Several noted ballad singers and scholars come to the Jones House Cultural and Community Center Sunday, November 19, to swap songs and present a concert open to the public.
Performers for the afternoon concert will include North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient Bobby McMillon, President of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Ruth Perry, Beech Mountain tradition bearer, Rick Ward, and western North Carolina scholar and singer, William Ritter.
Bobby McMillon grew up in western North Carolina, and he developed a strong interest in songs, stories, and older people as a young boy. He spent a lot of time visiting relatives and neighbors, learning local tales and songs – including numerous variations of local ballads like “Tom Dula” (i.e. “Dooley”), and “The Ballad of Frankie Silver,” the first woman hanged in North Carolina. Bobby has performed throughout the state and been featured at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, the A.P. Carter Memorial Festival, and national storytelling conferences and events. Bobby was awarded the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award – the highest honor for folk arts in the state.
Ballad collector and President of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Ruth Perry, will be among the scholars and singers present to share songs at the concert. Perry, the Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of the Humanities, is currently writing a biography of Anna Gordon, Mrs. Brown of Falkland, celebrated by Francis James Child a century later for her repertoire of “superior ballads.” This work combines Professor Perry’s interest in balladry, orality, women’s cultural traditions, and the Scottish Enlightenment. Although she had written many books and articles about 18th century English literature and culture before this, Perry had no idea Scottish history and culture were so different. The holder of grands from the NSF, Ford Foundation, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, ACLS, and NEH, she has also been a fellow at the Bunting Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study in Edinburgh. In 2000, Perry was elected President of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. She is also the founder of the MIT Women’s Studies program in 1984.
Grand master Rick Ward is well-known locally and nationally for his masterful Kung-Fu skills; he is also a master of Beech Mountain ballad singing and banjo traditions. Rick learned much of his material from his grandfather, Tab Ward, and other Beech Mountain relatives, like his great uncle, Lee Monroe Presnell. Rick sings ballads in the traditional, unaccompanied style, including many old ballads that were collected by folklorists and scholars in the first half of the 20th century.
Singer, scholar, fiddler, and song writer, William Ritter, will also be performing at the concert. Ritter is a native of Bakersville, and an alum of both Western Carolina University and Appalachian State University. He plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and other stringed instruments, and he is a scholar of traditional mountain music, mountain humor, and old songs. Ritter performs solo and with his wife, Sarah Ogletree.
The concert at the Jones House will begin at 4:00 p.m., with doors opening at 3:30 p.m. Tickets for the concert at $20, or $10 for students. Seating in the concert space is limited to 40 people, so advanced reservations are recommended.
A talk is also scheduled for Monday, November 20, starting at 3:30 p.m. on the 3rd floor of Sanford Hall on the campus of Appalachian State University.
The performance is sponsored by Black & Global Banjo Roots, the Town of Boone, Appalachian State University, National Endowment for the Arts, Ruth Perry: A Women’s Voice, and our hosts and listeners.
For more information about the concert and the Jones House Cultural and Community Center, please visit www.joneshouse.org or call 828.268.6280.
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