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Homegrown Plus: 2017 Archive Challenge Sampler Concert

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Cissa Paz playing the guitar and Fernando Saci playing a drum.
Cissa Paz and Fernando Saci playing in the Coolidge Auditorium, when the American Folklife Center hosted the Archive Challenge Sampler concert during the Homegrown Concert Series, September 20, 2017. Library of Congress photo by Shawn Miller.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with the 2017 Archive Challenge Sampler concert in the Coolidge Auditorium. It’s a little different from the other Homegrown concerts in that it featured five distinguished Washington, D.C.-area artists, who dug deep into our archive and put their own creative stamp on the songs and tunes they found here. Each of the artists performed just a couple of songs from the archive to show what a tremendous resource it is for creative work. The artists are Grammy-winning old-time duo Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer; “American Songster” Dom Flemons, himself a Grammy recipient for work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops; leading Klezmer woodwind player and award-winning  songwriter Seth Kibel; eclectic Brazilian singer-songwriter Cissa Paz; and blues harmonica player and NEA National Heritage Fellow Phil Wiggins. In this concert video, you will hear the music they fell in love with during their research, imbued with their own creativity and style.

In the first player, watch the whole concert, which took place on September 20, 2017. The artists take the stage in the following order: Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer with Sam Gleaves (5:30); Seth Kibel with Sean Lane (19:40); Cissa Paz with Fernando Saci (33:55); Phil Wiggins with Ian Walters (50:25); and Dom Flemons (1:07:00). Then scroll down for the Oral History video!

Before the oral history video, here’s a few words about the history of the Archive Challenge idea. Like the Newpoli concert we posted last week, the Archive Challenge Sampler Concert was one of the fruits of AFC’s participation in the Folk Alliance International conference over more than a decade. For all that time, Jennifer Cutting and I have been attending the conference, staffing an AFC table, giving presentations about the collections, looking for artists to present in the Homegrown series, and keeping abreast of the changing music scene. In 2015, when we were celebrating the centennial of Alan Lomax’s birth, Jennifer came up with the idea of organizing a showcase which we could capture on video and place on the Library of Congress website. At the showcase, artists would perform songs collected by Alan Lomax and learned from his collections here at the Library of Congress. That 2015 showcase resulted in the Lomax Challenge videos, which are available online at this link. For subsequent Folk Alliance conferences, we expanded the idea to the “Archive Challenge,” allowing artists to mine all of our archival collections in search of great songs.  That has so far resulted in two years of videos (2017 and 2018), which will be going online very soon–we’ll blog about them when they do!

Dom Flemons, an African American man, plays an acoustic guitar into a microphone.
Dom Flemons plays a Big Bill Broonzy song at AFC’s Lomax Challenge Showcase at the Folk Alliance International conference in February, 2015. Photo by Stephen Winick.

As a natural outgrowth of the Archive Challenge idea, Jennifer and Theadocia Austen, our Public Events Coordinator, came up with the idea of a “sampler concert” in the Coolidge Auditorium, in which we asked some of the most talented musicians in our own neck of the woods to take the challenge and add archival treasures from AFC archive to their repertoires. The result is the great concert you can see in the player above.

Seth Kibel plays the clarinet while Sean Lane plays the grand piano.
Seth Kibel (clarinet) and Sean Lane (piano) playing in the Coolidge Auditorium, when the American Folklife Center hosted the Archive Challenge Sampler concert during the Homegrown Concert Series, September 20, 2017. Library of Congress photo by Shawn Miller.

While we had the artists here, we decided also to do oral histories with them, which Jennifer and I conducted. In the player below, see all the oral histories in succession, in the following order: Jennifer speaks with Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (00:00-16:42); Jennifer speaks with Seth Kibel (16:43-26:04) Jennifer speaks with Cissa Paz (26:05-37:32); I speak with Phil Wiggins (37:33-49:51); and I speak with Dom Flemons (49:51-1:08:07).

We have since had a second Archive Challenge Sampler concert in 2018, which is being prepared for webcast right now; we’ll blog about it when it goes online!

Also, on February 13, Jennifer and I will be on our way to the Folk Alliance International 2019 conference, in Montreal. Together, we’ll be staffing an AFC table and running this year’s Archive Challenge showcase. We’ll also be keeping our eyes and ears open for more groups to feature in the Homegrown series. And once we get back, we’ll start planning for the next Archive Challenge sampler concert here at the Library. The videos from both the 2019 Archive Challenge at Folk Alliance and the 2019 Archive Challenge Sampler concert will then go online at, and we will keep you informed on this blog. So as always, there’s more great stuff to stay tuned for here at Folklife Today!

Marcy Marxer plays a large banjo, Cathy Fink plays a smaller banjo, and Sam Gleaves plays a fiddle on the stage of the Coolidge Auditorium. All are seated in chairs and playing to microphones.
Marcy Marxer (left), Cathy Fink (center) and Sam Gleaves (right) playing in the Coolidge Auditorium, when the American Folklife Center hosted the Archive Challenge Sampler concert during the Homegrown Concert Series, September 20, 2017. Library of Congress photo by Shawn Miller.

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

You can find more information about the artists on the archived concert site, which is at this link.

The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.


  1. Thanks for having me as a part of the 2017 challenge. I had a blast!

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