Emily J. Pointer Public Library and Senatobia Public Library, branches of the 5 county, 13 branch First Regional Library, are leading the joint Tate and Panola county All Our Friends Hill Country Blues Celebration, set for October 5-12, 2013.
The celebration will be a week’s worth of programming including a repatriation of the compelling Tate county music, photographs, video, interviews and research from the Alan Lomax Archive; a photography exhibit, booksigning and talk by noted folklorist George Mitchell; dedication of the Napoleon Strickland Mississippi Blues Trail marker as well as instrument making, music lessons and performances by numerous hill country musicians.
“One of the goals of the celebration is to be as tactile as possible, especially for our community’s young people,” says Alice Pierotti, Como librarian. “I want them seeing the traditional way to make a cane fife. I want a diddley bow in their hands. I want them playing music on a kazoo. I want them laying down tracks in the Delta Music Institute mobile music lab. And of course, I want them well acquainted with our local music heroes.”
The celebration kicks off at the O.B. McClinton Community Center Foundation in Gravel Springs on Saturday, October 5, at 1:00 p.m., where diddley bow master Glen Faulkner will provide a one string concert while Foundation director Cloteal Fitzpatrick will lead a diddley bow making demonstration. “Back in the day, the diddley bow was used primarily as a springboard to learning the guitar,” Fitzpatrick explains, “so not many adult musicians kept up with it.” Several hill country artists became quite accomplished one string players, including Como musicians Jessie Mae Hemphill and Napoleon Strickland. Today, Glen Faulkner, from Gravel Springs, is one of the world’s foremost diddley bow players.
Youth centered hands-on activities are planned mid-week at the Como library. On Wednesday, October 9, at 4:00 p.m., Delta State’s Mobile Music Lab will be pulling into Como with the mission of nurturing and encouraging creativity, complementing curriculum, and empowering students with a knowledge and appreciation of the rich musical heritage of Mississippi. On Thursday, October 10, at 4:00 p.m., accomplished local musician Steve McGregory, from Batesville, will teach a simple music lesson using kazoos and lead participants in a community kazoo band performance.
Two programs will happen at the Como library on Friday, October 11. At 4:00 p.m., Senatobia bluesman Martin Grant will demonstrate the traditional way to make a cane fife. The cane fife is used in the African American fife and drum tradition, which predates the blues. Numerous fife and drum bands once existed in the hill country including bands led by Napoleon Strickland, Ed and Lonnie Young and erstwhile Rising Star Fife and Drum band leader, Otha Turner.
At 5:00 p.m., noted folklorist George Mitchell returns to Panola county 46 years after spending time photographing and conducting field recordings of some of the greatest hill country artists. He will give a talk, Hill Country Reflections, and sign his recently published Mississippi Hill Country Blues 1967. In addition, a collection of his 1967-era photography of hill country artists will be on display at the Como library during the celebration.
The celebration wraps Saturday, October 12, when Association for Cultural Equity will be repatriating the Senatobia, MS recordings, photographs and videos from the Alan Lomax collection at 11:00 a.m. at the Senatobia Public Library. Some of the artists Lomax recorded in Tate county include R.L. Burnside, Sid Hemphill, Sidney Hemphill Carter, Lucius Smith and Otha Turner.
At 2:00 p.m., Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band will lead the procession from the courtyard adjacent to the Como library to a newly installed Napoleon Strickland Mississippi Blues Trail marker in downtown Como. A reception featuring an all star line up of local hill country musicians including R.L. Boyce, Steve Toney, Marshall Bartlett, Rev. John Wilkins, Sharde Thomas, Terrence Bowden and others will take place at Main Street Gallery in downtown Como immediately following the marker dedication.
Senatobia librarian Laurie Madsen explains, “This celebration will be an opportunity to show the world: this is what hill country music looks like. Here’s how we do it and we’re gathering all our friends who care about it and love it and putting on the best show possible.”