Every day this week at noon Eastern time, you can listen to, and sing along with, a respected musician performing a song from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress. That’s because this week, the American Folklife Center is working with the Daily Antidote of Song, a daily online concert and singalong in which diverse singers lead a single song each day at noon Eastern time. This week, starting September 13, all the singers will be performing songs they learned from the AFC archive! AFC staff members Stephen Winick and Jennifer Cutting will be there to co-host each day’s Antidote as well.
Everyone is invited to join this free program live each day at noon Eastern time…just visit this link and choose whether to watch in the virtual room or on Facebook Live!
You can also view and sing along any time after the live event, on the Washington Revels Facebook Page, at this link.
The singers and songs for the Archive Challenge week are as follows:
September 13: Joe Jencks of Chicago performed “Battle Ax,” which he learned from John and Ruby Lomax’s 1939 recording of Gussie Slater and several other prisoners in Raiford, Florida. Jencks recently performed a short concert entirely made up of songs from the Lomaxes’ Raiford penitentiary recordings.
(Note: since this blog is posting after Joe’s performance, you can already see the video here.)
September 14: Noah Wall and Tommy Norris of Nashville-based bluegrass band The Barefoot Movement will perform “Early in the Morning” from Alan Lomax’s 1947 field recording of song leader Walter “Tangle Eye” Jackson and fellow prisoners Willy “Hard Hat” Lacey, “Little Red,” and Benny Will Richardson at Parchman Farm in Parchman, Mississippi.
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 14, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
September 15: Evie Ladin from Oakland, California, will perform ”Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down,” the beautiful spiritual sung by Bozie Sturdivant and the Silent Grove Baptist Church congregation in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on a 1942 field recording by Alan Lomax and Lewis Wade Jones.
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 15, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
September 16: Fabrizio Cammarata of Palermo, Sicily, will perform “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” This spiritual, originally written in 1901 by African American Methodist minister Charles Albert Tindley, has been included in many hymnals and covered by musicians of many musical genres. AFC’s field recording is by Viola Jenkins, and was recorded in Gainesville, Florida in 1937 by John A. Lomax and Alton C. Morris.
The field recording of “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” isn’t currently online, but you can read more about the song and hear some recordings in this blog post at Folklife Today.
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 16, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
September 17: Nora Rodes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will perform “Gypsy Davy” in a version she learned from the Helen Hartness Flanders and Margaret MacArthur collections. Margaret MacArthur herself performed the song, and you can hear her version at this link on YouTube. Margaret donated her archival collection to the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury, but we received a duplicate, so we have her field recording in the archive as well. That version, sung by Alice Snow Bailey, is online at the VFC website.
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 17, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
September 18: SaulPaul from Austin, Texas will perform “Day-o,” also known as “The Banana Boat Song.” Although best known in the version by Harry Belafonte, this traditional Jamaican folksong was recorded both by commercial musicians and by folklore collectors prior to Belafonte’s 1956 recording. Sometime between 1951 and 1958 Alan Lomax recorded an unidentified Jamaican woman in England singing the song, and that recording is now in the AFC archive. Her chorus includes the words “day dah light” rather than Belafonte’s “daylight come,” suggesting it wasn’t derived from Belafonte’s famous version, but either from folk tradition or from earlier recordings such as Louise Bennett’s 1954 “Day Dah Light.”
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 18, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
September 19: Steve Winick of Takoma Park, Maryland (that’s me!) will perform “Will Ye Go, Lassie Go,” often known as “Wild Mountain Thyme.” It’s a song that has been widely performed and recorded by such singers as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Van Morrison, and Rod Stewart. My version is inspired by two recordings in the AFC archive. The first is a film of the song being performed by the McPeake Family in Belfast in 1964. The film was made by Toshi and Pete Seeger, and is part of the Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection. The second version in the archive was recorded live in the Coolidge Auditorium in 2007 by a later version of the McPeake Family. Francis McPeake III performs on both recordings; he was 22 at the time of the Seeger film and 65 at the time of the Coolidge concert. His grandfather, Francis McPeake I, who is in the Seeger film, created the adaptation of the song that has become world famous. At the time of the 2007 concert, I was lucky enough to interview Francis III and Francis IV about the history of the song.
You can watch the Seeger film in this YouTube video uploaded by the McPeake Family, which owns the rights to the performance.
Once this live event has happened at noon on September 19, 2020, you can watch the video at this link.
The Archive Challenge is a way for all kinds of people to engage with AFC collections. Find out how YOU can take the Archive Challenge at this link.
The Daily Antidote of Song is produced by Washington Revels and Carpe Diem Arts and has now passed its 160th day. It has attracted participants from over 40 states and more than a dozen countries. It was originally designed to help people during isolation. As the growing community continued to sing together and to navigate other national and international challenges, the songs have become increasingly focused on racial and social justice and peace, while the group continues to sing also for the benefit of creating joy, strength, and community during tough times. Song leaders have joined from all across the United States, as well as from Canada, Europe, and Africa.