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University Of Virginia Library Exhibit To Explore Music In American Life

October 10, 2001--

WHO: Albert H. Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia

WHAT: Exhibition: "Lift Every Voice: Music in American Life"

WHEN: Now through Feb.11, 2002 / Free and open to the public

WHERE: McGregor Room, Alderman Library, University of Virginia

When Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, "I hear America singing," he was not merely exercising poetic license. Song served in his day as the accompaniment to life’s daily activities, as it had for ages past. A new University of Virginia Library exhibition, "Lift Every Voice: Music in American Life," explores this vital component of our national life and celebrates four centuries of popular vocal music in America.

"Americans have long lifted their voices in joy and sorrow, anticipation and anger, supplication and thanks," said assistant music librarian Mary Prendergast, curator of the exhibit. "They’ve sung ballads and laments, ditties and anthems, hymns and spirituals. They’ve chronicled their crises and celebrated their successes, crafting music to cajole and console, to provoke and evoke, to incite and invite."

In 1619, Africans first arrived in Virginia, bringing with them a rich oral tradition in which nearly every activity in life was accompanied by music. A year later, a group of white settlers landed at Plymouth, carrying with them a cherished book of psalms to help them sing the Lord’s praises in a strange land. Tracing the American vocal tradition from these early roots, the exhibition explores the influence of political events and social mores on music’s style and substance.

"Lift Every Voice" features patriotic songs, hymns and spirituals, minstrels and musicals, protest songs, and 1960s rock and roll. Sheet music, songbooks, broadsides, posters, photos, and recorded music help to tell the story of America’s triumphs and trials through the voices of its people. Some highlights of the exhibit include:

    • A signed handwritten copy of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe. Originally a Southern camp-meeting song, "Say Brothers, Will You Meet Us on Canaan's Happy Shore?" became one of the most popular Union ballads when members of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry in 1861 wrote new words. Howe transformed the lyrics once again, adding stirring patriotic verse, after hearing the song on a visit to the Army of the Potomac in 1861.
    • A manuscript of "Dixie’s Land" by Daniel Decatur Emmett. Emmett had no intention of creating a Confederate anthem when he penned the 1859 minstrel show hit, "I Wish I Was in Dixie’s Land."
    • Jubilee Songs: Complete. As Sung by the Jubilee Singers, of Fisk University, edited by Theodore Seward. In 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, including seven former slaves, embarked on a concert tour to help save their fledgling school from bankruptcy.
    • A 1969 poster for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair by Arnold Skolnick.
    • Legendary 1960s album covers: Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964); the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967); and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? (1967).

An interactive Web site accompanies the exhibition, making it available around the world. Along with viewing and reading about the items on display, visitors to the Web site, at, can listen to audio clips of some of the music featured in the "Lift Every Voice."

"Lift Every Voice: Music in American Life" will be on display through Feb.11, 2002 in the McGregor Room of Alderman Library. The McGregor Room is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (434) 243-8969.

Contact: Melissa Norris, (434) 924-4254

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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