The story of an Adirondack woman’s life will get the chance to inspire the rest of the country, thanks to the distribution of a local documentary by a national television service. Local viewers may also wish to see the program for the first time on a large movie screen, when it makes it cinematic debut at a film festival this month.
The Emmy Award-winning Mountain Lake PBS documentary Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector has been selected by American Public Television for national distribution this month. Programming directors at public television stations in more than 90 cities including New York City, Burbank, and Phoenix have expressed interest in showing the folk music program to their viewers. Stations in Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado have already scheduled the program to air before the end of the year.
Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector relates the tale of Adirondack historian Marjorie Lansing Porter, who recorded traditional folk songs in the Adirondack Mountains in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, from the last generation that remembered them, thus preserving them for the future. The documentary is one component of a larger project spearheaded by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY).
Producer Paul Larson says he had a wider audience for the program in mind even before production began on it. For that reason he says he aggressively pursued interviews with folk legend Pete Seeger and a musical performance from Michael and Kevin Bacon, the Bacon Brothers, for the show.
“Programmers at American Public Television told me it was the narrative of a woman who preserved a regional legacy and the stories behind these tunes that had a wider appeal beyond our immediate region. The inclusion of celebrity musicians who are positively affected by Porter’s work also caught their attention,” Larson said.
Larson says the possibility of national exposure guided many of his decisions while making the show.
“I used to joke with the videographer Paul Frederick before we’d set up a shot,” Larson added. “I’d say, ‘Is this going to be good enough for a national production?’ Of course I am thrilled with his videography and that of Daniel McCullum, who both showcase the Adirondack region so beautifully in this program. The vistas we display while the performers sing is a breathtaking way to show off our region and our music to the rest of the country.”
Performer Sue Grimm Hanley, who sings surrounded by tall pine trees in the show, agrees that combining Adirondack nature with Adirondack music captures the essence of hundred-year old folk songs.
“We are so far removed from the time when people sang while they worked, while they hiked, while they celebrated holidays and milestones in their lives,” Hanley said. “The program is a bridge to connect the various people who love this place with the history of past Adirondackers, and life in these mountains.”
Songs to Keep will appear on television sets across the country this year, as well as on the large movie screen at the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh, New York. On Saturday, November 15, the program will screen at the inaugural “Lake Champlain International Film Festival.”
"In addition to bringing in films from around the world, part of the mission of the festival is to showcase some of the amazing work being done right here in the North Country. Songs to Keep shines a light on the importance of preserving our cultural heritage and is a perfect example of the types of quality programming we're excited to offer," said Melissa Hart, communications specialist at the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) and one of the festival organizers.
“We’re very proud of this collaboration with Mountain Lake PBS, and pleased that it is garnering so much attention locally and nationally,” Jill Breit, Executive Director of TAUNY, said. “As well as telling a great story, Songs to Keep is visually beautiful. Seeing it on the big screen will be a delight.”
Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector won an Emmy award for “Outstanding Documentary” at the Boston/New England Regional Emmy Awards Gala in May 2014.
The documentary was just one part of a multiplatform project aiming to increase awareness of and access to the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore. TAUNY partnered with Mountain Lake PBS, SUNY Plattsburgh, and The Adirondack History Center Museum on the initiative which also included an album of new recordings from the Porter Collection, a traveling exhibit about Porter, and a concert series in the Adirondack Park.
The Lake Champlain International Film Festival presents Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector on Saturday, November 15 at 4:30pm.
Attached Photo Credit: Folk singer Pete Seeger gave his final television interview for the Songs to Keep documentary. Photo by Daniel R. Swinton.
About Mountain Lake PBS
Mountain Lake PBS produces high quality programs for local and worldwide audiences, reaching over 3.9 million viewers in New York, Vermont, Quebec and Ontario. The station also provides a host of education and outreach services for learners of all ages and devotes at least eight hours a day to programming for children.
Mountain Lake PBS’ mission is to celebrate and strengthen the civic and cultural life of the Mountain Lake region by providing distinctive telecommunications programs and services that inform, educate, involve and entertain. mountainlake.org
About American Public Television
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