BY MARY WICOFF
The Danville Public Library’s annual Lincoln celebration takes a new twist this year by adding a nationally known musician.
The program, “Story Time with the Lincolns: A Lincoln Celebration in Story and Song,” will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first-floor meeting room at the library, 319 N. Vermilion St.
The event will feature folksinger/songwriter Chris Vallillo, as well as award-winning Lincoln performers Max and Donna Daniels.
This program is suitable for children and adults. The performers make sure to include the children, while educating and entertaining adults.
The Children’s Department will provide a Lincoln craft for children to make. Birthday cake will be served at the conclusion of the program to mark Lincoln’s 204th birthday on Tuesday.
Families are encouraged to bring their cameras to get their pictures taken with the Lincolns and other Civil War visitors. More than a dozen living-history presenters, dressed in Lincoln-era attire, will visit with people before and after the program.
Also, a display of Civil War-era items will be set up in the library entrance, presented by the Ward Hill Lamon Civil War Round Table and the Illiana Civil War Historical Society.
Larry Weatherford, president of the Round Table, which is presenting the event, said the Civil War enthusiasts love to talk about that time in the nation’s history. “People should come early to ask questions, discuss history, look over the items, and get a good seat inside,” he said.
Weatherford noted that the library’s annual event has been growing each year, with overflow crowds in the downstairs meeting room. This year, library Director Barb Nolan and her staff are making more room for visitors by moving the Lincoln craft tables into the Children’s Library.
The event also is growing by the addition of Vallillo, who will help turn the event into “Abraham Lincoln in Story and Song,” he said.
“Chris is a talented entertainer and researcher who has traveled all over the country performing Civil War-era programs. He was featured on the Smithsonian tour during the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.”
Weatherford also noted Lincoln is at the peak of popularity in the public eye, almost equal to the celebration of his 200th birthday in 2009. His popularity has been boosted by the success of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” movie and its 12 Oscar nominations, as well as the release of “Saving Lincoln” and National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Lincoln” movies this month.
“Saving Lincoln” focuses on Lincoln and his Danville law partner and friend, Ward Hill Lamon, and is scheduled for release next week; “Killing Lincoln” is based on the Bill O’Reilly bestselling book.
Lincoln in music
Vallillo uses a combination of narrative, storytelling and music in his one-man show, “Abraham Lincoln in Song.” Vallillo, a former archaeologist turned musician and folklorist, created the show using period music Lincoln was directly associated with to tell the story of Lincoln’s life and times.
Vallillo combines Lincoln’s own words and stories with contemporary folk music and period folk songs to shed light on the historical figure, who knew and loved music himself.
Presenting both well-known and obscure songs from Lincoln’s time, Vallillo tells Lincoln’s story from his birth in Kentucky through his death in 1865 at the hand of John Wilkes Booth.
The show resonates with today’s headlines as well. “As I’ve performed this show over the last year, I’ve been increasingly struck by parallels between Lincoln’s time and our own,” Vallillo said in a news release. “The country faces challenges we haven’t seen since the Depression. Many times I’ve heard audiences comment on the fact that 200 years after the birth of the man who would abolish slavery, we are inaugurating Barack Obama — a man who admires Lincoln and in many ways emulates his political style.”
When released last year, the CD of music from the show hit No. 10 on the Billboard Charts.
From 1990 through 1998, Vallillo served as the performing host and co-producer of the public radio performance series “Rural Route 3.” He is Illinois State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition on “Roots Music, New Harmonies.” His website is http://www.lincolninsong.com.
“Story Time with the Lincolns” will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first-floor meeting room at the Danville Public Library.