It’s time for the High Country to get ready for some flying fiddle bows and swirling, twirling calico costumes, as Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music welcomes back Strictly Strings and the high kicking Green Grass Cloggers to present their “Fiddle Bows and Calico – Part II” concert. The show will be staged at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium this Saturday night, Aug. 19 as a part of the JSMHM Indoor Concert Series. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., with the doors opening at 7:00 p.m.
These two groups have formed a dynamic relationship over the past five years from their performances at the Fiddler’s Grove Festival on Memorial Day weekend in Union Grove, North Carolina. This past April, they joined forces as a part of the 30th Anniversary MerleFest Celebration, filling the dance tent with Strictly String’s rousing old-time music and three squares of the Green Grass Cloggers – that’s 24 cloggers – dancing in unison in the signature style of these two-time world champions. While the stage at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium will only accommodate one square, it does afford an elevated stage where one can view up close the intricate footwork and choreography that has set this dance team apart from all the others for 46 years.
Over the past year, Strictly Strings has continued to be recognized as one of the best up and coming young Appalachian String Bands to be found anywhere. Back in March, N.C, Arts Council Executive Director Wayne Martin handpicked them to kick off the N.C. Arts Council’s 50th anniversary celebration in Raleigh. That led to their being selected to perform at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, NC in three weeks – on September 8th. The band is a product of the very successful Junior Appalachian Musicians(JAM) program in Boone, whose goal is to have older master musicians pass along treasured traditional tunes and songs to a new crop of young players. Their selection to perform at these very prestigious events was fitting, as the JAM program is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Strictly Strings consists of Caleb Coatney, Willow Dillon, sisters Kathleen and Anissa Burnett and their former JAM instructor Cecil Gurganus. All of the musicians are multi-instrumentalists. They released their first CD, “High on a Mountain”, at the Jones House in Boone back in December. Together for over five years, the band has continued to expand their fan base by crafting a professional stage presence that now equals their musical talents. Their members, both collectively and individually, continue to pile up first place ribbons and trophies from some of the most prestigious fiddlers convention’s contest in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. But, it’s Strictly String’s attention to the fine points of presenting new material with confidence in an entertaining fashion that sets them apart from a lot of the other “youthful” traditional Old-time and Bluegrass bands in the High Country. No longer just “strictly” strings, they have now opened up their “play book” to include many songs sung in beautiful three and four-part harmony, plus newly composed original fiddle tunes and songs that sound like they could have been written 150 years ago!
With feet flying, swirling calico skirts, and high-kicking legs, the Green Grass Cloggers(GGC) of Asheville, NC will be joining Strictly Strings on stage throughout the concert. The GGC are celebrating their 46th year of bringing high-energy traditional mountain dance inspired clogging to audiences world-wide. Now, while making a trip from Asheville to Blowing Rock might not seem like world-wide traveling, back in the seventies and eighties, this professional dance troupe performed all across North America and Canada, plus making appearance in Central America, China, Scandinavia and Europe.
The GGC won the title of World Champions in 1972 and 1974 at the Autumn Square-up at Fiddlers Grove, NC. In 1975 the team stopped competing and decided to take their innovative hybrid style of clogging on the road. Their chorography, based on square dance figures and precision steps featuring high kicks and intricate percussive rhythms, set them apart from most “traditional” clogging teams from the Appalachian Mountains. The touring team was composed of 4 couples that allowed them to fit on small stages and for around 15 years they were featured at most of the large folk and bluegrass festivals around the country, including the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, the Appalachian String-band Festival, and MerleFest.
Today, the Green Grass Cloggers are back dancing just for the fun of it and they are still performing at local events and festivals all over the state. They have continued to add new younger dancers over the years and since 1971, there have been over 200 dancers to don the calico costumes of the GGC. Current and former members get together at least once a year for a reunion at the Hoppin’ John Fiddlers Convention near Pittsboro, NC.
JSMHM director, Rodney Sutton – who himself has been a member of the GGC for 45 years – stated, “When the GGC team up with Strictly Strings, this exuberant young band never has any problem playing fast enough to create the energy on stage that has made the GGC a welcome change of pace at concerts and festivals for four and half decades.” Sutton added, “This concert at BRSA really does give our audience a chance to be up close and personal to the music and dance. We look forward to fans of SS and GGC showing up for this well received show.”
The Blowing Rock School Auditorium is located at 130 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock.
This concert is supported by the following private sponsors: Lynn Hubbard; and Dr. E. Frank and Tara Hancock; Bill and Jewel Magee – in honor of Jo and Rogers Magee who opened the Dulcimer Shop in Blowing Rock in 1971; Rodney Sutton – in memory of William Douglas Baker who passed away on Fathers Day, and a member of the Green Grass Cloggers for 45 years. Business Sponsors include; Advance Reality, Stick Boy Bread Company, Mast General Store, Mountain Times Publishing, and the High Country Press. Additional support is provided by; The Watauga Arts Council, The NC Arts Council, and Boone TDA. Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music is also proud to be included as a site on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina (BlueRidgeMusicNC.com).
Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $5. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online and in limited numbers at the Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Fred’s Mercantile on Beech Mountain, Stick Boy Bread Company(345 Hardin St, Boone), plus Footsloggers and Pandora’s Mailbox on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.
Tickets, directions and more info can be found at the JSMHM website – www.mountainhomemusic.org/