By Emma Castleberry
In partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and Come Hear NC, the Division of North Carolina State Historic Sites and Properties has developed a virtual music project called Singing on the Land. The project is a series of videos, each highlighting one of the state’s 27 designated historic sites with a performance by a North Carolina musician, paired with interviews and footage of the landscape. “In the midst of 2020, with so much upheaval and isolation, and in the recognition that people were crying out for their very lives, it felt critical to meet the moment as a memory keeper,” says Michelle Lanier, director of the North Carolina Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, which is part of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Singing on the Land was born out of a desire to offer the people of North Carolina a gift, rooted in connection, true inclusion, the power of witness and the power of place. My colleagues and I continue to believe in the healing potential of sharing communal memories, even the traumatic histories of our land.”
In one episode, blues musician Lakota John, who hails from Pembroke, NC, performs the song “Together on the Land” at Town Creek Indian Mound. In another, classical vocalist Carly Prentis Jones performs “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum. The museum is located on the campus of the Palmer Memorial Institute, a preparatory school in Sedalia, NC, that educated more than 2,000 African American students over its 70-year history. Jones is also the senior program director for artists and organizations at the North Carolina Arts Council and was a facilitator for the program. “North Carolina has a rich musical heritage that is broad, diverse and continues to grow,” she says. “The roots of American music run deep in North Carolina, and the stories that can be told through music are authentic and compelling. Each site has its own, distinct story and each musician has their own unique way of bringing the land to life through their artistic practice.”
Other artists featured in the series include Jimmy Vipperman; Arnold Richardson; Teli Shabu; Andrea Edith Moore with cellist Shana Tucker; Rissi Palmer with James Gilmore on guitar; and the trio of Bill Amey, Kennedy Atkinson and Nicole Sibalo Chagwiza.
For more information about the project or to watch the videos, visit HistoricSites.NC.gov/resources/singing-land.