March 6, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

LOC Opens Its Doors to Country Performers

Courtesy Country Music Association

Visitors to the Library of Congress, that temple of grammatical correctness, might be surprised to hear the phrases yall, aint and bless yer heart. But those countrified expressions recently took center stage at the Library. And theyre fixin to make more frequent appearances in years to come as the Librarys dignified tone takes on a bit of a twang.

On Dec. 4, the LOC Jefferson Buildings Coolidge Auditorium hosted a concert as part of the Country Music Association Songwriters Series, the second country show held at the Library in 2010. Organizers have tentatively announced a third iteration of the series for the spring, and all signs point to a country music presence at the Library of Congress that is more visible than ever before.

Country music isnt new to the LOC. In fact, Susan Vita and Dee Gallo, both employees in the Librarys music division, said the Library has the worlds largest collection of country music. That collection is made up primarily of copyright deposits the birth certificate of a song, Gallo said. 

But bringing actual country music performers to the Library was more of a risk, if only because country music doesnt have the same fan base in Washington, D.C., as it does elsewhere in the country. Moreover, the Librarys concert venue traditionally hosts classical rather than contemporary musicians, but that has changed in recent times.

If you look over the concert series offerings for the last 10 years, youll see we now do a balancing act between classical chamber music, American musical theater, jazz, we have blues and other things sometimes, and now, country, said Vita, who is the head of the music division. Because were not the classical music division were the music division, and consequently, we try and reflect what we have in our collections.

Gallo, the LOC music divisions supervisory librarian, found a compelling reason to bring live country music to Washington. She discovered that country music isnt just a soundtrack for beer commercials. 

In a study of music-themed research topics presented at the American Musicological Society, Gallo found that research is moving away from Euro-centric music and toward American styles.

People are doing equivalent research on country as theyre doing on Beethoven, she said.

The LOC and the CMA were brought together early this year by Jim Free, country musics D.C. lobbyist and a friend of the Library. The CMA held a board of directors meeting in Washington in the spring, and Free worked with Vita to arrange a series of presentations and a one-off concert to coincide with the meeting, Vita said. Last weeks show built off that performance.

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