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Milligan’s ‘The Poetry of Music’ concert to pay tribute to Carter family

Contributed To The Press • Updated Apr 19, 2018 at 4:43 PM

The Milligan College Orchestra will join the largest literary celebration in the world, April’s National Poetry Month, by featuring poetry readings and musical performances combined in one concert, Saturday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the college’s Mary B. Martin Auditorium located in Seeger Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition, “The Poetry of Music” concert will premiere a new composition commemorating the historic journey of the Carter family to the Bristol Sessions, forever changing the course of music in America.

The new composition by Tanzanian composer Evenlyn Pursley-Kopitzke, “Poor Valley Pilgrims,” is an interpretation of acclaimed Appalachian author Jane Hicks’ poem of the same name.

“Hicks’ retelling of the Carter Family story is desperate, gritty, determined and evocative—as well as hopeful and triumphant,” said Pursley-Kopitzke. “I have always loved telling stories with my music, and interpreting Jane Hicks’s ‘Poor Valley Pilgrims’ is no exception.”

Pursley-Kopitzke said that the composition echoes Carter family favorites, like “Wildwood Flower” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” as it tells their journey.

Hicks, a native of upper East Tennessee, will read her poem as the orchestra, directed by Milligan music professor Kellie Brown, performs the new composition.

Hicks’ poetry has appeared in both journals and numerous anthologies. Hicks first book, “Blood and Bone Remember,” was nominated for and won several awards. Her latest poetry book, “Driving with the Dead,” was published in the fall of 2014, and was named “Poetry Book of the Year” by the Appalachian Writers Association.

In addition to “Poor Valley Pilgrims,” the concert will feature other selections of poetry read by Milligan humanities faculty, with accompanying music from the orchestra. Highlights include the poem “Ring Out, Wild Bells” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, along with music “Wild Bells” by Henry Lahee; “Sure on This Shining Night” by James Agee, with music of the same name by Samuel Barber; and “Down by the Salley Gardens” by William Butler Yeats, with a performance of “The Salley Gardens” by Benjamin Britten.

“Since ancient times, music and words have had a strong and meaningful connection,” Brown said. “This unique concert celebrates that relationship and provides the students and then in turn the audience a wonderful opportunity to interact with two gifted women, Jane and Evenlyn, who are contributing to the cultural richness of our area.”

Hicks will be selling and signing her books in the lobby after the concert. In addition, Milligan’s literary magazine, “The Phoenix,” also will be for sale in the lobby.

For more information on Milligan arts events, visit www.milligan.edu/arts.

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