include Tristan and Iseult with the Boston Camerata at the Spoleto USA festival; Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell at Houston’s Alley Theatre and Boston’s Charles Playhouse; Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, The Caretaker by Harold Pinter, and two stage premieres at Gloucester Stage Company; Talking Heads by Alan Bennett; and Fighting Over Beverley by Israel Horowitz . His Actors’ Shakespeare Project (A.S.P.) production of Shakespeare’s King Lear with Alvin Epstein was nominated for three 2006 Elliot Norton awards. For A.S.P. he subsequently directedThe Tempest, The Coveted Crown (Henry IV parts one and two) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His most recent acting performance (after a thirty year hiatus) was for Gloucester Stage in their 20th anniversary production of Fighting over Beverley.

+ BIO: Libby Weitnauer

Libby Weitnauer is a fiddle player, violinist, and educator currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

Libby began her journey on the violin at the age of 4 in the musical community of East Tennessee. During her time there, she soloed with several local orchestras including the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Maryville College Community Orchestra, Oak Ridge Youth Symphony, and Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestra and had her performance dubbed “ethereal” by the Knoxville News Sentinel. After high school, Libby moved to Chicago to study with pedagogue Olga Kaler and complete her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance at DePaul University.

+ BIO: Jake Blount

Jake Blount is an award-winning banjoist, fiddler, singer and scholar based in Washington, DC. He is half of the internationally touring duo Tui and a 2020 Strathmore Artist in Residence. He has studied with modern masters of old-time music, including Bruce Molsky, Judy Hyman (of the Horse Flies), and Rhiannon Giddens and Hubby Jenkins (of the GRAMMY-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops). Although he is proficient in multiple old-time styles, he specializes in the music of Black and Native American communities in the southeastern United States, and in the regional style of Ithaca, New York. In 2016, Blount became the first Black person to make the finals at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop), and the first to win in the traditional band category. In the following year, he received his B.A. in Ethnomusicology from Hamilton College and released his debut EP, “Reparations,” with award-winning fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves. He toured Scandinavia and released a CD with the Moose Whisperers in 2018. He opened several shows for MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Rhiannon Giddens the same year, and joined Libby Weitnauer to form the duo Tui while on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. In 2019, Tui released their debut album, Pretty Little Mister, and Blount claimed first place in the banjo contest at Clifftop with three tunes from Black banjoists. He is now working toward his first full-length solo album.

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