Chapel Hill: Community

Festival to celebrate UNC’s Southern Folklife Collection

Events celebrating the 25th anniversary of UNC’s Southern Folklife Collection will take place across the campus and at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro from Aug. 21-23.

The festival will include musical performances, lectures and readings, and will provide an in-depth look at the collections and work of the SFC, a world-class research archive dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting Southern music, art and culture. The festivities will culminate with a headline concert by Tift Merritt and Merle Haggard.

“The festival is a unique opportunity for learning and experiencing the finest in American roots music,” said Steve Weiss, curator of the SFC. “In its 25 years, the SFC has been a source of inspiration to musicians, directors, writers and authors. The archives have provided source materials to musicians Dom Flemons and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, producer Martin Scorsese, who used SFC footage in a documentary, and many others.”

Festivities will begin August 21, when the Friends of the Library hosts an all-star benefit concert and dinner in the Wilson Special Collections Library from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Tift Merritt (UNC ’00) will perform following a Sophisticated Southern Supper Menu created by James Beard Award-winning chefs Ben and Karen Barker, Ashley Christensen, Andrea Reusing and Bill Smith. Top of the Hill Distillery will provide its signature cocktails. Tickets are $250 per person and table sponsorships are available.

The New Yorker has called Tift Merritt “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” Her 2002 solo debut, Bramble Rose, put her on the Americana map forever. As her sophomore album, Tambourine, was followed by Another Country and See You on the Moon, Merritt found acclaim not just from critics and awards organizations but her own heroes, like Emmylou Harris, who marveled that Merritt “stood out like a diamond in a coal patch.”

Also on August 21, a retrospective exhibit will open in Wilson Library’s Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room. It will highlight the history, collections, and work of the Southern Folklife Collection. Rare and unique artifacts, photography, posters, multimedia and ephemera from the collection will be on view. The exhibit runs through January 15, 2015.

The August 22 schedule includes a New Orleans Brass Band Symposium and Rebirth Brass Band and Dumpstaphunk, followed by Big Star’s #1 Record and Third/Sister Lovers. Matt Sakakeeny, Assistant Professor of Music at Tulane University and author of Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans, will participate in a 6 p.m. discussion with members of the Rebirth Brass Band at Wilson Library. A Rebirth Second Line Parade to Memorial Hall will start at 7:30 p.m. from Wilson Library. Memorial Hall hosts an 8 p.m. concert by the Rebirth Brass Band and Dumpstaphunk. Another concert featuring Big Star’s #1 Record and Third/Sister Lovers with special guests commences at Cat’s Cradle at 9 p.m.

The Southern Folklife Collection’s 25th Festival features an array of performances at Cat’s Cradle on August 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. Sierra Hull, Dex Romweber Duo and Flaco Jimenez with Los Texmaniacs take the stage, while authors Peter Guralnick and Holly George-Warren (UNC ’78) provide lectures.

Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Haggard with UNC’s own Tift Merrit opening take the stage in Memorial Hall on August 23 at 8 p.m. to culminate the silver anniversary celebration. Grammy-winning iconoclast Merle Haggard is making some of the most compelling music of his long and storied career. A rugged individualist who simultaneously embodies and transcends the genre, he’s both a seminal superstar and an unrepentant outsider. Over the course of a remarkably prolific five-decade career, he’s consistently shown himself to be an uncompromising creative force, honoring country music traditions while drawing on a broad range of jazz, blues and folk influences with vivid, emotionally nuanced lyrics poignantly chronicling the dreams and heartbreaks of common people along with his own harsh life experiences.

The Southern Folklife Collection is an educational resource, an archive dedicated to collecting and preserving cultural heritage, and a focal point for the public appreciation of Southern art forms. Since its opening in 1989, the SFC has grown to contain over half a million items including sound recordings, moving images, photographs, manuscripts, books, song folios, serials, posters and ephemera. The Collection is especially rich in materials documenting old-time, country-western, bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, rock, Cajun and zydeco music. The SFC holds numerous recordings on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, including Dolly Parton’s first recording “Puppy Love.”

Festival Web site and talent information: