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Celebration of Music Keeps Traditions Alive

The 31st Celebration of Traditional Music, Berea College’s annual weekend of old-time music and culture, was held October 28-30. This year featured John Harrod and Kentucky Wild Horse along with other accomplished musicians from the Appalachian region.

The weekend of traditional music kicked off with an informal jam session.

The celebration kicked off on Friday, October 28, a night with a fun, informal jam session hosted by local musicians Donna and Lewis Lamb. All musicians of various skill levels and instruments were welcome to participate. Often there were sixteen or more musicians playing together at once. Their distinctive styles and the sounds of fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and even accordion and cello blended together into harmonious music. Many fans of old-time music came to watch, listen, and dance along with the tunes.

Saturday’s activities began with workshops led by some of the area’s best musicians. Old-time masters Paul David Smith and John Harrod led beginning fiddle; Jeff Keith led beginning clawhammer banjo; Jim Webb led advanced banjo and Don Rogers led guitar. Later in the afternoon, John Harrod kept the celebration going with his symposium, “A Keen Cut with the Bow: The Art of Kentucky Fiddling”.

Jean McCarthy, a long time fan of fiddle tunes, really enjoyed the symposium. “I’d always heard great things about John Harrod,” said McCarthy. “I’m glad I finally had the chance to see him in person and learn something new in the process.”

The evening concert was certainly the highlight of the weekend. John Harrod and Kentucky Wild Horse were stellar, bringing traditional music to Berea College like seasoned professionals. Laura Boosinger, Donna and Lewis Lamb and the Berea College String Band were also on hand to keep the energy high and the audience on the edge of their seats.

“I didn’t know this stuff could be so much fun!” remarked 11-year-old Corey Mullins. Mullins says that he now looks up to Harrod and the String Band and he hopes to one day play the kind of music that they do. This year’s Celebration did a spectacular job of imparting to youth and to older generations the importance of preserving a rich heritage that is quite unique to the Appalachian region. From McCarthy to Mullins, curiosity was sparked and traditions were passed along.

The Celebration was made possible in part by a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, contact the Berea College Appalachian Center at 606-985-3140 or visit the Appalachian Center’s website by clicking the link below.

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