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Contact: Susan B Hawkins, (931)232-5706
July 22, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. at the Dover Hotel, on Petty Street in Dover (stop #10 on the park's auto tour route), Park Rangers Matt Hampsey and Bruce Barnes from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park will perform live at Fort Donelson National Battlefield. Performing with them will be fiddler Gina Forsythe, percussionist Leroy Etienne, and bassist Michael Harris. Also during this program will be a performance of excerpts from the original production, Stories From da Dirt I. The play written by Dr. Nancy J. Dawson, utilizes research she conducted about the African American presence at Fort Donelson. The play is officially recognized by the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
The performance coincides with the release of the CD set Songs of the Lower Mississippi Delta, a compilation of 39 songs and spoken word pieces relating to the history and culture of the Delta. Among the pieces related to the battlefield are The Battle of Fort Donelson, a piece that features a poem that written by W.E. Maurey, a soldier taken prisoner at Fort Donelson in 1862. The hour long, afternoon performance by Hampsey, a blues guitar player, and Barnes, a vocalist and accordion player, will be free and open to the public.
The CD and the performance highlight the rich cultural diversity and history found in the music of the lower Mississippi Delta. Every song has a tale to tell; from historic monologues and poetry set to music, to work songs, ring shouts, blues, and coded spirituals. Song selection is based on either a specific connection to a national park in the lower Mississippi Delta, or to the region in which the park is located. Among the songs on the CD related to other parks include the Sonny Boy Williamson II composition Eyesight to the Blind, as well as other Mississippi Delta blues, work songs, and the music of South Louisiana.
The performers, all accomplished musicians, have deep roots in these regional musical styles. Hampsey has over 30 years experience in blues, jazz, and Louisiana music. Barnes has released five CD’s with his band Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots. Gina Forsythe is an accomplished Cajun fiddler and vocalist who plays with Bruce Daigrepont. Leroy Etienne, Zydeco percussion and vocals, grew up in a Creole speaking household and has a deep connection to this music. Harris, a veteran New Orleans bassist, is well known in the city as a performer in the gospel, zydeco, and blues styles.
The CD is funded through a grant from the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative, whose goals are to preserve the region’s cultural and natural resources, and to enhance heritage tourism within the region. Copies will become available through New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.