Jenny Scheinman’s Kannapolis
February 11, 2017

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 more than 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 — now are housed at Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Scheinman, who 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 in March 2015.

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.

Ticket Prices: $20 | $30