This past weekend, my wife and I got a chance for a nice little vacation to the beach for food, fun, and a whole lot of music. We went as members of the UNC Greensboro Old Time Ensemble and performed in the coastal town of Manteo, NC as part of their concert series. This series aims to bring various ensembles from the North Carolina school system and fund performances in Manteo’s Roanoke Island State Park. There are choral, jazz, theatre, and opera groups from around North Carolina who are performing there this upcoming year. The best part is that all of the concerts are free and open to the public.
Following my last post, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight one of these programs more in detail. I’ll try to post some videos here soon, but enjoy some of the pictures my wife Sara took of our trip.
Although I am a percussionist by trade, one of my more recent musical endeavors has been into the realm of Old Time music. For those of you unfamiliar, this basically refers to traditional Appalachian vocal and dance music as well as a lot of other smaller folk genres that have been grouped together over the years. It’s also usually defined as being “pre-bluegrass” as the style had a direct influence on bluegrass. Old Time music can be thought of more as dance music with little improvisation whereas bluegrass is meant for the stage and offers much faster tunes with a lot of improvisatory soloing. Much of this music comes from the British Isles and early American settlers and is often considered our nation’s first unique folk music besides that of the Native Americans. In our Old Time group, I mostly play hammered dulcimer, but have recently picked up guitar and mountain dulcimer. One of the hardest aspects of this group is that we try to preserve the method oral transmission of the music. That means no sheet music, which for some (including myself) is at times very difficult. It certainly has been a great musical experience and has helped me rediscover some of my musical heritage. Although my father grew up listening to this music, I did not take much of an interest until now. So I’m kind of playing catch-up, but I’m having a great time doing it.
Also, as part of my doctoral dissertation, I am looking at percussion instruments in the Old Time music genre, including hammered dulcimer, bones, spoons, and washboard. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this in the coming months as I work more on it. As part of my research, I will be traveling around to various music festivals in North Carolina and Virginia to observe what percussion instruments I can find and how they are played. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to highlight each festival on the blog as well as talk about each unique festival. These festivals have served an important role in preserving the traditional musics around the country as well as fostering a community of performers and fans. Here’s a quick list of some of the festivals if you’re interested in attending:
Fiddler’s Grove May 28-30
Mt. Airy Fiddler’s Convention June 4-5
Leaf and String Festival June 11-12
Charlie Poole Festival June 11-13
Swannanoa Gathering August 1-7 – This is actually a week long event where I’ll be taking classes in hammered dulcimer and old time music.
Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention August 9-14