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Wilmington Music: Jenny Scheinman brings Kannapolis to Wilmington, NC

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Acclaimed violinist, fiddler, singer, and composer, Jenny Scheinman will be gracing Wilmington music scene on the Kenan Auditorium stage with a performance of Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait on January 23rd. A new live music and film piece, Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait transports its audiences to the Depression era in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Featuring captivating visuals from filmmaker and photographer H. Lee Waters and live music from Jenny Scheinman, this beautiful melding of music and film is one performance you don’t want to miss.  

We went Behind the Curtain with Jenny Scheinman to get the inside scoop on all that is Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait. Read the interview below, and then join us in Kenan Auditorium January 23rd! 

I read in your autobiography that you grew up in a very small town on the west coast. Do you find lot of similarities between your hometown and Kannapolis? 
The town I grew up in out in northern California was barely a town. It had one post office, one store, two bars, and a community center. The residents mostly lived very far from each other on large homesteads, but they shared a strong belief in community and when they weren’t ditching their roads and building outhouses, they were participating in the community gatherings that took place on nearly a weekly basis.
The town of Kannapolis in the late 1930s was a very different place—much larger. It was a town with a textile mill, a town with numerous large public schools. A segregated town. And I don’t know if someone in the town would have claimed it to have a vibrant community spirit, but H. Lee Waters found the community spirit in its public spaces. He looked for it and celebrated it. He focuses his camera on the things that make a community function: the little affections between people on the street, teenage girls holding hands, kids dancing, a large public gathering to watch a traveling acrobat, the unified energy of workers pouring out of a factory at closing time, the simple games that kids played. These are things that my homies were thinking about as they raised me, and their cattle.

What drew you to Kannapolis, NC?
It really wasn’t my idea. It was a commission from Aaron Greenwald at Duke Performances. Aaron found the footage in the Duke University archives and intuited that it would resonate with me. He sent me 3 of the 118 films that H. Lee Waters created. I got hooked and took it from there. The Piedmont region however does have a lot of music history that excited me. Fiddle music! Acoustic music! Banjos, resonator guitars, home-grown entertainment. Simple DIY music to dance to.

How did you decide that this show will feature multiple different medias? 
That was part of the commission—an assignment to use H. Lee Waters’ footage in a performance while also featuring my music. At one point we were considering including a dancer, and/or possibly a volunteer from the audience to interact with the characters on the screen. 

What captivates you about the era of the Great Depression? 
Hard times put our humanity on display. They bring out our most empathetic sides, our grit, our generosity. The joy in this Depression era footage is palpable. Poignant. Moving. In high relief. An inspiration! 

The context of the Depression really emphasizes the potential of the arts to transform and embolden us. Waters empowered these struggling communities through reflecting them back on the silver screen as heroes and celebrities. This is something that was especially powerful at this time when people may have felt beaten down, unimportant, hopeless. 

I grew up with very little. Almost no toys. A lot of work. A piano and a violin. I’m interested in what we can do with very little. Limitations challenge our creativity.  The Depression challenged our entire country in this way and Waters shows us how we rose to the occasion. 

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? 
Well I’ll tell you what my New Year’s resolution was the year before I premiered Kannapolis. It was to focus on collaboration. And this piece Kannapolis is my first major collaboration. I loved the process. I’m hooked! And it has led to several more collaborations, not only a follow-up that is in the works, but a new band called Parlour Game that I lead with the massively talented and charismatic Allison Miller. We will be coming through NC in May! Stay tuned! 

Tickets for Jenny Scheinman’s Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait are available online, with special prices for UNCW students, faculty and staff at the UNCW Arts Ticket Office. Check out our full schedule of UNCW Presents events for more exciting Wilmington shows 

-Lindsay Lake