Many of the area’s finest fiddlers will gather on Saturday, March 14, for The 14th Annual Fiddlers of Madison County Concert. Old favorites and new faces join together in jam-packed performances of old-time tunes, bluegrass classics and sweet harmonies. The concert takes place in downtown Marshall at 7 p.m. at the Madison County Arts Center. In addition to featuring long-time favorite performers, this year’s show highlights young fiddlers Lillian Chase, a Weaverville musician featured last year in The Laurel’s August issue, and Rhiannon Ramsey.
“Rhiannon is very talented and learns very quickly,” says NC Heritage Award-winning fiddler and fiddle instructor Arvil Freeman. “She is one of the best students I’ve ever taught.”
Ramsey, now age 16, first became interested in the instrument when she was four years old and saw her parents watching a David Holt documentary about local fiddlers. She began lessons with Arvil Freeman at age nine. Ramsey recently joined the Stoney Creek Boys, the house band for the Shindig on the Green and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, taking over for her mentor Freeman.
“My style of play has definitely been shaped by my teacher and also by other mentors,” says Ramsey. “I’m known for having a longbow style, like Arvil.”
At the concert, Ramsey and her band will play traditional fiddle tunes as well as a couple of bluegrass songs. Freeman, accompanied by The Midnight Plowboys, will also perform. Other featured fiddlers include Don and Marty Lewis as The Sons of Ralph, returning to keep the legacy of their father Ralph Lewis alive; ten-time Grammy award winner Bobby Hicks; and Roger Howell, who has recorded more than 600 tunes for the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University.
“This show brings everyone back together in the winter months, when the music business slows down, so it really feels like a family reunion,” says Ramsey. “I am looking forward to seeing my music family, as well as just continuing to carry on our mountain traditions.”
Proceeds from the concert benefit the Madison County Arts Council, including its Junior Appalachian Musicians Program (JAM), which teaches traditional music and dance to elementary through high school students. Participants can begin learning to play an instrument in fourth grade. Younger children can learn clogging.
“Each week’s program begins with group singing, the thing that sets our program apart from any other,” says the Arts Council’s executive director Laura Boosinger. “The staff and I believe that community time is important for the students in order to understand how the music is passed down from one generation to another.”
Madison County Arts Center is located at 90 South Main Street, in Marshall. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show. Purchase by calling 828.649.1301 or visiting MadisonCountyArts.com.