County Commissioner Judy Bailey and City Councilman David Hammond welcomed attendees. The Honorable John Meadows, Georgia House of Representatives, introduced Deal. HAC Director Toni Molleson thanked the Chamber of Commerce and Calhoun Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for their support of New Harmonies.
Since Calhoun is the first town of 12 in the state to host New Harmonies, a Smithsonian Director, Carol Harsh, Museum on Main Street Program, traveled to the city to lead an installation workshop on April 13. HAC volunteers and representatives from the next four venues learned how to unload 19 crates and properly assemble the exhibit panels.
The 800-square-foot exhibit begins with a display of album covers by roots-music greats, such as Bill Monroe and Lead Belly. A listening station offers earphones for visitors to sample the many genre of music featured on life-size panels. In other interactive sections, viewers can switch on an old-time radio, rattle a zydeco rub board, or play the spoons.
Deal shared fond memories of her mother as she stood before the dance kiosk, which features an accordion. “My mother played hymns on her accordion and as children, we would sing along. Any time there was a need for music, whether at a wedding or a funeral, people would ask my mother to play.”
A free concert later in the afternoon featured The White Lightnin’ Band, assembled just for the grand opening, with guest artists Mick Kinney, champion fiddler and member of the Georgia Crackers, guitarist Evan Kinney and Laney “Lightnin” House, last year’s winner of the banjo contest at the local String Band Festival.
Also on stage were fiddlers Max Dutton and Fred Chastain and buck dancer Jay Bland. Calhoun’s own Clayton and Julie Jones paid tribute to the Gordon County heritage of harmony singing. Master of Ceremonies, Joseph Evans, shared ballads by local legends Clyde Evans and the Baxters.
New Harmonies will be on display at the Harris Arts Center until May 24. Admission is free and visitors will receive a complimentary exhibit brochure. Harris Arts Center hours: Monday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m.– 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Visit www.harrisartscenter.com for a complete list of musical concerts accompanying New Harmonies.