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Harpers Ferry hosts cultural heritage event

June 26, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the place where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, also is the site of many significant moments in American history.

On Saturday, June 28, the area's rich past will be stirred up with re-enacted history and some jazz from accomplished musicians who have not played together before.

The cultural heritage program They Passed This Way: A Celebration of Cultural Heritage will begin at 11 a.m.

Dick Cheatham will present "Meriwether Lewis Returns to Harpers Ferry," focusing on the 200th anniversary of the explorer's 1803 visit to the town where he was equipped and outfitted for his historic cross-continent expedition with William Clark and the Corps of Discovery.


Bill Barker will portray Thomas Jefferson, the president who conceived Lewis and Clark's exploration. On Jan. 18, 1803, Jefferson submitted a confidential message to Congress requesting authorization for a government expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

Together, Barker and Cheatham will recreate a White House dialogue, Barker as Jefferson, Cheatham as Lewis, as they plan the three-year journey across North America.

Other aspects of American culture will be portrayed: Turtle Island Band will perform authentic traditional and contemporary music of the Native American; Wildcat Regiment Band will play music of 19th-century America on refurbished instruments from the period.

There will be no fireworks at the park this year because of increased security costs and other factors affecting the park's operating budget, says Marsha Wassel, the park's public information officer.

The celebration's flash and explosions will pack a quieter and much cooler mode - jazz.

The Don Redman Heritage Concert at 4:30 p.m. will celebrate another part of American history that happened at Harpers Ferry. Redman, known as the first great arranger in jazz history, graduated in 1920 from Storer College in Harpers Ferry. The school was one of the first founded to educate freed slaves after the Civil War. It flourished for almost 90 years, and its campus is preserved as part of the park.

The performance will feature trumpeter Sonny Cohn, 78, who played with the Count Basie Orchestra for more than three decades. Trumpeter Snooky Young also will be on the stage. The 84-year-old Ohio native played with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman. He was a member of Doc Severinsen's "Tonight Show" band for 20 years.

The Howard Burns Quartet will back Cohn and Young in concert. Burns, who plays saxophone, performed with trumpeter Joe Wilder, 81, and trombonist Benny Powell, 71, at the 2002 Harpers Ferry celebration. He has not played with Cohn and Young, and there will be no time to rehearse, but that's OK.

Burns says he will ask "What do you want to play? What key?" There will be no need to rehearse.

"When we hit the stage, that's it," he says.

That's jazz.

"Those are the legends," Burns says of the players with such long musical histories.

"They just are very genuine and very generous," he adds.

Schedule of events

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Living history activities and demonstrations, John Brown's Fort

11 a.m. - "Meriwether Lewis Returns to Harpers Ferry," Dick Cheatham as Meriwether Lewis, Hamilton Street Stage

Noon - Music of the American Indian, Turtle Island Band, Festival Tent, The Green

1 p.m. - "This Scene is Worth a Voyage Across the Atlantic," Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton Street Stage

2 p.m. - 19th-century music concert, Wildcat Regiment Band, Festival Tent - The Green

3:15 p.m. - "A President's Vision, A Captain's Challenge," featuring Bill Barker and Dick Cheatham as Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis, Arsenal Square Stage

4:30 p.m. - Don Redman Heritage Concert, featuring Snooky Young and Sonny Cohn with the Howard Burns Quartet, Festival Tent, The Green

If you go...

They Passed This Way: A Celebration of Cultural Heritage

11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.


Call 1-304-535-6298 or go to on the Web.

Directions from Hagerstown: Take U.S. Alternate 40 south to Boonsboro. Turn right onto Md. 67 to U.S. 340 toward Harpers Ferry. Entrance is off U.S. 340.

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