Songcatcher

Dr. Anna St. James, the heroine in my recent novel Escape to the Biltmore is fascinated by the beautiful music of the mountain people around Asheville. To that end, I would like to remind everyone that Appalachian folk music is documented in the following fictional drama film.

Songcatcher is a 2000 drama film directed by Maggie Greenwald. It is about a musicologist researching and collecting Appalachian folk music in the mountains of western North Carolina. Although Songcatcher is a fictional film, it is loosely based on the work of Olive Dame Campbell, founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and that of the English folk song collector Cecil Sharp, portrayed at the end of the film as professor Cyrus Whittle.

In 1907, Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer), a professor of musicology, is denied a promotion at the university where she teaches. She impulsively visits her sister Eleanor (Jane Adams), who runs a struggling rural school in Appalachia. There, she discovers a treasure trove of traditional Scots Irish ballads, which have been preserved by the secluded mountain people since the colonial period of the 1600s and 1700s. Lily decides to record and transcribe the songs and share them with the outside world.

Here is an example¬† (artist–Emmy lou Harris sings Mountain Ballad — Barbara Allen)