“This May be the Last Time,” a documentary film set to make its debut in January at the Sundance Film Festival, will feature Rogers State University Professor Hugh Foley.
The film explores the disappearance of director Sterlin Harjo’s grandfather in the 1960s and the music his fellow Creek Indians used to express their subsequent grief.
That music, according to Foley, a musicologist, may be the very earliest example of a truly American genre.
Foley said that the Muscogee (Creeks) developed their distinctive hymns by mixing their own traditions with those of other racial and ethnic groups that they had contact with.
One of those groups, Scottish migrants, colonized much of the Muscogee homeland in the Southeast United States, bringing with them a tradition of congregational line singing. In the line-singing style, a leader begins singing the first lines of a hymn and is joined by the rest of the congregation.
This style was also transmitted to the other major ethnic group in the Southeast, African American slaves, who had their own tradition of call and response singing.
The Muscogee adopted these styles, combining them with their own flavor and language, Foley said.
Foley, who has not yet seen the film, said that he will travel to the festival in Park City, Utah. He said he’s glad the film will expose more people to a unique musical tradition.
“The singers and congregation members are the real stars,” he said.
The film is a production of This Land Films, an arm of This Land Press, which partners with RSU Radio to produce This Land Radio. For more information about the film, visit www.thislandpress.com/.