A television documentary celebrating history through music in the Adirondacks can celebrate its Emmy Award win this week. Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector won a regional Emmy award for Outstanding Documentary at the Boston/New England Emmy Awards gala. The Mountain Lake PBS production tells the story of Adirondack historian Marjorie Lansing Porter, who recorded traditional folk songs and stories from the last generation of people who remembered them, thus preserving them for the future.
"Porter is a hero for having captured these songs in the nick of time," said producer Paul Larson, who received his award at the gala this past weekend. "Without Porter's original foresight and hard work to preserve these treasures, we would have lost a lot of music and stories that originated in the Adirondacks. She never cared much for receiving awards for herself, but she would probably have been thrilled to know the songs she collected have received such a high honor."
The program includes musical performances from contemporary folk singers, who aim to revive Porter's songs. Performers included Dave Ruch, Lee Knight and Dan Berggren, who had all previously worked with Porter's collection in their own projects, and who helped Larson understand the historical significance of the folk songs. Larson invited the Bacon Brothers, Kevin and Michael, to record a song for the project, as they frequently visit their family camp in the Adirondacks. Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stooky of Peter, Paul and Mary fame gave their insight into traditional music of the northeast. Larson was also able to speak with folk legend Pete Seeger, a conversation that became his official final television interview when the singer passed away in January of this year.
"Mountain Lake PBS has aspired to tell the stories of the Adirondack region for over 35 years," Dan Swinton, executive producer of the documentary, said. "We are extremely honored to receive this award as it reinforces our role as an important voice for our communities we serve."
This 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. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) partnered with Mountain Lake PBS, SUNY Plattsburgh, and The Adirondack History Center Museum on the initiative which included: an album of new recordings from the Porter Collection interpreted by well-known regional and national musicians; a traveling exhibit about Marjorie Lansing Porter and her work, including new original research with descendants of Porter and the singers she recorded; a manuscript of all the folksongs of Porter Collection; publication of a 40 page songbook from the Porter Collection; a concert series hitting six locations throughout the Adirondack Park; and this 1-hour televised documentary.
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences distributes Regional Emmy® Awards in 20 regions across the United States.