News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Museum hosts a birthday celebration for James Monroe
BY ANDI RUSSELL
More than 20 years ago, Eve Watters undertook a mission: to uncover the types of informal songs that were enjoyed in the homes of Virginia’s early presidents.
On Saturday, the modern-day bard will dust off the materials she has discovered during that search and share them during James Monroe’s 254th birthday celebration.
James Monroe Museum will open its doors free of charge for the family-oriented event in the museum’s garden from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The free celebration will include cake and punch, served at 11 a.m.
“Everybody likes a birthday party. Where else can you go to have songs and free cake?” asked Scott Harris, the museum’s director. “But more to the point, this gives us an opportunity to acknowledge and interpret the life of James Monroe in what we hope is a successful and engaging way.”
Helping with that interpretation is Watters—a harpist, singer, storyteller and instrumentalist—who will perform from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Watters, a Virginia Commission for the Arts touring artist, has performed throughout the state and country, as well as overseas.
“History is in the songs and stories we still have from long ago. That’s where the real stories get told,” Watters said.
She plans to perform ballads, funny songs, parlor games, riddles and stories.
“I’ve uncovered some wonderful music and a few anecdotes,” Watters said.
But her performance is not canned, she said. Instead, she will tailor the presentation to fit the audience.
“That’s the real atmosphere of traditional home music-making,” she said. “It was part of everyone’s good manners to show up for a dinner prepared to join in the music or storytelling or riddling.”
From 2 to 4 p.m., actor and James Monroe impersonator Jay Harrison will perform living-history presentations, Harris said.
“He’ll be characterizing James Monroe’s career from his service in the Revolutionary War through his presidency,” Harris said. “Monroe had a fascinating career as a soldier, legislator, diplomat and as the president of the U.S. There are positive values communicated by that career.”
The celebration won’t end after this event.
In June, the museum will host an afternoon tea and storytelling performance in honor of Elizabeth Monroe. Admission to the tea is $25 per adult. Registration is required.
What: James Monroe Birthday Celebration
Where: James Monroe Museum, 908 Charles St.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Info: 540/654-1043, jamesmonroemuseum.umw.edu
Andi Russell: 540/375-5000, ext. 5556