Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

"Lost Forty Project" Taps Long-Lost 1924 Recordings from Northern Minnesota and Brings the Music (and History) to Life


St. Paul, MN — April 6th, 2016: One night a few years ago, Bemidji-native Brian Miller was up late researching an obscure saloon-keeper and singer from Virginia, Minnesota when he made a startling discovery in a 90-year-old newspaper article. The man, Michael Dean (1858-1931) was visited by a folksong collector with a recording machine. The clue led Miller to what turned out to be one of the earliest audio documents of Great Lakes folksong—a forgotten treasure trove of 47 songs recorded in 1924 from Dean and the Phillips family of Chamberlain (south of Akeley).

Borrowing the name of Itasca County’s Lost 40 Scientific and Nature Area (a rare stand of old growth pine overlooked by loggers) Miller launched The Lost Forty Project to celebrate and make accessible these long lost “old growth” songs. Miller’s duo, also called The Lost Forty, will perform songs from the project at a 7pm concert on Saturday, May 14th at the Rail River Folk School, 303 Railroad Street, Bemidji.

The concert will be preceded by a 3pm workshop (also at Rail River) at which Brian and duo partner Randy Gosa will teach songs and song arranging techniques. The concert and workshop are each $10 at the door or $15 for both.

The 47 songs at the heart of The Lost Forty Project include regionally-composed songs about logging, railroading songs, deer hunting songs, Great Lakes shipwreck songs, old Irish ballads and even older English ballads dating as far back as the 1680s. As part of the project, Miller is creating The Minnesota Folksong Collection—a free online digital library for the recordings with biographical information about the singers and resources for those who want to learn songs themselves.

The project has resonated strongly with folksong buffs and historians garnering a Folk and Traditional Arts grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board this year and raising $6000 in one week via a crowdfunding campaign in March.

The Bemidji concert is the first of eight performances around the state aimed at promoting the Minnesota Folksong Collection archive and inspiring Minnesotans to learn songs from the collection. The evening will feature stories and historical photos illustrating the lives of the source singers mixed with The Lost Forty’s lush arrangements incorporating guitar and bouzouki (a relative of the mandolin).


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