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‘Stingray Point Story’ attracts prestigious audience

Performing during “The Stingray Point Story” at the Deltaville Maritime Museum in 2008 were, from left, Bob Zentz, Richmond violin maker John Larrimore, songwriter and VCU senior Alex McDougall, and Jeanne McDougall. (Photo by Laura Noel)
Once again John Smith’s near fatal encounter with a stingray has focused national attention on Deltaville.

The American Historical Association, the largest historical society in the United States, selected a paper and a musical production by Jeanne McDougall titled “The Stingray Point Story.” The paper and music were presented at the opening plenary session of the association’s annual meeting in San Diego, Calif., January 7-10.

Approximately 5,000 historians attend this meeting and it is a huge honor to be selected to present a paper and perform. The AHA has over 14,000 members and 4,000 subscribing institutions.

In 2007-08, McDougall and Norfolk-based composer Bob Zentz created music for the original play, “The Stingray Point Story,” written by Raynell Smith, who was director of the Deltaville Maritime Museum at the time.  The drama, with musical accompaniment, was performed on the 400th anniversary of the naming of Stingray Point in July 2008 near the exact location where John Smith was stung by a ray and nearly died.

McDougall, a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Southern California, consulted with music and history faculty at USC and the Thornton School of Music to produce original music and instrumentation consistent with early 17th-century musical practices familiar to both American Indians and English explorers. 

Zentz and McDougall shared the writing of the six original songs, and McDougall scored the play. Period instruments included the hurdy-gurdy, cittern, drum and recorder for the European songs, an Indian flute, drum, and gourd rattles for the American Indian music.

McDougall’s paper deals with the difficulties of making both the European and Indian music consistent with what might have been created at the time. It was presented on January 7 as part of a session titled “Musical Encounters in the Early Atlantic: An Exploratory Performance,” led by Karen Kupperman. 

A Silver Professor of History at New York University, Kupperman is one of the leading scholars on the interaction between English promoters and settlers and American Indians. Her groundbreaking works, including The Jamestown Project in 2007, made her a leading authority on the settlement of Jamestown during the recent 400th anniversary celebrations. 

Selections from “The Stingray Point Story,” including “Crossing the Chesapeake” by Zentz, “John Smith’s Lament” by McDougall, and an improvisation of indigenous music were performed at the AHA session by McDougall, Zentz, and students and faculty from the USC Thornton School of Music’s Early Music Program.

Capacity crowds attended the performances of “The Stingray Point Story” in July of 2008 at the Deltaville Maritime Museum. Raynell Smith, the play’s author, is in the process of editing the play for an annual production to be performed either outdoors at the museum or on the stage. “I hope ‘The Stingray Point Story’ can be performed at least once a year, much like ‘The Lost Colony’ at Roanoke Island,” said Smith. “The story is quite compelling and the music a perfect accompaniment. I want people to remember Captain John Smith for his courage, determination and curiosity. As an explorer and historian, he was such an important part of Chesapeake Bay history.”

McDougall and Zentz made a CD of the original music and Taylor Adams made a DVD of the play, copies of which are sold at the Deltaville Maritime Museum and at Nauti Nell’s in Deltaville. The two discs, which sell for $15 each, can be mail ordered by calling Smith at 804-815-3102.

posted 01.13.2010

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