In this new project commissioned by Duke Performances, acclaimed composer, singer, and violinist, Jenny Scheinman invites us into the captivating visual world of Depression-era filmmaker, H. Lee Waters. From 1936-42, Waters documented over 118 towns in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee in a collection he called "Movies of Local People." Waters traveled from town to town, filming people going about their lives in the small town South, then worked with local movie theaters to screen his silent shorts, inviting his subjects for a wholly novel experience—to see themselves on the silver screen, alongside Groucho Marx, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Hollywood stars of the time.
With Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait, Scheinman offers her original live score to Waters' footage, masterfully reworked into a new film by director Finn Taylor with editor Rick LaCompte. Scheinman and her musical sidemen—Robbie Fulks and Robbie Gjersoe—create a soundtrack of new folk songs, fiddle music, and field sounds to accompany this fascinating footage. The humanity in these images bares a transcendent, universal quality that speaks to any community as much as to the Piedmont region where it was filmed.
The full slate of Waters’ movies—the only such collection from an itinerant American filmmaker of the era—are now housed at Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Scheinman, who's recently recorded The Littlest Prisoner for Sony Masterworks with Bill Frisell and Brian Blade, employs her formidable musical ingenuity to make a stirring new presentation drawing from this rich artifact of American cinema.
Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait was commissioned by Duke Performances at Duke University. The piece premiered at Duke’s Reynolds Industries Theater on Friday, March 20, 2015.
"Scheinman [has] a distinctive vision of American music, suffused with plainspoken beauty and fortified all at once by country, gospel, and melting-pot folk, along with jazz and the blues"
The New York Times
"Waters developed a fluid and expressive style, and the films feature an often vivacious depiction of community life along with beautiful portraits and some 'small town symphony' special effects."
"A beautifully coordinated melding of music and film... a vivid image of small-town life, morphing back and forth almost imperceptibly between black-and-white and color."
The Washington Post
Jenny Scheinman — composer, arranger, violin, vocals
Robbie Fulks — guitar, banjo, vocals
Robbie Gjersoe — resonator guitar, baritone electric guitar, vocals
Finn Taylor — film director
Rick LeCompte — film editor
Trevor Jolly — Sound Designer
All footage shot between 1936-42 by H. Lee Waters
Kannapolis was made possible, in part, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; a grant from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation; a grant from New Music USA; a Visiting Artist Grant from the Council for the Arts, Office of the Provost, Duke University; support from the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University; and a gift from Neil D. Karbank.
Management: Ellizabeth Penta, EMCEE Artist Management
Exclusive Worldwide Representation: Sue Bernstein, Bernstein Artists, Inc.