Old and new voices to share stage during Autumn Harvest Festival
The stage of the Pocahontas County Opera House will be alive with music throughout the day during the 27th Annual Autumn Harvest Festival and West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off on Saturday, September 29.
The day's line-up, presented by High Rocks as a Nettlefest Fundraiser Event at the Opera House as part of the Autumn Harvest Festival, includes the High Rocks Song School at 11 a.m., The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys at noon, Judith Avers and The Early Mays at 2 p.m., and Lynmarie Knight at 3 p.m.
The music kicks off with the students of the High Rocks Song School 101. The week-long, after-school program teaches young people the art of song writing. During the week, Avers and several other Pocahontas musicians and artists will work with students and discuss how inspiration turns into art, lyrics, structure and melody.
“For quite a few students, this was their very first time performing in front of an audience and their first time writing a song. They did a great job,” Avers said of the Song School that took in Greenbrier County this spring. “The songs are all so different and it has been really interesting to see the way inspiration happens for each student. It was the perfect reminder to me to never underestimate the power and coolness of young people.”
The fresh new voices of Song School will be followed by voices that have been going strong for more than 40 years. The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys are among West Virginia's longest-running bluegrass bands. The group first organized in 1968 around the foursome of Richard Hefner (banjo/tenor vocal), his brother Bill Hefner (guitar/mandolin/baritone vocal), their late uncle Glenn "Dude" Irvine (mandolin) and the late Harley Carpenter (guitar/lead vocal). They took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County.
As with many bluegrass bands, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have had changes in personnel over the years. Richard Hefner remains as the lone original member. Hefner's traditional bluegrass banjo playing and tenor vocals have contributed both continuity and much of the "high lonesome" sound for which the band has become so well-known. He has displayed his banjo skills many times as a victor in contests and at the Vandalia Festival. Chris Nickell from Monroe County, contributes driving lead and rhythm guitar work as well as lead vocals. Rick Carpenter—son of founding member Harley Carpenter—picks a fine mandolin and sings lead and baritone vocals. Bass player Mike Smith, of Culloden, has worked with such notables as Larry Sparks, Dave Evans, and the Goins Brothers.
Judith Avers has recorded seven albums of her own with her new album, God Bless the Brooders, set to release in September. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but she has worked with High Rocks for the past six years and considers West Virginia her home. Avers has performed locally in concert at the Opera House and Nettlefest, as well as Carnegie Hall and the Irish Pub in Lewisburg. She has helped countless young people feel inspired by the world around them and write music and poetry about both the wonderful and painful aspects of life. Her new project, an Appalachian trio with artists Emily Pinkerton and Ellen Gozion, is called The Early Mays and will be releasing an Appalachian Christmas album later this fall.
Hillsboro songstress Lynmarie Knight closes out the day of music from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Knight can’t speak of music without speaking of place. For her, the two are inexorably tied. Growing up, Knight was a self described “migrant child of the Midwest.” She coined this phrase as a quick answer to the recurrent question "Where are you from?”
It’s a surprisingly frustrating inquiry for someone who truly doesn’t know the answer. Thus, it came as a great surprise when Knight moved to West Virginia in 2008 and discovered something she never thought she’d find – home. Along with this discovery came a rediscovery of her passion for singing.
As a child, she sang in countless choirs and even a traveling family band from time to time. However, her voice was lost somewhere among the shuffle of packing crates and moving vans. After high school, Knight said she resigned herself to singing only in the shower.
“It was moving to Pocahontas County and meeting Bill Hefner that really got me interested in singing again," said Knight.
Today, Knight covers an eclectic array of material. Currently, she is most excited about sharing classic country gems with those who remember when they were topping the charts and the youngsters who’ve never heard them before.
A suggested donation of $10 will help support programs of both High Rocks and the Pocahontas County Opera House Foundation.
High Rocks Educational Corporation presents this day-long musical celebration at the Opera House with support from Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals and the Pocahontas County Opera House Foundation.
In addition to the great music, festival goers can enjoy delicious food, a silent auction, information about community programs such as GROW Appalachia and High Rocks Educational Corporation, and lots of fun activities for the kids near the Opera House on Third Avenue.