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A Singing Stream | May 9

PineCone & NC Museum of History present “A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle”

Celebrate Mother’s Day by learning the story of the Landis family as told with interviews and stories, scenes from daily life, reunions, gospel concerts, and church services ranging over the lifetime of 87-year-old Mrs. Bertha M. Landis, the family’s matriarch and oldest surviving member. Tom Davenport’s award-winning documentary “A Singing Stream: A Black Family Chronicle” traces the history of the Landis family from rural Granville County, North Carolina. It will be screened on Saturday, May 9 at 3 p.m. as part of the Music of the Carolinas series.

Some members of the Landis family were members of the original Golden Echoes gospel group. The current Golden Echoes group features two of the group’s original members: Claude Landis (lead and background vocals) and Johnny Malone (guitar).

The full group is: Johnny Malone; Claude Landis; J.P. Jenkins (background vocals); Andrew Green (background vocals); Kenneth Daniel (lead and background vocals); Bryant Malone (bass guitar); Phillip Daniel (drummer); Tevin Vass (keyboards); Lenny Tharrington (keyboards).

Jenkins and Green were added to the group about 20 years ago and are still background vocalists. The remaining members of the current configuration are part of the younger generation of the group: Kenneth Daniel started with the group at age 14 as bassist and remained with the group for about 15 years before moving to another group in the mid ’80s, and he is now back as part of the group. Bryant Malone is the son of Johnny Malone, and Phillip Daniel is the son of Kenneth Daniel. Tevin Vass is the grandson of the late John Landis, and Lenny Tharrington is the nephew of John and Claude Landis.

The emergence of gospel quartets in rural North Carolina during the first half of the 20th century can be traced to a number of earlier influences such as congregational and church choir singing of spirituals and hymns, the singing of traditional African-American songs while at work in the fields or with family members in the home, and the appearance of new kinds of performing groups that ranged from the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Hampton Institute Quartette to local groups of male singers who sang in their churches and at prayer meetings. “Quartets,” observes folklorist Glenn Hinson, “incorporated the close harmonies of workers singing in the fields, the falsetto of the hollers, the bass phrasings of the rhythmic work songs, and the syncopated beat of congregational handclapping into a unique musical sound that is still the basis of modern gospel music.”

The liveliest of unaccompanied vocal styles developed and popularized among black singers and audiences in the era between the two world wars was known as “jubilee” singing. The young Landis brothers-John, Fleming, and Robert-along with a friend, Roy Braswell, began to sing regularly as the Rising Stars of Creedmoor (the town nearest the family’s farm).

World War II and emigration from the South by kin and friends leaving farm work for jobs in the urban North depleted and rearranged Granville County’s quartets. Two gospel quartets, the Rising Stars and the Nightingales of Kittrell, merged in the late 1950s in the wake of having lost members to war service and migration. The Nightingales, originally named for a community 20 miles northeast of Creedmoor, had been renamed the Golden Echoes by the Dixie Hummingbirds, a widely respected gospel group of the time. When the Rising Stars and the Nightingales merged, they decided to keep the name Golden Echoes.

Two Landis brothers from the Rising Stars joined the Golden Echoes: the lead singer and manager, John, and baritone singer Claude. Later, their nephew Kenneth Daniel was added as a lead guitar player. Wilburt “Johnny” Malone of the Nightingales joined the band as bass guitarist. The Nightingales also contributed lead singer Ronald Perry and singer Luther Foster, who specializes in falsetto. Andrew Green, a “new man” who was also from the Kittrell community, joined the group only five years before the film production began. In “A Singing Stream,” Green is seen singing “back-up” but has since begun taking his turn at singing lead.

This program is free and open to the public; program notes will be provided. To learn about other upcoming PineCone programs, please visit www.pinecone.org. For more information about the NC Museum of History, please visit www.ncmuseumofhistory.org.

Film Credits:
Film by Tom Davenport
Produced by Davenport Films with Dan Patterson, Allen Tullos, and UNC Curriculum in Folklore
Cinematographer: Tom Davenport with Zach Kreiger and Tom Rankin
Sound: Allen Tullos with Barry Dornfeld and Brett Sutton
Editing: Tom Davenport and Marcia Neidley
Copyright: Copyright 1986, Tom Davenport
57 minutes, Color
Original format: 16mm, 1986
Distributor: Davenport Films

Awards: CINE Golden Eagle, Chicago International Film Festival (Bronze Hugo), Kenyon Film Festival, Best Documentary, Black Maria Film Festival (Directors Choice)

Visit www.pinecone.org for complete details and to see the full Music of the Carolinas schedule.

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