Legacies of Song and Fire is the special North Carolina folklife area presented this year by the North Carolina Arts Council. Listen to legendary performances, from bluegrass and old-time string band musicians to masters of jazz, funk and gospel.
Experience Cherokee ceremonial dances, listen to ballads and stories and tap your feet to ‘flatfoot’ dancers. Stroll among artists from the pottery making regions of Seagrove and the Catawba Valley, and meet potters from the Cherokee, Catawba and the Haliwa-Saponi tribes to see first-hand the styles and techniques that have made North Carolina’s clay traditions so rich and vibrant.
Legacies of Song
The singers, dancers, and instrumentalists performing on the North Carolina Traditions Stage share stories straight from the heart about family, community and musical legacies. The North Carolina Traditions Stage presents some of the finest performers in music and dance traditions from across the state, sharing sights and sounds of the past, the present and the future as North Carolina performers continue deep family and community arts traditions.
Festivalgoers will experience everything from the melding of cultures in American Indian dancing and Christian gospel singing to African-American stride piano, European-American ballad singing, and the remarkable, exciting confluence of traditions found in blues, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and Appalachian old-time music.
The N.C. Arts Council proudly sponsors the North Carolina Traditions Stage as part of its ongoing efforts to celebrate traditional arts and heritage in North Carolina. Visitors can learn more through the guidebooks and websites for Blue Ridge Music Trails, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, and Cherokee Heritage Trails.
Legacies of Fire: Pottery Traditions in North Carolina
North Carolina is renowned as the home of what many ceramic artists, scholars, and collectors acclaim as arguably the most vital, diverse, and longest continuous pottery traditions in the United States.
Deeply rooted in history and community, today’s North Carolina pottery brilliantly incorporates global influences and appeals to an international market of collectors, galleries, and museums, while retaining powerful connections to family, place, and function. Featuring exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops by artists from fourteen outstanding potteries selected from across the state, the North Carolina Folklife Demonstration Area at the 75th National Folk Festival seeks to represent the breadth and depth of the state’s vibrant folk pottery traditions.
Learn more about the potters and their work.
To find out more about the National Folks Festival visit nationalfolkfestival.com.
Haywood County, North Carolina
The Stuart Brothers are masterful performers of Appalachian fiddle and banjo duets. Trevor and Travis were born and raised in Bethel, a rural farming community in Haywood County, North Carolina. The brothers grew up surrounded by Appalachian fiddle tunes, Baptist spirituals, banjo pickers, all-night square dances, and poetic storytellers. Both Travis and Trevor are multi-instrumentalists. Together and separately they have performed at prestigious stages worldwide: London’s Albert Hall, Dublin’s Vicar Street, Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, and New York City’s Beacon Theater. Travis and Trevor have also toured and recorded with step dancer Ira Bernstein, songwriter Martha Scanlan, Jim and Jennie and the Pine Tops, Dirk Powell Band, Rayna Gellert, Foghorn Stringband, Riley Baugus, and many more. The Stuart Brothers have two recordings: Pretty Little Widow, (Yodel-Ay-Hee), and Mountaineer (Old 97 Records), and have appeared on numerous recordings with a range of diverse artists, from N.C. Folk Heritage award winner Red Wilson to, most recently, New York City’s roots-rock outfit Ollabelle.
Old-time and bluegrass
Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina and Virginia
The Buckstankle Boys brilliantly carry the torch of both old-time and bluegrass music. Influenced by the legendary musical greats of their mountain homes, Wes Clifton, Andy Edmonds, Seth Boyd, Todd Hiatt, and Tim Eaves have embraced their rich inheritance and brought it to the next generation.
Blue Ridge piano trio
Boone, North Carolina
Jeff Little continues an often hidden, yet fascinating tradition of piano playing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With few exceptions, the piano does not play a prominent part in Appalachian music, and is rarely the lead instrument. But Jeff Little is an exception – and a remarkable one. His distinctive two-handed style, much influenced by mountain flatpicked guitar tradition, is breathtaking in its speed, precision and clarity.
Durham, North Carolina
John Dee Holeman is one of the most renowned and respected Piedmont blues artists in the state and nation. He has lived in the Triangle area of North Carolina all his life. His playing is rooted in the deep blues tradition created by talented and influential local Durham bluesmen such as Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Arthur Lyons, and Thomas Burt. John Dee will be accompanied by buck dancer Williette Hinton, James “Bubba Norwood” on drums, Tad Walters on harmonica, and Harvey Dalton Arnold on bass.
Appalachian songs, stories, and ballads
Marshall, North Carolina
Seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller and musician Sheila Kay Adams is a North Carolina treasure. She hails from Sodom Laurel, a rural mountain community in Madison County renowned for its unbroken tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing. In addition to ballad singing, Adams is also an accomplished clawhammer-style banjo player, and a delightful raconteur of mountain life. Her artistry conveys a powerful sense of family and place.
Appalachian blues songsters
The Harris Brothers come out of the American songster tradition, drawing from diverse currents of vernacular music, including Appalachian bluegrass, old-time and the distinctive blues styles of the upland South, as well as country, jazz, and rock. Born into a musical family in Lenoir, NC, the boys were surrounded by unceasing music from family, friends, and popular country television broadcasts. With Reggie on guitar, Ryan on bass, seamless brother harmonies, and a kick drum fashioned from a suitcase, listeners often ask, “How can two people put off such a big sound?”
African American congregational hymn singing
Raleigh, North Carolina
Lena Mae Perry and Wilbur Tharpe are outstanding North Carolina performers of African American congregational hymn singing with traditional piano accompaniment. In various configurations, The Branchettes have been performing for more than thirty years, bringing their old-time style to audiences and congregations both near and far.
Eastern North Carolina r&b, soul, jazz and gospel
Wilson County, North Carolina
The Monitors just might be one of the hardest working bands in North Carolina. This quintessential African American entertainment band has been delivering its powerful repertoire of soul, R&B, jazz and gospel for nearly 60 years. Boasting world-famous alumni, a 2014 North Carolina Heritage Award recipient, and a veritable “Who’s Who” of eastern North Carolina musical talent in its membership, The Monitors are a North Carolina institution.
The piano is rarely featured as an instrument of American folk music, but traditions emerging from the African American church, urban jazz practices, and constant innovation and tradition-borrowing have created a dynamic role for the keyboard. Join Bill Myers of the Monitors, Wilbur Tharpe of the Branchettes, and Jeff Little of the Jeff Little Trio as they compare Appalachian and African American resources and experiences and demonstrate their expertise.
Appalachian clogging and flatfoot dance
Mt. Airy, North Carolina
Marsha and Marty Todd of Mount Airy are accomplished flatfoot and clogging dancers. They carry on a long tradition of traditional step dancing comprising many styles and influences from throughout the Appalachian region.
Cherokee, North Carolina
The Warriors of AniKituhwa are the official cultural ambassadors of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. They present centuries-old dances, stories, history, and traditional regalia that date back to the 1700s, a time of Cherokee strength and international diplomacy. Through careful historical research and engagement with their community, they are revitalizing Cherokee dance, keeping alive a tradition, and educating young Cherokee and visitors alike.
Snowbird, North Carolina
The Welch Family sings gospel songs in English and Cherokee, carrying on a 200-year-old tradition of Christian music among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Faith and heritage come together through their bilingual songs to celebrate the Cherokee language and honor the experiences of their ancestors and community. For over a decade, the Welches have been spreading the Cherokee gospel song tradition, sharing this important strand of Cherokee heritage with worshipers and audiences.