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Happy Holidays! AFC’s 2023 Literary Ball Mummers Play Video

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Happy holidays from the American Folklife Center! Watch a video of the AFC Mummers performing our 2023 mummers play! Then you can read the play, see the pictures, and even read the annotations if you’re interested in the history of holiday customs. This year’s play is called “Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity: A Literary Ball Mumming.” When Artificial Intelligence tries to make writers obsolete, can St. George Eliot, Sherlock Holmes and Enola Holmes save the day? Find out in this play set at the North Pole Library Literary Ball, which includes wassailing carols and dancing to traditional tunes as well! Mummers plays are short plays which were traditionally performed in Britain, Ireland, colonial America and the West Indies at holiday time. Mummers went from house to house and pub to pub, collecting food, drink and small change as a reward for their entertainment. The American Folklife Center’s archive boasts a large collections of British mummers play texts in its James Madison Carpenter Collection.

Portrait of singer Thea Hopkins on stage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone

New Guide Offers a Tool Kit for Staging an Archive Challenge

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Since 2015, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has encouraged singers, musicians, and other artists to explore our archive. Through our Archive Challenge events, artists find a song or piece of music they love, put their own stamp on it through arrangement or interpretation, learn it, and perform it. But what if you work at a different archive, and would like to stage similar events to get the word out about your archival resources while also supporting artists and musicians? Good news! We've just created a research guide containing a tool kit for staging Archive Challenge events. Read all about the tool kit, and find a link to the toll kit itself, in this blog post from Folklife Today!

A man sings and plays Tibetan lute

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! In this episode for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, John Fenn and Steve Winick invite guests to talk about Asian collections in the American Folklife Center. Allina Migoni talks about the earliest known recordings of Korean music, playing segments of a lecture by Robert Provine and a song sung by Ahn Jeong-Sik. Sara Ludewig discusses the Linda LaMacchia collection, including recordings made of Tibetan singers in India. Steve discusses Asian and Pacific Island collections in the Homegrown concert series, and plays a song, a story, and a flute composition by Grammy-nominated Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal. Special theme music is provided by ukulele master Herb Ohta, Jr.

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

A Seminar for Strathmore Artist in Residence Grad School

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Thanks to an ongoing partnership between the American Folklife Center and the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, Maryland, fourteen young musicians were treated to a multi-media feast of collection materials significant to jazz history from three different divisions in the Library of Congress during their in-person visit on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. Read all about it in Folklife Today!

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

Web Archives and Cuban Songs: Interns and their Interests on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. In this episode, John Fenn and and I interview the American Folklife Center’s recent interns, Bryan Jenkins and Elisa Alfonso, about the items and collections that caught their …

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

Homegrown Plus: Walter Parks

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're filling in the Homegrown Plus series with one that got away, our great 2020 concert with Walter Parks, one of the first "Homegrown at Home" concerts. Walter is a consummate guitarist who founded the duo The Nudes before spending more than a decade as the lead guitarist for Woodstock legend Richie Havens. We're particularly happy to present this concert, which showcased our collections in a unique and compelling way. Walter has done extensive research on our 1944 recordings of Okefenokee Swamp music made by Francis Harper. He has arranged material from the collection for his own performances, including his Homegrown Concert, which is almost entirely made up of material from the collection. If that weren't enough, Walter made the journey from his current home in St. Louis all the way down to the Chesser homestead, so he could record part of his concert video in the same place where the archival recordings were made. It gives his concert an extraordinary sense of place, and we're particularly delighted to present it to you here.

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

Saint George and the Hacker: A Zoom Meeting Mummers Play

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The American Folklife Center's 2021 Mummers play is about a zoom meeting that gets invaded by a hacker who won't let the participants leave until he gets a bitcoin ransom. 2021 has felt like a zoom meeting that wouldn't end, so we hope our audience can relate! Find a video of the play and the complete annotated script in this blog!

A woman in Día de Muertos makeup

La Llorona on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Halloween and Día de Muertos are almost here! So, believe it or not, Season 4, Episode 1 of the Folklife Today Podcast, our 2021 Halloween and Día de Muertos episode, is ready for listening! It features interviews about the Weeping Woman, La Llorona, a spirit from Latin American folklore, plus related songs and stories. The people interviewed are Juan Díes, leader of the Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Camille Acosta, who wrote her masters thesis on La Llorona before interning at AFC, and Allina Migoni, AFC's Latinx subject specialist. This blog contains links to download the podcast, background on our guests, and links to full audio of the songs.

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

Growing Up with La Llorona

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This is the fourth blog post in a series about La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, a spirit that haunts the folklore of Mexico and other Latin American countries. We'll present comments on the legend by the writer Rudolfo Anaya, the scholar Domino Renee Perez, our former intern and Llorona expert Camille Acosta, pioneering Costa Rican writer Manuel Argüello Mora, and Esperanza Sernas, a restaurant worker interviewed in 1977 by fieldworker Philip George for AFC's Chicago Ethnic Arts Project. This blog also contains one of the most gruesome traditional descriptions of La Llorona we've seen so far! The whole series will be published in time for Día de Muertos (aka Día de los Muertos) 2021, so stay tuned....