For those unschooled in music history, the names of some of the instruments in the museum of the Cape Fear’s upcoming exhibit Rhythm and Roots of North Carolina Music, might sound like something out of a Dr. Suess book. The melodeon, the cimbalom and B-flat Flugelhorn all play a part in the heritage of North Carolina and will be on exhibit starting Saturday, Nov. 22. As part of the opening, the museum is hosting an old time music band featuring local musicians Marvin Gaster and Richard Owens.
    The goal of the exhibit is to not only preserve artifacts like the instruments, but to bring meaning to them as well. While the exhibit covers North Carolina music in general, there is a specific focus on the Cape Fear Region.
    For example, there is a hand-crafted drum made by Joe Liles of Durham County on display. It was used in 1971, as the center drum at the Lumbee Indian tribe’s first pow wow, and is still in use to this day. Liesa Greathouse, curator of education at the museum, pointed out the process that people go through at an exhibit is simple but important.
    “When you sat down and saw this drum you didn’t know anything about it and now through talking about it; it has more meaning to you,” she said. {mosimage}
    There is a similar reaction with the old time music program that the Museum of the Cape Fear sponsors. “We provide a place for people who want to keep that alive. This is a place where they can come and learn and do and teach each other. Museums are great for doing that; keeping those things preserved and ongoing,” she added.
    As society has moved on and progressed in different ways it is a museum’s job to help the community remember by preserving and interpreting traditions.
    Unfortunately, since the instruments on display are artifacts, they can’t be handled — which may be hard to resist.
    “That is the thing about musical instruments they make you want to pick them up and touch them and see what they sound like and how they work,” said Exhibit Designer Margaret Shearin. “We do have an interactive thing called jukebox interactive and they will be able to hear different types of music using that.”
    The exhibit opening will give everyone a chance to come and hear history first hand. Officially dubbed Old Time Music by the Library of Congress, the music has a direct link to the history and heritage of North Carolina. According to musician Marvin Gaster, this genre is very traditional. 
    “There are quite a few songs that I play that no one else knows because I learned ‘em from old people.     They are very traditional and a great many of them are from the upper Cape Fear Valley,” he added.
One such song is “The Boatmen.” It is about the boatmen and riverboats and dates back to the pre-Civil War era.
    “’Rye Straw,’ is an old song, that is a local one, too, and ‘Dancing Ladies’ — they are both Cape Fear River Valley stuff.”
    Chris Woodson, Arsenal Park educational coordinator, credits generational changes for the decline of old time music. 
    “A lot of that stuff is passed down generationally and a lot of it just didn’t get passed down,” he said. “That is part of the reason for doing this, to preserve some of these songs and styles of playing that are unique to North Carolina or even unique to the Sandhills region,” explained Woodson, noting that when some of these older “fellas” are gone, the tradition may ver well die with them because they are the keepers of the music. 
    Through exhibits like this, Woodson hopes that interest can be generated and perhaps a few folks will connect with old time music and the rich local heritage. “Every once in a while you can see it connect with some of the people who come through,” said Woodson. “Hopefully it will spark an interest in this older kind of music that is dying out.” 
    The jam session begins at 2 p.m. on Nov. 22. Admission is free. The exhibit will be on display through Apr. 5, 2009. The Museum of the Cape Fear is on the corner of Bradford and Arsenal.

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