Songs to Keep: Celebrating Ten Years!

This month, Mountain Lake PBS celebrates a special anniversary of one of our most acclaimed original documentaries.  

Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector relates the story of North Country resident Marjorie Lansing-Porter.  She was a historian who recorded folk songs in the 1950s and 60s, from older people who likely learned the tunes from their grandparents.  The songs were originally created by folks who worked in mines, forests and farms, people who sang while trying to pick a living out of our rugged Adirondack land.  The petite and soft-spoken Porter lugged a 20 pound SoundScriber dictation machine within the blue line to capture the recordings on soft vinyl discs. 

Porter captured the folk songs before the only old-timers who remembered them passed away.  Her collection includes many logging and mining songs unique to the Adirondack region.  Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector documents the efforts of contemporary musicians to celebrate the old songs in 2013, with an album featuring singers including Dave Ruch, Lee Knight, Dan Berggren, Celia Evans, Sue Grimm Hanley and Jamie Savage.  Michael and Kevin Bacon perform on the album as the Bacon Brothers.

Jamie Savage & Sue Grimm Hanley

The documentary features footage from a regional concert tour of the folk songs, and the final television interview given by singer Pete Seeger, who had collaborated with Porter on music projects.  

Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector premiered ten years ago this month on Mountain Lake PBS.  It went on to win a regional Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary before appearing on many PBS stations across the country.  Our producer Paul Larson collaborated with videographers Daniel McCullum and Paul Frederick on the documentary.  

Dave Ruch

The hour-long program aimed to increase awareness of the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore, along with the concerts, the album, a manuscript of the folk songs in the collection, and a traveling exhibit about Porter and her work. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) partnered with Mountain Lake PBS, SUNY Plattsburgh, and The Adirondack History Center Museum on the initiative.

To celebrate its anniversary, we’re airing the documentary in the place of Mountain Lake Journal next week.  You may see Songs to Keep:  Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector on Friday, December 29 at 8pm, Saturday the 30th at 7 pm, and Sunday the 31st at 10am on Mountain Lake PBS.

To learn more about this special documentary, visit the webpage for Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector.