Arts, Music

Commemorate the Erie Canal Bicentennial with songs, stories… …and a premiere of an Erie Canal Documentary!

Brooklyn welcomes The Heartland Passage Tour

Commemorate the Erie Canal Bicentennial with songs, stories…

…and a premiere of an Erie Canal Documentary

Party Like it’s 1817

A bicentennial party is floating its way to Brooklyn’s Waterfront Museum, one of the ports of call of the Heartland Passage Tour as it travels west the entire length of the Erie Canal to the Buffalo Waterfront on Lake Erie.

On September 3 at 8 p.m. the Heartland Passage Tour will bring troubadours and storytellers, plus a documentary about the Erie Canal by an Academy Award winning filmmaker, to the Waterfront Museum (290 Conover St. at Pier 44) in Brooklyn’s Red Hook, honoring its connection to the Erie Canal. The Tour will mark the start of the Canal in 1817 – which made New York the Empire State and New York a major city, along with many other cities in Central and Western New York. The Tour celebrates and helps preserve the culture and way of life the Canal engendered.

Tickets are $15 and up and available at eventbrite . “We thrilled be included in the Heartland Passage Tour and its Erie Canal bicentennial,” said David Sharps, President of the Waterfront Museum.  “Our 103-year-old river barge was too busy working to celebrate the Canal’s first hundred years. This tour brings attention to the fact that Red Hook, Brooklyn was the southern terminal of the Erie Canal Waterway System, and was very active. You can still see the silos here where millions of bushels of grain from the Midwest were stored before being shipped elsewhere,” he said.

The stop in Brooklyn is one of ten; performers at the Waterfront Museum include Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, famous for “Ashokan Farewell,” the theme song for Ken Burns’ Civil War series. Kimball, Canning, Bolt and McClure, Rochester area musicians, storytellers and folklorists will perform the music of traveling troupes along the Canal in its heyday, with tunes like ‘Circus Jig,” and “The Blue Eagle Jail” performed on fiddles, fretless banjos, tambourines and bones.

The event will also include the New York area premiere of Boom and Bust: America’s Journey on the Erie Canal, a short documentary by Academy Award winning independent filmmaker Paul Wagner. He calls it a meditation on the economic cycles along the canal that speak to the fate of the American dream. “To me, one of the lessons in the film is to value your history, and preserve it. You just don’t knock down every grain elevator and textile mill…because of its history and all sorts of other reasons, you go in, refurbish it and find new uses for it.“ Wagner said. “You recognize them as things of beauty, as things that are part of who we are as a community and part of our historic identity.”

“The cultural impact of the Canal was huge,” said Steve Zeitlin, director of City Lore, one of the sponsors. “Low Bridge, Everybody Down! (the Erie Canal Song)”, most recently performed by Bruce Springsteen, was one of dozens of songs inspired by the Canal. The songs of Stephen Foster are part of the Canal’s history. Even George M. Cohan wrote a song about the Canal.”

“Although it was called “Clinton’s Folly,” the Erie Canal was an engineering miracle,” said folklorist and Project Codirector Karen Canning. “By linking the port of New York to the Great Lakes and the Midwest, it made fortunes in its wake. The Heartland Passage Tour celebrates the Canal and the folklore it spawned in song and story.”

About The Heartland Passage Tour: The Heartland Passage tour is a unique new performance event that will travel on the Erie Canal September 2 – 23 to celebrate its bicentennial and demonstrate its cultural and historic impact through songs, stories and the documentary film Boom and Bust. The tour is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and a Regional Economic Development Grant through the New York State Council on the Arts. The Tour is sponsored by City Lore (, the Erie Canal Museum ( and Livingston Arts ( For more information and tickets see

About the Sponsors: Founded in 1986, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs. The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse provides engaging educational experiences that champion an appreciation and understanding of the Erie Canal. The mission of Livingston Arts is to enrich the quality of life in Livingston County and Western New York by encouraging and promoting the arts and cultural activities.

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