Friday, June 24, 2011

PBS Arts Fall Festival - Give Me the Banjo

PBS recently announced its PBS Arts Fall Festival, a nine-part series of performances, artist profiles, documentaries, and films about - you guessed it - the performing arts!  It kicks off Friday, October 14th, 2011 at 9PM with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore”.  This exciting line-up of programming will be broadcast Friday nights into mid-December.  

I'm particularly excited about the film they are calling Give Me the Banjo, formerly known as the Banjo Project DocumentaryGive Me the Banjo is narrated by actor, comedian and banjoist Steve Martin.  It is produced and directed by Marc Fields with Michael Kantor as executive producer. Tony Trischka is co-producer and music director. 

PBS sizzle clips from The Banjo Project on Vimeo.

Having amassed over 400 hrs of footage during almost a decade of production, Marc Fields and his creative team are now feverishly working to complete post-production in time for the fall broadcast.  The film explores the roots of American music through its quintessential instrument - via the minstrel show, ragtime and early jazz, blues, old-time, folk, bluegrass and country. It follows the banjo from its African slavery roots to the 21st century, featuring performances and commentary from musicians such as Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Taj Mahal, Béla Fleck, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, as well as from leading music historians, folklorists, banjo makers and collectors. 

Hip-hip hooray for the banjo and its placement in a national prime time showcase!!!  And kudos to PBS for picking this up.  Another special in this series is PBS Arts from Seattle: AMERICAN MASTERS "Pearl Jam Twenty", director and music journalist Cameron Crowe's portrait of the seminal rock band in honor of their 20th anniversary.  Culled from over 1,200 hours of rarely and never-before-seen footage plus recently shot concert and interview footage, this looks to be a good chronicle of the grunge rockers.

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