Film series to honor blues, gospel, other American music
“I can’t imagine my life or anyone else’s without music. It’s like a light in the darkness that never goes out.”
— Martin Scorsese, opening to “Feel Like Going Home”
“Feel Like Going Home,” the first episode of director Martin Scorsese’s seven-part history of the blues, and filmmaker George Nierenberg’s film tribute to gospel music, “Say Amen, Somebody,” will be screened at the ArtsCenter Tuesday, the first of six film screenings and discussion sessions exploring American music and the roots of American popular music.
Art Menius, director of the ArtsCenter, along with UNC professors Glenn Hinson and William Ferris, will lead the audience discussion at the first session. Menius also is a historian who has edited music publications, and who has an interest in the music of rural America. He will lead all six sessions, and bring in other scholars to help with the discussion of Latin music, rock ‘n’ roll and other genres.
Menius credited Tess Mangum Ocaña, the ArtsCenter’s former concerts and facilities director, and Molly Matlock, who was formerly director of ChathamArts, with putting together the program. The ArtsCenter is one of 50 venues selected for the series, titled “America’s Music: A Film History of Our Popular Music from Blues to Bluegrass to Broadway.” Project partners are the Tribeca Film Institute, Tribeca Flashpoint, the American Library Association, and the Society for American Music. The ArtsCenter got a $2,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the sessions.
“I was looking for something to integrate into the 10th anniversary of the American Roots Series to make it special and different,” Ocaña, who created the ArtsCenter’s American Roots Series, said. Because the grant was for screening documentaries about American music, it was a good fit for the ArtsCenter and the music series, she said.
The documentaries “can enhance people’s experiences with the live music they can see at the ArtsCenter,” Ocaña said. It also was a good way to partner with Chatham County, with whom she wrote and applied for the grant, she said.
“Chatham County is full of traditional music and traditional music venues as well,” Matlock said. She credited Ocana with knowledge of that local music tradition, and for seeing the potential to bring documentaries and discussions to the county. The Chatham library system also was interested in presenting more film series, and the partnership was born, Matlock said.
“The NEH hopes for people to come away with a broad overview of American music, to look at the stories that are told in these films and see how music … can lead to discussion of much broader issues of what it means to be an American and what we learn through the humanities,” Menius said.
Go and DO
WHAT: “America’s Music,” a series of film screenings and discussions
WHEN: The sessions begin Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro
WHERE: Other screenings will take place at the Chatham Community Library (Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 5) and The ArtsCenter (Feb. 5 and 12).
ADMISSION: Free and open to the public
Here is a list of other films and topics in the series. All sessions start at 7:15 p.m. and will last about two hours.
Jan. 29: “Broadway: The American Musical.” Chatham Community Library
Feb. 5: Swing Jazz. The ArtsCenter
Feb. 12: “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass.” The ArtsCenter.
Feb. 26: “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Chatham Community Library.
March 5: Latin rhythms from Mambo to Hip-Hop. Chatham Community Library.