Whitney Hale


College: Fine Arts

Tim Eriksen, Trio de Pumpkintown Put Shape-note Singing in Spotlight

Published: Apr 8, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 8, 2013) — The University of Kentucky School of Music, the UK Department of American Studies and the Appalachian Association of Sacred Harp Singers welcomes special musical guests Tim Eriksen, of "Cold Mountain" fame, and Trio de Pumpkintown for a campus residency this week. The community can take in a Trio de Pumpkintown concert and learn more about shape-note singing from Eriksen at free public events scheduled for April 11.


Eriksen and his trio, featuring Peter Irvine on percussion and Zoe Darrow on fiddle, will perform songs from his latest album, "Josh Billings Voyage." The Trio de Pumpkintown concert will begin at noon Thursday, April 11, in the Niles Gallery, in the Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.


Later that day in the Niles Gallery, Eriksen will also lead a shape-note singing school from 7 to 9 p.m. Everyone is welcome to learn to sing and lead early American shape-note music from the "Sacred Harp" tunebook from one of the genre's most acclaimed instructors.


Eriksen, best known for the soundtrack for the film "Cold Mountain," is celebrated for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shape-note gospel and dance tunes from New England and the Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto, a 12 string Mexican acoustic bass. Eriksen creates a distinctive hardcore Americana sound that ranges from the bare bones of solo unaccompanied singing to the lush, multi-layered arrangements on his latest album "Josh Billings Voyage."


As an ethnomusicologist and teacher, Eriksen's work includes extensive research on shape-note music in New England and the venerable Sacred Harp four-part harmony tradition. He is a founder of what is currently the world's largest Sacred Harp singing convention, in Northampton, Mass. In the words of Paste Magazine editor Josh Jackson, "No one has done more to help revive Sacred Harp singing among a younger generation."


Eriksen has taught hundreds of workshops and seminars in shape-note harmony singing, American music history, ballad singing and instrumental accompaniment. He has worked at festivals, universities, museums and arts centers, including appearances at the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University, the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference, Colours of Ostrava Festival in the Czech Republic, and the Early Music Festival in Jaroslaw, Poland. His students have ranged from kindergarteners to Nicole Kidman, Elvis Costello, Sting, a group of 50 Romanian extras in the film "Cold Mountain," and the senior citizen members of the Young at Heart Chorus.


"Josh Billings Voyage" is a collection of multicultural folksongs from an imagined New England village called Pumpkintown. Combining love songs of the sea, fiddle tunes, ballads, shape-note and Afro/Celtic gospel, much of the trio’s music comes from Pumpkintown’s diverse early inhabitants; Yankees, Africans, Native Americans, Irish, Scottish and Germans. Also influential are the sounds of the cotton trade, which brought many of the town’s youth to Southern India via Zanzibar and back.


For those who cannot make it to the UK events on April 11, Eriksen and the Trio de Pumpkintown will also be performing 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Willie’s Locally Known, in Lexington.


For more information about the UK events, call (859) 257-4912 or email Donna Kwon, assistant professor of ethnomusicology, at donna.kwon@uky.edu.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716whitney.hale@uky.edu

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