Museum of the Albemarle Presents New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music

The Museum of the Albemarle will dig deep into the origins of bluegrass, gospel, blues music and more when it hosts a local showing of New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music, June 19 through Aug. 1 in Elizabeth City, N.C.

New Harmonies is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaborative effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Telling the American musical story through photographs, recordings, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles, the exhibition will explore the distinct progression of American roots music—sounds that are native to the United States or were inspired from foreign cultures.

“New Harmonies gives Americans a soundtrack and a voice for their stories, and we are delighted to have been selected to host this important exhibition,” said Museum of the Albemarle Administrator Ed Merrell.

The New Harmonies exhibit showcases the work of well-known folk, gospel, country and blues artists such as Ma Rainey, B.B. King, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Mahalia Jackson, Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez. It also captures the spirit of musical styles that are at the heart of America’s local heritage—Tejano, zydeco, polka, Cajun, conjunto and klezmer. It is considered roots music because it predates and inspired the development of American rock and roll, rhythm and blues and jazz.
New Harmonies opens June 19 at 10 a.m. at the Museum of the Albemarle with a special ribbon cutting to mark the exhibition’s six week run. A tribute to legendary jazz drummer Max Roach, from New Land, in Pasquotank County, will be given by Douglas Jackson, Professor of Music at Elizabeth City State University at 11 a.m., followed by a discussion on jazz.

In concert with the New Harmonies exhibition, the museum will showcase regional music by presenting performances, lectures and special museum events specific to North Carolina musical traditions.
Some of the highlights include:

• Performances by the Elizabeth City-based blues band Uphill (June 12), the Long Family gospel group from Greensboro, N.C. (June 27) and a Jonkonnu musical celebration of 19th century African American traditions (July 10)
• A “Carolina Jazz Connections” program by veteran jazz writer, radio announcer and historian Larry Thomas, who will speak about the relationship between African American gospel and blues influences and jazz music (July 10)
• A lecture by Benjamin Filene, Ph.D., associate professor and director of public history at UNC-Greensboro, who will discuss the influence of the folk and blues singer Lead Belly (July 22)
On July 31, museum staff will re-create the look of the famous Nags Head Casino on the museum’s portico. A museum fundraiser and party, “Saturday Night at the Nags Head Casino” will be a tribute to the coastal-influenced beach music bands that frequented the Outer Banks night spot. The evening will feature Casino memorabilia, live entertainment and dancing.
The Museum of the Albemarle is one of six North Carolina museums selected to host the traveling exhibition. For a schedule of all regional events associated with the New Harmonies exhibition, visit
The Museum of the Albemarle ( is located at 501 South Water Street in Elizabeth City, N.C. The northeastern regional branch of the North Carolina Museum of History, the museum interprets the history of 13 counties in northeastern North Carolina, considered by many to be the birthplace of English America. Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. For information, call (252) 335-1453.

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