How often is it possible for people with passionate opinions on some subject to get together and enjoy their differences? If the subject is music, pretty often!
That is certainly the impetus behind “New Harmonies,” the latest Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit that recently opened at the Sturgis Public Library. The show is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institute and the South Dakota Humanities Council. The Sturgis exhibit (March 18-April 21) is the first stop on a tour that will take this exploration “celebrating American roots music” to six venues across South Dakota.
Many of the freestanding displays on view at the Sturgis library were organized by the Smithsonian curators, but it’s South Dakota talent that will provide the exhibit’s musical “soul” over the next several weeks. Concerts, along with speakers and discussion groups, are part of the musical mix.
In fact, the celebration of South Dakota musical roots began in late January, with a concert by Chuck Suchy. According to local arts coordinator Linda Nelson, a member of the Sturgis Area Arts Council, “He exhibits the theme of ‘New Harmonies’ as well as anyone.” Suchy is a local rancher who writes music rooted in his Dakota ranch background for acoustic guitar.
Denver’s popular Irish band, Colcannon, performed in early March, and the official grand opening concert featured the South Dakota Symphony with the Lakota Project Drummers.
Country, Irish, symphonic and Lakota – four different musical genres already! Upcoming events include the History of the Blues, with James Van Nuys and Bob Fahey; bluegrass music by Cambria, a local acoustic musicians jam session, the Easter Cantata at Grace Lutheran Church, a jazz band dance/concert event, and a “Deadwood Songbook” performance by Hank Harris and Jami Lynn. In all, another six musical styles.
Speaking of six – view the Sturgis exhibit and attend any six scheduled performances and you could win a prize. You can pick up an event card at the library that explains how the drawing works.
June and July will find the New Harmonies exhibits on display in Aberdeen and Brookings, before they return for West River stops at the Adams Museum in Deadwood (Aug. 6-Sept. 17) and the Rapid City Public Library (Sept. 25-Nov. 7). Lots of indigenous musical entertainment for locals and visitors alike!
What is a positive for the public is also a big plus for libraries like Sturgis, according to Linda. “It encourages a whole new group of people to come and visit the library.” Every New Harmonies display has some sound associated with it – spoken, sung or played – so the old library rule of “Quiet!” will be muted. That helps libraries connect to their communities, so it isn’t a “closed off sanctuary.”
Yet the original purpose of libraries is retained as programming such as “New Harmonies” allows people to deepen their knowledge and understanding of America’s musical heritage. “This brings a whole new dimension to music,” Linda said. “We have concerts all the time, but this really explores the development of our country based on music that we probably don’t discuss or have exposure to in our daily lives.”