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Joel Sweeney and the Banjo: from Africa to Appomattox to America

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Joel Sweeney and the BanjoAppomattox is the birthplace of Joel Sweeney and the rest of his banjo playing kith and kin. The Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, along with a newly created friends group, without which this could not happen, and Mark Weems of the North Carolina School of Traditional Music, are planning a celebration of Sweeney, the Africans he learned from and the banjo. The Joel Sweeney and the Banjo: from Africa to Appomattox to America Festival is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday May 10-11th 2013.

Join musician/historians Joe Ayers, Eddie and Martha Adcock, Sule Greg Wilson and The Mackenzies for an evening of music and banjo history in celebration of the life of Appomattox born Joel Walker Sweeney. Only 400 tickets. Get your tickets at Baines Books in Appomattox or Scottsville, at the National Park or via email: Bring a chair or blanket to sit on.

Here are the plans for this event so far. The two-day festival is looking robust. Activities are scheduled to include the following:

  • A "Joel Sweeney Day" declaration from the Governor's office.
  • Screening of two banjo films: Marc Fields "Give Me the Banjo!" and Jim Carrier's "The Librarian and the Banjo."
  • Luthier demonstrations and discussions by Jim Hartel, Jack Gellerstadt and hopefully Pete Ross,
  • Presentations on banjo history by Greg Adams
  • Discussion of the geographic influence of Joel Sweeney's touring by Lucas Bowman
  • Presentations on Sweeney history by David Wooldridge
  • Tours of Sweeney sites within Appomattox C.H. NHP led by Park Staff,
  • Sweeney era banjo music throughout the day
  • An evening concert exhibiting the evolution of the banjo and it's music (this is the fundraising portion of the program. this is a ticketed event to feature artists from the pre-minstrel to the bluegrass eras of banjo playing.)

Proceeds from this concert are intended to aid in the restoration of the Charles Sweeney Cabin and the creation of an interpretive trail focusing on Sweeney and banjo related sites within the park.

This is a fundraising event so that we may work towards a trail that would connect the Charles Sweeney (another musical cousin) cabin to the Joel Sweeney gravesite and interpretive signage that would tell the story of the banjo. Check Facebook for more information.

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