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Rangers from the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park to Perform at Fort Donelson National Battlefield

National Park ServiceDover, TN – On July 22nd, 2011, at 1:00pm at the Dover Hotel, Park Rangers Matt Hampsey and Bruce Barnes, will perform live at Fort Donelson National Battlefield. Performing with them will be fiddler Gina Forsythe, percussionist Leroy Etienne, and bassist Michael Harris. Also during this program will be a performance of excerpts from the original production, Stories From da Dirt I. The play written by Dr. Nancy J. Dawson, utilizes research she conducted about the African American presence at Fort Donelson. The play is officially recognized by the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Park Rangers Matt Hampsey and Bruce Barnes perform at the park. (NPS Photo)
Park Rangers Matt Hampsey and Bruce Barnes perform at the park. (NPS Photo)

The performance coincides with the release of the CD set Songs of the Lower Mississippi Delta, a compilation of 39 songs and spoken word pieces relating to the history and culture of the Delta. Among the pieces related to the battlefield are The Battle of Fort Donelson, a piece that features a poem that written by W.E. Maurey, a soldier taken prisoner at Fort Donelson in 1862. The hour long, afternoon performance by Hampsey, a blues guitar player, and Barnes, a vocalist and accordion player, will be free and open to the public.

The CD and the performance highlight the rich cultural diversity and history found in the music of the lower Mississippi Delta. Every song has a tale to tell; from historic monologues and poetry set to music, to work songs, ring shouts, blues, and coded spirituals. Song selection is based on either a specific connection to a national park in the lower Mississippi Delta, or to the region in which the park is located. Among the songs on the CD related to other parks include the Sonny Boy Williamson II composition Eyesight to the Blind, as well as other Mississippi Delta blues, work songs, and the music of South Louisiana.

The performers, all accomplished musicians, have deep roots in these regional musical styles. Hampsey has over 30 years experience in blues, jazz, and Louisiana music. Barnes has released five CD’s with his band Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots. Gina Forsythe is an accomplished Cajun fiddler and vocalist who plays with Bruce Daigrepont. Leroy Etienne, Zydeco percussion and vocals, grew up in a Creole speaking household and has a deep connection to this music. Harris, a veteran New Orleans bassist, is well known in the city as a performer in the gospel, zydeco, and blues styles.

The CD is funded through a grant from the Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative whose goals are to preserve the region’s cultural and natural resources, and to enhance heritage tourism within the region. Copies will become available through the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.

For additional information, contact the park staff at 931-232-5706 x 101.

About the Dover Hotel, The Surrender House

The Dover Hotel was the site of the “unconditional surrender” of General Buckner to General Grant, on February 16th, 1862. Grant’s terms of “unconditional and immediate surrender” were described by Buckner as “ungenerous and unchivalrous”. This was the Union Army’s first major victory of the the Civil War, setting the stage for invasion of the south and eventual capture of the Mississippi River Valley.

The structure was originally built in 1851, and still stands in the heart of Dover. The structure had served as General Buckner’s headquarters during the battle. The Fort Donelson House Historical Association and the National Park Service restored the house in the 1970’s, and today the exterior looks much as it did at the time of the surrender. 101 Petty Street Dover, TN 37058 931-232-5706, fax: 931-232-4085

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