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Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015

Desert Dancer 26 May 15 - 10:14 PM
Cool Beans 19 Jun 15 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,leeneia 19 Jun 15 - 11:47 AM
fat B****rd 19 Jun 15 - 12:10 PM
GUEST, ^*^ 19 Jun 15 - 12:28 PM
Mark Ross 19 Jun 15 - 01:35 PM
Desert Dancer 19 Jun 15 - 01:43 PM
Desert Dancer 19 Jun 15 - 01:50 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 19 Jun 15 - 02:33 PM
ChanteyLass 19 Jun 15 - 11:16 PM
GUEST, ^*^ 21 Jun 15 - 12:47 AM
Desert Dancer 24 Jul 15 - 06:50 PM
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Subject: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 26 May 15 - 10:14 PM

Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival
at the Museum of the City of New York
June 17-November 29, 2015

[following text is from the press release; link above is to the museum's website]

New York, NY (May 19, 2015): The Museum of the City of New York presents "Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival", a celebration of the City's role as the center of the folk music revival from its beginnings in the 1930s and 1940s to its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as its continuing legacy. With a wide array of memorabilia, photos, video, and sound recordings, the exhibition documents the music and movement that helped transform Greenwich Village and spread as a major cultural phenomenon. Folk City opens on Wednesday, June 17, and remains on view through Sunday, November 29.

"New York, which has been the source of so much creativity throughout its history, was central to the folk music revival that swept the country and became one of the remarkable phenomena of the 20th Century," said Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. "Folk music spawned a whole culture, and the legacy continues today in New York and far beyond. This exhibition and our related public programs explore the revival and will let visitors experience it in a fascinating and joyous way."

Folk City will feature listening stations where visitors can hear a range of folk songs along with videos showcasing historic footage that capture the bohemian spirit of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and the national hootenanny craze of the 1960s. The exhibition also includes unique archival photographs, concert posters, and original instruments, including:
• Lead Belly's 12-string guitar
• Odetta's iconic guitar, "Baby," along with one of her colorful dashikis
• The original handwritten manuscript of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind"
• The napkin on which Eric Andersen wrote his "Thirsty Boots" lyrics
• A trademark felt cap worn by Phil Ochs
• Handwritten letters by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger
• Rarely-shown photographs by David Gahr, a pre-eminent chronicler of the folk revival

Curated by Stephen Petrus, an Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellow at the Museum, Folk City will look at the folk movement in four sections:
• The revival's roots in the 1930s and 1940s, when singers—such as Woody Guthrie, Josh White, and Burl Ives—moved to New York, drawn by performance opportunities and the progressive political climate.
• The expansion of folk music culture in the 1950s, when the genre changed from an art form associated with leftist politics during the Red Scare—ensnaring many performers, including Seeger--to a popular craze with mass appeal.
• The boom years in the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, when Greenwich Village was the focal point of the revival culture due to the concentration of performance venues, including the exhibition's eponymous Folk City.
• The legacy of the revival from 1965 to the present day, showing how the revival has continued and retained its relevancy through five decades. This includes the rise of 'folk-rock' and other folk trends after the "British Invasion" and Dylan's stunning turn to electric guitar in 1965.

"The New York folk music community created songs that stopped Americans in their tracks. Folk Songs were of substance, the meat and potatoes of people's lives," said Petrus. "This music resonated with New Yorkers and many others. It not only informed them about their cultural heritage, but also broke down social barriers."

Folk City highlights visionary entrepreneurs who were committed to promoting folk music, including Mike Porco of Gerde's Folk City, Izzy Young of the Folklore Center, and John Hammond of Columbia Records. The Greenwich Village performance spaces are shown as exciting venues and as incubators of a burgeoning counterculture. Artists from different backgrounds performed in Village clubs as well as in one of the city's great communal gathering places, Washington Square Park, where they tried out both new music and new ideas that often challenged social conventions of the time.

The Museum will offer a broad array of public programs in conjunction with the exhibition, including folk concerts and panel discussions. The Museum's Frederick A.O. Schwarz Children's Center has designed special programs for students and teachers, which have been made possible by a grant from the D'Addario Foundation.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, "Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival", by Stephen Petrus and historian Ronald D. Cohen, with a foreword by Peter Yarrow. Published by Oxford University Press, the book shows that folk music flowered in New York as a result of initiatives of musicians, record company producers and executives, radio show hosts, club owners, concert promoters, folklorists, managers, journalists, and audiences. Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls Folk City "the best history yet of the city's influential folk music culture, packed with astonishing photos that finally see the light of day." The Village Voice named Folk City one of "Fifteen Books You Need to Read in 2015."

The exhibition's honorary co-chairs are themselves significant participants in the folk revival and its legacy: Oscar Brand, Judy Collins, Steve Earle, Nora Guthrie, Noel Stookey, and Peter Yarrow.

The idea for the exhibition originated with co-chair John Heller, and he was joined in supporting and helping raise funds by co-chairs of James E. Buckman and Tom Neff.

Folk City is made possible by Wyndham Worldwide Incorporated. Additional support is provided by James G. Dinan and Elizabeth R. Miller, The Zegar Family Foundation, Martha and H. Patrick Hackett Jr., Jill and John Chalsty, The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, among others. The media sponsor is WFUV, and Folk Alliance International is a co-sponsor of the exhibition.

The exhibition is designed by Pure+Applied.

About the Museum of the City of New York:
The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City. It serves the people of New York and visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections.

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Subject: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: Cool Beans
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 07:40 AM

This sounds great. It runs through Nov. 29.

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Subject: RE: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 11:47 AM

Thanks for the link.

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Subject: RE: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: fat B****rd
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 12:10 PM

Thank you CB. If I could I would go there just to see that 12 string.

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Subject: RE: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: GUEST, ^*^
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 12:28 PM

Excellent! Thank you for the heads up.

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Subject: RE: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 01:35 PM

Won't be able to get there, too far to travel, but the whole exhibit can be seen in the book, which my local library is ordering, and I am first on the list!

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 01:43 PM

The exhibit is now open, here's the NY Times review. Many nice images there.

~ Becky in Long Beach

Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival

By Jon Pareles
NY Times
June 18, 2015

A well-worn 12-string guitar that belonged to Lead Belly, scratched up from years of strumming, and the sounds of Pete Seeger picking a banjo and praising hard-working Americans greet a visitor to the new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. With photographs, documents, instruments, videos, manuscripts and plenty of songs for headphone listening, the show is a fond recap of the folk revival from its agitprop origins and idealistic fervor to its fleeting pop peak.

The exhibition itself, "Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival," touches very lightly on the many paradoxes and contradictions of the folk boom: the way rural music found its strongest champions in New York City, the way tradition was simultaneously venerated and tossed aside, the competing imperatives of politics, entertainment, musicality, authenticity and pop careerism. Those are explored more thoroughly in a companion book by the exhibition's curator, Stephen Petrus, and Ronald D. Cohen

But in its artifacts and matter-of-fact wall labels, the museum show captures the ambition, the ferment and the (sometimes contentious) sense of community that made a few blocks of Greenwich Village into a cultural bellwether in the 1950s and early 1960s.

One centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of penciled lyrics by Bob Dylan for four songs — "Masters of War," "Blowin' in the Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Maggie's Farm" — that represent both the height of the folk revival and Mr. Dylan's decision to move beyond protest songs. Next to the conclusion of "Masters of War" — "I'll stand over your grave/Till I'm sure that you're dead" — he drew a guitarist standing over two tombstones.

Overhead is the marquee-like sign for Gerdes Folk City — though it's from the club's second Village location, from 1970 to 1987, at 130 West Third Street. It was rescued by a waitress during demolition after the club closed and stored in a garage in upstate New York.

And there are more guitars, also scratched and scuffed with use, from Judy Collins, Bob Gibson, Eric Andersen and Odetta. Odetta, who died in 2008, was a classically trained, deeply bluesy and utterly riveting singer. Her guitar, "Baby," is displayed in front of a dashiki she wore onstage in 1969 — well after the folk revival, but fully emblematic. Alongside Mr. Andersen's guitar is the grease-stained napkin on which he first scrawled the chorus for his song about civil rights marchers, "Thirsty Boots."

Some memorabilia inspire a certain temporal envy. There's a $2 ticket for a Bob Dylan concert at Town Hall in 1963. A flier for the original Gerdes Folk City announces headliners from what was probably December 1962, with successive six-night stands for Doc Watson, Jean Ritchie and John Lee Hooker, traditional musicians who suddenly had New York City audiences.

"Folk City" finds the roots of the folk revival in what might be called a vast left-wing conspiracy: the Popular Front cultural efforts of the Communist Party and others during the Great Depression. (The walls of the exhibition rooms are painted red.) At the time, bulky but portable recording technology had recently made it possible to collect music performed outside professional studios by farmers, prisoners, fishermen, backwoods fiddlers and itinerant blues singers. Ethnomusicologists like Alan Lomax sought them out and brought back their music for study, radio broadcasts and album releases by record companies in New York City. Many of the tunes were old, durable and of unknown authorship: music made by ordinary people, not urban professionals.

Radicals who extolled "the people" rejoiced that they had found the people's music. Adding new lyrics, they sought to harness the old tunes for causes like the labor movement, civil rights and anti-fascism. The exhibition shows publications like the 1932 "Red Song Book," which included songs from the Soviet Union alongside Appalachian strikers' songs. Also on display is the 1939 album with Paul Robeson's patriotic orchestral history lesson, "Ballad for Americans." He performed it — unimaginably nowadays — at the 1940 presidential conventions for both the Communist and Republican Parties.

Performers with rural roots, like Woody Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter (a.k.a. Lead Belly) and Joshua (later Josh) White were welcomed in New York and started collaborating. A neatly handwritten letter from Guthrie to Henrietta Yurchenko, an ethnomusicologist and radio broadcaster, extols Lead Belly, noting that they had been playing together: "It is a mistake for people in the radio world to leave Lead Belly out of the picture," he wrote. "It's like leaving the alcohol out of the wine or the spring out of the clock."

There are albums by the Almanac Singers, the politically minded group with a changing lineup that included Guthrie as well as Seeger and other future members of the Weavers. A wall label dryly notes, "The Left's policies shifted with those of the Soviet Union."

But the music would carry much further than the party-line politics. After World War II, folk songs reached the Top 10, albeit with sanitized lyrics and pop arrangements. The Weavers' version of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene" was a No. 1 hit in 1950.

The Weavers became a casualty of the red scare of the early 1950s, which has its own section of the exhibition. A wry juxtaposition places "Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television" — which in June 1950 named Seeger and many others as subversives — alongside a poster for the Weavers' holiday concert at Town Hall six months later. A video documentary shows Seeger rehearsing his courtroom speech on the way to his sentencing for contempt in 1961 for refusing to name names before the House Un-American Activities Committee: "A good song can only do good," he argues. Gaining some rebel flavor, the folk movement became a precursor, musically unlikely as it seems, of punk. It was an anti-commercial, do-it-yourself, earnest alternative to another 1950s phenomenon, rock 'n' roll. College campuses were full of acoustic guitars, fiddles and banjos; record companies saw commercial potential. Harry Belafonte made a national hit out of a Jamaican work song, "Day-O," in 1956, and the apolitical Kingston Trio strummed and smiled through a murder ballad, "Tom Dooley," that sold three million copies in 1958.

Folk's political side survived the red scare. Songs were spread by sheet-music magazines like Sing Out!, which appeared in 1950 with "The Hammer Song" (later known as "If I Had a Hammer") on its first cover, and Broadside, which started in 1962. "We Shall Overcome," a rewritten spiritual, rallied the civil rights movement.

Greenwich Village became an even stronger magnet for artists of all sorts. The parks department granted permits for Sunday afternoon folk gatherings — acoustic instruments, no drums — in Washington Square Park until 1961, when permission was briefly withdrawn; a video shows the melee of the resulting protest.

The exhibition rifles through photographs and memorabilia of familiar names (Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul and Mary) and nearly forgotten ones like Peter La Farge, whose "Ballad of Ira Hayes" — a bitter song about a Native American who fought at Iwo Jima — is among the recordings. Video from the folk revival's commercial apogee — the ABC television series "Hootenanny" — includes the Chad Mitchell Trio smirking through "The John Birch Society," a jab at the far-right organization. It's hard to imagine an anti-Tea Party song getting network exposure today.

The show concludes with video of songs from the Weavers' repertoire as remade through the decades, from respectful to raucous to absurd (Trini Lopez's "If I Had a Hammer," complete with go-go dancers). In the fast-moving 1960s, the commercial folk fad gave way to the Beatles, folk-rock, psychedelia and beyond. But the folk revival's legacy was more than its songs or even the sounds of acoustic instruments. It was the conviction — often disappointed, but never quite erased — that roots matter and that songs can change the world.

"Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival," runs through Nov. 29 at the Museum of the City of New York, Manhattan; 212-534-1672,

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Subject: RE: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 01:50 PM

The museum's web page for the exhibit links some TV coverage for more visuals, also related events:

Dylan Goes Electric! From New York to Newport
Date and Time: Monday, July 27 at 6:30 pm
Join a panel of Dylan experts to reflect on Dylan's transformation in New York and Newport during the tumultuous 1960s.

Ramblers and Strugglers: Old Time Music in the Big City
Date and Time: Tuesday, August 4 at 6:30 pm
Join the Down Hill Strugglers and the Four o'clock Flowers for a lively evening of old-time blues and gospel music by two outstanding, NYC-based contemporary folk groups.

   Interested in owning a Martin 00-18V Model Guitar that was signed by Peter Yarrow & Noel (Paul) Stookey from Peter, Paul & Mary? You can bid on this one-of-a-kind instrument through Charitybuzz; proceeds support the City Museum.

~ Becky in Long Beach (Calif.)
planning to see it when I get back to visit Mom in NJ

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Subject: RE: 'Folk City' exhibit at NYC Museum
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 02:33 PM

Does anyone know whether this exhibition will tour to other museums around the country?

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Subject: RE: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 19 Jun 15 - 11:16 PM

Sounds worth seeing. Wish I could! Let us know how you like it!

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Subject: RE: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: GUEST, ^*^
Date: 21 Jun 15 - 12:47 AM

Pete Seeger's New York Roots from June 16. It ties in with this exhibit.

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Subject: RE: Folk Music Revival Exhibit: NYC 2015
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Jul 15 - 06:50 PM

The Young Sound of Old America; Greenwich Village drew so many folk fans that in 1961 the city banned singing in Washington Square Park.

The Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2015 5:19 p.m. ET

By Stephen Petrus and Ronald D. Cohen
Oxford, 320 pages, $39.95

The coffeehouses, clubs, public squares, concert halls, broadcasting and recording studios that nurtured the Greenwich Village folk-music scene in its heyday—roughly, from the time of the folk firebrands of the 1930s through the '60s commercial revival—have often been treated as little more than backdrops to the social causes with which participants aligned themselves or to the stars who emerged from the scene, from Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly and Pete Seeger through Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan. Meanwhile, few compelling answers have been offered to the question: "Why all the strumming and sing-alongs there—amid the sophistication of downtown Manhattan, of all places?"

How the most urban of American cities attracted far-flung enthusiasts of traditional, often rural, music—or at least of new music more or less like it—and how the resultant music scene developed, are the subjects of "Folk City," by Stephen Petrus and Ronald D. Cohen. Mr. Petrus, curator of the exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York on which the book is based, and historian Ronald D. Cohen, author of books on Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax, provide a fresh, colorful, thoroughly illustrated portrait of the scene, from its origins to today.

The organized folk-music "movement" in New York, circa 1940, had much to do with the illusions of some idealistic folk-music lovers of the radical left that "the people's music," as they conceived and defined it, would be a powerful union organizing tool. (The workers they targeted, despite mythologizing since, generally preferred the same swing-band music as everyone else.) Yet the music-promoting organizations founded by Popular Front activists, the concerts they produced and the striking artists they introduced to the scene did much to establish folk music as a cultural, and sometimes countercultural, element in city life.

But there was more to the emerging folk scene than that. In the vicinity were the children of New York immigrants, who were already interested in their own Old World folk music and dance; folk-friendly performers who had come to the city in the 1920s to record for the big record labels before the Depression cut deeply into such sessions; and other performers attracted by the lure of network radio and theatrical musicals—a motley cadre of the interested who did not necessarily have politics in mind as much as enjoying music or making a living from it.

The book is particularly compelling in chronicling, from original documents and firsthand testimony, how the critical mass for the folk revival congregated in the city. It tracks how genuine performing talents such as the Weavers and Oscar Brand and small-record-label operators such as Moe Asch emerged from that initial 1940s folk influx, joined in the 1950s by growing throngs of college students—some from the nearby NYU campus, others who began to mass in the Village, attracted by the ambient cultural buzz of clubs and galleries and reports in new publications such as Sing Out! and the Village Voice.

The city locale that was the most powerful magnet for those young music makers was Washington Square. There were repeated episodes in the 1950s and early '60s, especially well-researched and vividly presented here, in which musicians in Washington Square Park tangled with Robert Moses-era city authorities who wanted to run a highway through the square, local residents annoyed by the weekend visitors, and Mayor Robert Wagner's parks commissioner, Newbold Morris. A founder of the City Opera and eventual chairman of the board of Lincoln Center, Morris saw these do-it-ourselves music makers, who he said "come from miles away to display the most terrible costumes, haircuts, etc. and who play bongo drums and other weird instruments, attracting a weird public," as a threat to order and high culture. In 1961, he attempted to shut down singing in the park entirely. But the Washington Square strummers, who from today's standpoint seem remarkably neat and trim for "weird" beatniks, would win increasing support in the city and the right to continue singing.

Folk preservationists such as the concert organizers known as "Friends of Old Time Music" systematically introduced urban audiences to blues, bluegrass and old-time country artists, such as Doc Watson, Maybelle Carter, Bill Monroe and Mississippi John Hurt, reviving those careers in the process. But this was New York, and, inevitably, there were also smart entrepreneurs who noted the growing passion for folk music among the allegedly weird and those less so and started businesses to cater to the resulting demand: Izzy Young, of the New York Folklore Center, a sort of clubhouse for the scene; musical promoter/artist-manager Harold Leventhal; uptown producers such as Columbia's John Hammond. Mini-portraits of these business personalities are provided by Messrs. Petrus and Cohen, though it would take whole books just to nail the combination of community feeling and rough-and-tumble music-business savvy that coexisted, not always peacefully, in these personages. Stars rose up out of the scene, too, of course—and in "Folk City" they are tracked as they emerge (Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte, the New Lost City Ramblers), culminating in a look at the rise of Bob Dylan, who turned the whole scene on its head and, ultimately, much of its audience in other directions.

Messrs. Petrus and Cohen's book is an overdue and involving proof that "Folk City" was not just the name of a Village club, it was an earned description of a vibrant place.

—Mr. Mazor, author of "Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music," writes about country and roots music for the Journal.

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