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Archive: May 2021 (3 Posts)

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Hidden Folklorists and Hidden Spirituals on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Our latest podcast looks at three “Hidden Folklorists” from Louisiana with special guest Joshua Clegg Caffery from the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Hidden Folklorists are Becky Elzy and Aberta Bradford, two spiritual singers who had been born in slavery, but who years later sang over a hundred spirituals for collectors; and E.A. McIlhenny, the head of the Tabasco Sauce company, who first collected their spirituals into a book. We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio discs for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1934, with the resulting recordings also coming to the AFC Archive. It’s an amusing story in which the 19-year-old Alan Lomax is forced to leave his father, the seasoned collector John A. Lomax “by the side of the road” and drive 40 miles with the 73 year old Bradford to try to find the 82 year old Elzy so they can sing together for the Library’s recording machine. The episode also presents several of their spirituals, and ends with the very moving recording of two women who had been born in slavery singing “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, got free at last!”

A woman plays Chinese Zheng

Homegrown Plus: Ann Yao

Posted by: Stephen Winick

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!) This time, though, there’s a twist: Ann Yao, who performed in the 2020 series, also presented a Homegrown concert way back in 2011 with the Ann …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Homegrown Plus: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We continue the Homegrown Plus series with the duo of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, who perform their own unusual arrangements of traditional and original Scottish and American folk music on fiddle and cello. Alasdair Fraser has a concert and recording career spanning over 30 years, with a long list of awards, accolades, radio and television credits, and feature performances on top movie soundtracks, including Last of the Mohicans and Titanic. In 2011, he was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Natalie Haas, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, is one of the most sought after cellists in traditional music today, and has performed and recorded with Mark O'Connor, Natalie MacMaster, Irish supergroups Solas and Altan, Liz Carroll, Dirk Powell, Brittany Haas, Darol Anger, Laura Cortese, and many more. Together, the duo of Fraser & Haas has helped reconstruct and revive a longstanding Scottish tradition of playing dance music on violin and cello. For their socially distanced concert, they performed some music solo and some using studio technology to join up separate performances, but most of it is never-before-released concert footage from their archive of pre-pandemic performances. In the interview, we discuss their separate musical histories as well as their 20-year career as a duo.