New Harmony shines ‘under the beams’



Liz Mumford teaches special education classes by day and works on Under the Beams at night.

“(The volunteers) do it for the love of music,” she said.

Mumford has been a vocalist for her band Harmony Road and has performed with the Philharmonic for 13 years, which led up to her inspiration for creating “Under the Beams,” a concert series, 16 years ago.

Under the Beams is a non-profit organization that brings arts and educational programming to New Harmony with concerts and musical outreach programs for area students of all ages.

Grammy-nominated blues singer Ruthie Foster will perform in the Murphy Auditorium in New Harmony as  part of the series.

“Every concert is so different from the next,” Mumford said. “It brings in a new group of people. (People) can go to the shops and have dinner at one of the restaurants. It can be a really great New Harmony experience.”

Everyone who helps with Under the Beams is a volunteer, Mumford said.

The inspiration started after Mumford’s philharmonic chorus director said she needed a place to have a concert for a Japanese band that was coming. Mumford said she thought about the unused Granary.

“There was no piano and they had just been holding conferences in the Granary and we thought we should use this,” Mumford said. “And a handpicked piano was sent to us from Nashville.”

Mumford said she remembers 10 people struggling to get the piano up the winding staircase, and there are still marks on the floor from the piano.

“It was a beautiful concert and 180 people showed up,” Mumford said. “We all looked at each other and said, ‘We should keep doing this.’’’

That’s when the concert series received its name because the light would shine through the beams onto the artists, Mumford said.

In 2014, the concert series moved to Murphy Auditorium in New Harmony after they ran out of space.

“We have 150 seats… and honestly, Murphy was designed for this kind of thing,” Mumford said. “Every seat is a good seat.”

Mumford said she brought in Foster because she loved her commanding presence and her incredible voice.

“Voice is important to me,” she said laughing. “I want a good strong voice when I am picking an artist.”

Mark Krahling, associate dean of the Pott College of Science, Engineering and Education and Under the Beams board member said he has attended many of the concerts and thinks Foster is the type of performer who would appeal to students.

“The performances are just amazing,” Krahling said. “It’s a very intimate place to listen to music.”

Krahling said it’s a great musical experience for everyone. During the breaks, the artists take time to sign CDs and shake hands with the audience.

“I think that’s part of the magic of New Harmony and Murphy Auditorium,” Krahling said. “You’re not 300 feet away, you’re 10 or 15 feet away from the performer.”

Krahling said he would like to see more students and younger people at events like this, especially since USI students have an opportunity to get in for free.

The College of Liberal Arts will offer about 20 free tickets to students who call before they run out.

Krahling said he is a fan of New Harmony because it’s such a small town, but they put on amazing art events.

“Under the Beams music definitely cuts across the music spectrum,” he said. “It started out classical and now it’s much more diverse.”