On Thursday evening, Martha Redbone presented “The Garden of Love,” a concert which took poetry by William Blake and set the words in the poems to music.
The concert was held in the D.P. Culp University Center Auditorium with a piano set up on the stage. The ETSU Old Time Ramblers opened the show and played a selection of old time Appalachian music. The band consisting of two fiddle players, a bass player and a banjo player played selections such as “Sally Anne,” “Peg and All” and “Free Little Bird.” After the Old Time Ramblers performed, Martha Redbone took the stage.
“The project was William Blake poetry,” Redbone said, “and we just really love the language and how beautifully he describes scenery and imagery which reminded me of Appalachia.”
Redbone said that she had read through about 150 of William Blake’s poems and then just narrowed them down to about 50, then 25 and then the band picked out of that.
“It was really just choosing things that were immediate that just stood out for us and kind of spoke to me,” said Redbone.“And then from there, melodies came really organically. We went for the ones that spoke to us right away. I guess they call that divine inspiration.”
During the concert, Redbone performed a selection of William Blake’s poems set to different styles of music. “Hear the Voice of the Bard” sounded like a bluesy gospel song, while another song Redbone performed involved South Eastern Tribal singing.
By using a wide variety of musical genres, Redbone was able to appeal to many members of the audience and make William Blake’s poems come alive in a unique way that made poetry sound fun and exciting.
“I love voices and I love melody,” Redbone said. “With a family from Appalachia that’s really strong. Melodies and writing and poetry are real strong in Appalachia. I think that’s always been a part of me and I guess as an adult the music found me again. I didn’t have to search far.”