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Special Events

Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert. Ralph Rinzler (1934-94), founding director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, worked over the years with many gifted musicians and folk artists, doing fieldwork, issuing recordings, and producing concerts. This concert series honors the work of Ralph and his colleagues in conserving, and extending the audience for, traditional expressive culture.

This year's concert was curated by Peggy Seeger. Ralph first met Peggy at the Swarthmore College Folk Festival in 1954 when he was a freshman at the college. Simultaneously, he heard Peggy's older brother Pete in concert. Ralph was electrified by Pete's banjo playing and by his spirited editorializing. But his imagination was truly captivated by Peggy and her older brother Mike, who played at informal hootenannies. Here were peers, one year his junior and one year his senior, whose vocal and instrumental artistry greatly impressed him. Peggy soon sent Ralph Pete's banjo manual, and he was launched, learning songs and copying banjo styling from Harry Smith's recently released Anthology of American Folk Music. In the ensuing years, Ralph and Peggy were frequent companions, and Ralph was profoundly influenced by her, by the people he met through her - Peggy's father Charles Seeger, A.L. (Bert) Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Alan Lomax, and others - and by the British folk revival. Peggy's work as a singer-songwriter was distinctively different from Ralph's work. Ralph never wrote a single song and gravitated from the life of a professional musician towards one in which he built a wider intellectual base for traditional music.

Piano Traditions, featuring gospel, Irish, blues, Latino, American traditional, and boogie piano styles. This program was held in conjunction with the exhibition Piano 300, at the Smithsonian International Gallery, S. Dillon Ripley Center, and was organized by the National Museum of American History.

Ear to the Ground: A Centenary Tribute to Malvina Reynolds. This concert celebrated the release of a new Smithsonian Folkways recording, Ear to the Ground, which features studio and live performances from the 1960s and 1970s by Malvina Reynolds. Songs written by the late Malvina Reynolds, with lyrics reflecting the social justice and environmental issues of her day, were performed by Rosalie Sorrels, Tom Paxton, Bernice Johnson Reagan, and Peggy Seeger.

Woody Guthrie's Songs for Children. Ella Jenkins, Tom Paxton, Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Magpie joined together to perform Woody Guthrie's songs for children. This program was presented in conjunction with the exhibition This Land Is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie, on view at the National Museum of American History. The exhibition was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Woody Guthrie Archives in association with the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Faithful Fourth. This ail-day sacred music celebration provided a cross-cultural forum where Festival visitors could listen to gospel and community-based song from Washington, D.C., alongside sacred song from Tibetan culture and the Río Grande/Río Bravo Basin.

The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert was curated by Peggy Seeger, with Kate Rinzler as Program Coordinator. It was supported by The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds.

Piano Traditions was supported by a grant from the Educational Outreach Fund, administered by the Smithsonian Office of Education, and by the John Hammond Fund for the Performance of American Music, with additional support from the Yamaha Corporation of America. Woody Guthrie's Songs for Children was supported by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Faithful Fourth was supported by Hilton Hotels Corporation.

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