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Tennessee Walt to Stage Third Online Concert for Region’s Libraries
Back on April 4, in the early days of the coronavirus lockdown, the Long Island-based country singer Tennessee Walt took to the internet for “A Distant Country,” a live-streamed concert honoring the public libraries of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. Thrown together on less than a week’s notice, the event proved to be an outstanding success: It and a successor on May 2 have been seen by a combined 5,000-plus people on Facebook and YouTube.
The libraries remain closed, however, and on Saturday, June 6, at 2 p.m., Walt will return with “Tennessee Walt’s A Distant Country 3,” a second concert to honor the region’s libraries and encourage contributions in their time of need. The program will include songs associated with Hank Williams, Garth Brooks, the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson and Kitty Wells, along with audience requests and a few Walt originals, plus interesting anecdotes about the songs and the artists who created them. Viewers can find the concert at Facebook.com/TennesseeWalt, live, at 2 p.m.
“The libraries have been hard hit by the coronavirus lockdown,” explained Gayden Wren, the Garden City native who performs country music as Tennessee Walt. “The resources they might lean on in ordinary times—local governments, particularly—are facing their own crises, and libraries won’t necessarily be high on their list. This concert is designed to provide entertainment, of course, but it comes with a message. I’ve been a library person since maybe the day after I learned to read, and nobody’s coming away from this show without hearing a plug or two for our libraries.”
Libraries throughout Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester have helped publicize the first two “Distant Country” programs, Wren added, with 22 libraries co-hosting the first one and 49 the second one. He expects at least 60 of the region’s 149 libraries to be aboard for the third one.
“It’s a region-wide approach to a region-wide problem,” Wren said. “It started back in March, when Marialisa Arnold of the Baldwin Public Library asked me about the possibility of doing an online performance. It occurred to me that, while online performance lacks the immediacy of in-person performance, it does have the advantage of letting you be more than one place at once. So we figured, why not try? It took off from there.”
The show’s No. 1 purpose, he said, is entertaining its audience, whether they see it live on June 6 or view it subsequently on Facebook or YouTube.
“We’re talking about some of the greatest songs ever written,” Wren said. “It may not be what you think of when you think of country music—it’s voice and piano, not guitars and fiddles—but it’s great music, period. This is a chance for people to kick back and forget their troubles for 75 minutes or so. For that matter, it’s a chance for me to do the same thing. These show are the closest thing to normalcy I’ve had in months, and I enjoy them at least as much as the audience does—and, to judge by the comments we’ve been getting on Facebook, the audience enjoys them a lot!”
“A Distant Country 3” (the title evokes the Book of Luke and a famous quote by Samuel Johnson, but also the current necessity of social distancing) will be presented live on Facebook.com/TennesseeWalt on Saturday, June 6, at 2 p.m. Admission is free. (Those not on Facebook can see the show on YouTube within 24 hours afterward.) For further information, visit www.TennesseeWalt.com.