Valdosta Daily Times

May 13, 2013

Historic harmonies: Smithsonian exhibit opening in Berrien

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

NASHVILLE, Ga. — The Smithsonian comes to Berrien County this weekend.

“New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” will be exhibited from its opening on Saturday, May 18, through June 29 in Nashville’s Downtown Community Center. Nashville is one of 12 Georgia cities selected for the national Smithsonian tour which returns to Washington, D.C., in 2014.

Given the town’s music history, Nashville, Ga., is an ideal spot for the tour to stop.

Dawn Morrison, City of Nashville economic development director and Nashville Better Hometown director, cites an 1875 Atlanta Daily Constitution newspaper article: “Every other man in Berrien County is a fiddler. The other Saturday a crowd of one hundred, more or less, collected in Nashville and see-sawed the whole evening.”

Sponsored by the Georgia Humanities Council and funded by Congress, the exhibit will include a local display focusing on Berrien County music. Morrison said this local angle was an essential part of the application process.

“We had to develop a local exhibit explaining the history of music in Berrien County,” she says. “The Berrien County Historical Foundation took this challenge on and created a beautiful exhibit to share with the public. We also had to commit to being open to the public and offering the event free of charge. Last was to write a narrative explaining why the exhibit should come to Nashville.”

The Berrien County angle “defines the role music has played in Berrien County and tells the story of many of Berrien County’s musicians,” according to show information. “The Berrien Roots exhibit features a 90-foot photographic and artifact display,” according to the show’s notes. “Berrien County has been a hotbed of fiddle players throughout its history, with Hall of Famers Stanley Bailey, Theo McClellan, Red Lindsey, and Robert Gaskins all claiming local roots. Because of Berrien’s history with the fiddle, the grand opening of the exhibit on May 18 will feature a Fiddle Jam & Festival. Fiddlers from all over Georgia have been invited to play at the festival. The official opening of the exhibit will also be a salute to local fiddler Frank Maloy and his contribution to the fiddle and string heritage of South Georgia.”

The Berrien County Historical Foundation is preparing an additional exhibit to be displayed in the historic 1898 county courthouse.

“Gospel music is also deep rooted in the Nashville area, from the earliest days of singing schools taught by Martin Taylor and the Singing Taylor Family to the more recent Southern gospel groups, the Sego Brothers & Naomi, The Georgians, and the Paffords,” according to event notes.  A concert series will be held during the exhibit period.

“This is huge for Nashville’s art scene,” Morrison said. “The city does not have a local art gallery or a performing arts center so this exhibit is a wonderful opportunity for our community. Nashville is hungry for art and music events. The event will afford our young people the opportunity to view a top-notch Smithsonian Institution Exhibit that otherwise may not have been possible. Field trips have been scheduled for elementary through high school students in order to expose as many students as possible to the exhibit.”