The Down Home in Johnson City, TN will be hosting a pre-release screening of a new project from a pair of ETSU faculty members, along with a concert by Czech bluegrass band, Druha Trava on Monday (9/23).
The film is Banjo Romantika – American Music & the Czech Imagination, a collaboration between Lee Bidgood and Shara Lange. Lee is an Assistant Professor, Band Director and mandolin instructor in the the ETSU Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program, while Shara is an Assistant Professor and Division Head in the Radio/TV/Film division in the Department of Communication.
Bidgood’s PhD dissertation at UVA was entitled, Performing Americanness, Locating Identity: Bluegrass and Ethnography in the Czech Republic, and Banjo Romantika is based on his research into this subject. He and Lange co-produced, with her directing and editing.
It tells the story of how American music began seeping into the Czech cultural consciousness starting in and after WWII when residents could hear bits of music on Armed Forces Radio. The period following the war was the time of Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, and their influence nurtured a nascent bluegrass scene in the country, then under Soviet domination, which has continued to this day. At the time, performing Western music was forbidden, leading to an association between bluegrass and the freedoms enjoyed by people in the United States.
Banjo Romantika includes interviews and music with with Czech musicians, including seminal banjo player Marko Cermák, who is featured in this brief clip from the documentary.
Bidgood is on mandolin in the live clip from the Down Home, with Richard Cifersky on banjo, Dan Boner on guitar, Jeff Elkins on bass, and Ed Snodderly on resonator guitar. Much more from that performance is included in the film.
The screening on Monday begins at 7:00 p.m., followed by Druha Trava.
Attendees at the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass convention will also be able to catch a screening on Thursday, September 26 at the North Carolina Bluegrass Pavilion at 3:00 p.m., and later that evening at 6:00 p.m. at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center in nearby Cary, NC.
Lee tells us that they are entering Banjo Romantika into a number of film festivals, and that future screenings will be posted on Facebook as they are scheduled.