The Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) will present Raise Every Voice: Gospel Music in the Mountains at UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center on Saturday, June 24, at 2 p.m. Grammy-winning musician Bruce Nemerov says the performance unpacks vernacular religious music, or music “plain folks made for themselves outside formal church service,” in Appalachia.
“We’ll be exploring the history as it came over the water to the colonies and developed in our new country and state,” says Nemerov. “Those forms addressed in our program are the expressions of a particular time and place.”
Stops along the way include camp meetings, the Civil War, Negro spirituals, singing schools, gospel songs and radio personalities. Informative discussions reveal that, though isolated by unforgiving dales and laurel hells, the Blue Ridge locale didn’t thwart the exchange of music. It is heavily influenced by Scots-Irish tradition, but other cultures—Cherokee, Choctaw and African slaves—also had a vital influence on how folks sang their praises.
Nemerov will be joined by Warren Wilson faculty Kevin Kehrberg (bass, guitar and vocals) and Jeff Keith (mandolin, guitar and vocals). Together, they’ll perform classic tunes like Amazing Grace and Turn Your Radio On, and even pay homage to Asheville’s mass-media darlings, the Blue Sky Boys.
WNCHA board member Bill Lineberry says the program is the second in a four-part series, Exploring the Musical Heritage of WNC, made possible by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
The Reuter Center is located at 1 Campus View Road. Admission is free for WNCHA members, $5 for all others. Tickets will be sold at the door. For more information about WNCHA, visit wnchistory.org.