Sept. 17, 2013. Summer comes to a close this weekend, but not before the Town of Boone celebrates one more Friday night at the Jones House, wrapping up the 2013 Concerts series with a traditional music and storytelling showcase.
Ballad singer and double-knock banjo master Rick Ward will begin the concert at 5 p.m., bringing generations of family and community traditions to the Jones House porch. Ward grew up surrounded by the stories and sounds of Watauga County, and he was particularly fond of sitting at the feet of his grandfather, Tab Ward. Tab not only provided the inspiration for Rick to learn to play banjo and sing folk songs, he also helped Rick make his first instrument. Rick’s father also built instruments, and the three of them all contributed to the banjo Rick most frequently uses.
Playing his “three-generation fretless mountain-style banjo,” Rick plays tunes and sings songs that go back for hundreds of years.
“Rick’s banjo style is unique to his family, and some of the ballads he sings had their heyday in the 16th and 17 Century,” said concerts organizer Mark Freed. “Those old ballads came to this country with immigrants, and they were passed down from generation to generation in pockets of America, like Beech Mountain.
Another tradition bearer of the old Beech Mountain culture is master storyteller, Orville Hicks, who will follow Rick Ward on Friday evening Hiscks is one of the best-known storytellers of the Jack Tales, stories he learned from his mother and relatives while growing up in the Beech Mountain community.
They were also used to help encourage kids to get their chores done.
“Instead of telling your kid to clean his room before he can play video games, Orville and his siblings might be told they ould hear a story if they got to work stringing beans on the porch.”
For many years, Orville Hicks worked at the Aho trash and recycling station, where he had his famous “liar’s bench” and was known to share stories and jokes with patrons. These days, Orville mostly tells stories on stages, but he makes the audience feel like they are right there with him on the porch or bench
The concert will finish with master old-time musician Kilby Spencer, accompanied by clawhammer banjo player, Kelly Breiding. Spency grew up in a musical family in the Whitetop community in Southwest Virginia. Both of his parents are old-time musicians, and Kilby and his sister have been around the music all of their lives.
“I’m not sure how young Kilby was when he started, but he clearly breathes the music and has the traditions coursing through his veins,” said Freed. “There are few people that can fire off fiddle tunes with the pace and precision that Kilby brings to the music and make it seem so natural and effortless.”
Spencer has performed at the Jones House previously with his band The Crooked Road Ramblers, but will offer his set with a paired down instrumentation on Friday. Breiding, who will play with him, is a champion clawhammer-style banjo player, who has performed in Boone previously with her country band, Kelly and the Cowboys.
After the regular concert has concluded, the Jones House will feature a special presentation of Rural Academy Theatre, a horse-drawn entertainment production. Rural Academy Theatre will begin with a large-scale toy theatre adaptation of an ancient French folktale presented outdoors on a horse-drawn stage. Next, commedia dell’arte meets early film noir in a wordless whodunnit romp, followed by a surprise silent film with live accompaniment by the Rural Academy Orkestrar.
The Concerts at the Jones House are produced by the Town of Boone and sponsored by the Downtown Boone Development Association, Mast General Store, Footsloggers, MPrints, Stick Boy Bread Co., Melanie’s and Farmer’s Rentals. Rural Academy Theatre is sponsored by Blue Ridge Community Theatre, Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Appalachian Heritage Council and the ASU departments of Theatre and Dance, Art, Sustainable Development and English.
The free concert starts at 5 p.m. rain or shine. People are encouraged to bring their own chair or blanket. For more information, call 828-262-4576.