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Songs to Keep: Treasures of an Adirondack Folk Collector

Posted by WMHT Web Editor on

Watch Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 7:30pm on WMHT TV.

Contribute now for a CD/DVD set.

PBS and TAUNY (Traditional Arts in Upstate NY) have partnered together in a celebration of the Adirondacks through song. The organizations aim to preserve and reinvigorate a collection of traditional Adirondack folk songs collected by Marjorie Lansing Porter.

The project, “Songs to Keep”, was inspired by the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore. Porter (1891-1973) dedicated her life to preserving the rare folk songs of the Adirondacks. Throughout the 40s and 50s, Porter traveled through New York State interviewing and recording traditional musicians and singers creating a comprehensive collection of songs, transcripts and other writings currently housed at SUNY Plattsburgh.

For many years this unique time capsule has been inaccessible to the broad public. Now for the first time, this documentary will illuminate and revitalize the Porter Collection through contemporary interviews with folk musicians such as the legendary Pete Seeger, a personal friend of Porter, and Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. The film also features a series of re-recordings from the Porter Collection by modern musicians including, Lee Knight, David Ruch, Dan Berggren, Alex Smith, and many others.

In the film, one of the rare country songs captured by Porter is performed by The Bacon Brothers. The song “My Adirondack Home” is a reflection of the love that Kevin and Michael Bacon have for the Adirondack region, where they own a family camp, and visit frequently in the summer months.

“Producing this documentary has been a fascinating lesson for me, enlightening me about this beautiful region through the songs people sung a hundred years ago as they forged a way of life up here.  The updated versions of the songs also reveal how infectious these catchy tunes always were.  These old songs played a crucial role in entertaining people before the days of the radio, and you hear that they haven't lost their ability to entertain today,” said Paul Larson who wrote and produced this documentary.