Carmi, Ill. — Music from the 19th and 20th centuries kicked off the opening of a Smithsonian Institution exhibit on American music Saturday afternoon, May 29 in Carmi.
“New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” has been brought to Carmi through the joint efforts of the White County Historical Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the Illinois Humanities Council.
The exhibit (which also has a local component) will be on display from 1 to 6 p.m. each Wednesday through Sunday (through July 10) at the historical society’s L. Haas Store Museum in downtown Carmi. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.
Folk singer Chris Vallillo of Macomb performed at 2 p.m. Saturday on the lawn of the society’s Robinson-Stewart House in Carmi. A crowd of about 80 sat in their lawn chairs under shade trees for the concert, with a breeze helping to cool the crowd.
This was the first in a series of concerts featuring nationally accomplished artists as well as local talent, said a society spokesman. “The six concerts in seven weeks are aimed at bringing life to our musical history,” she added.
Barbara Kearney, the society president, welcomed the crowd Saturday, explaining the “New Harmonies” concept (which has nothing to do, by the way, with the historic nearby town of New Harmony, Ind.). Marge Fechtig, a past president of the society, recognized members of two of the White County musical families whose stories are told in the exhibit, the Boyds (represented by Jim and Kaye Boyd of Paducah, Ky.) and the Bradshaws (represented by Fred, Jerry, Jack, Jill, Keaton and Ella Mae Bradshaw).
And Kay Rippelmeyer-Tippy, representing the IHC, noted that “New Harmonies” is the second Smithsonian exhibit to visit White County in the last few years. “That is so unusual,” she told the crowd. It takes a lot of volunteers and “some great facilities” to bring a Smithsonian exhibit to a small town, and many organizations don’t have either.
“These hosts are the best there are,” she said of the White County Historical Society.
The concert series continues through July 9 and will include performances by the White County Children’s Choir, Vance Hays, Rob Endicott with John Farrar, Bittercreek (featuring Rick and Allan Mundy) as well as a concert focused on religious roots music from spirituals to modern gospel.