Department of the Interior

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September 14, 2005
CONTACT: Anne James Harman
(202) 208-4659
Celebrating America's Musical Heritage: Carl Sandburg's "The American Songbag"

WASHINGTON - The public is invited to attend a special program that features former congressman James W. Symington and Levine School of Music faculty member Wayne Kemp, performing folk songs collected and compiled in Carl Sandburg's 1927 publication, "The American Songbag."

The tribute to Sandburg is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005, at 10 a.m. at the U.S. Department of the Interior auditorium, located at 1849 C Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. Admission is free. The program is one in a series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum that highlights artifacts displayed in the museum's current exhibit titled the "Power of Context."

A first edition of "The American Songbag" is on display in the exhibit as is one of six guitars Carl Sandburg owned and played, on loan from the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in North Carolina. Each of the exhibit's artifacts tells a remarkable story about the history and prehistory of what is now the United States of America. They include a buckskin shirt with intricate porcupine quillwork of warrior and diplomat Chief Red Cloud, a Phytosaur skull, Thomas A. Edison's first tinfoil phonograph and Red Mesa pottery from Chaco Canyon.

The Sept. 28 event offers a wonderful opportunity for the public to learn more about Sandburg and the folk songs he thought were so integral to our shared history from two inspirational and entertaining performers. In addition to his outstanding service as chief of protocol for President Lyndon B. Johnson and four-term congressman from Missouri, James W. Symington has been a balladeer of note since his law- school days, when he performed at the New York's Sherry Netherland Hotel.

Accompanying himself on guitar, Symington sang as he campaigned for John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign. Today, Symington and his composer and piano-accompanist wife Sylvia are much in demand for their joint performances for charity fundraisers.

Wayne N. Kemp earned a master's degree in voice performance from North Texas State and a doctorate from Catholic University and currently serves on the faculties of the Levine School of Music and the Shenandoah Conservatory. He has appeared as a soloist with the Lyric Opera of Dallas, the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, the Masterworks Chorale and the Chorale Acadienne of Lafayette, La.

The program also provides the chance to visit the Department of the Interior Museum, located in the Main Interior Building, and the "Power of Context" exhibit on display there through Feb. 10, 2006. The Interior Museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, except for holidays, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month. Admission is free; adult visitors must present a photo identification to enter the building.