Fiddler's Grove transcript

Fiddler's Grove transcript

- [Narrator] The foothills of the Brushy Mountains must have looked like home to the folk from Scotland and Ireland who settled here. The creek waters were good, but the land was rocky and sideling. They didn't bring much with them to this new land. The yearning for independence, the willingness to work, and a flair for playing the fiddle. For seven generations they lived off the land. People born here stayed here, and hard was just their way of life. Today it's not too different from other farming communities in the North Carolina Piedmont, but the thing that sets it apart is the legacy of the music. Miles Ireland keeps a guitar in the back of his store in case anybody feels like picking.

- People love music. They enjoy this type of music and it's great. It brings a lot of history back to people who've been here.

- [Narrator] On a Sunday you can find LW Lambert playing banjo with his great grandson.

- All of my life, I've started when, I can't remember, six year old, I guess. When I first started, like I remember messing with a five-string banjo.

- [Narrator] Every Tuesday night, Kristy Carroll comes home from college to practice with some of her cousins.

- And since it is been down the line in the identities of all of our family members, it is something that they were lucky enough to find and we were lucky enough to be included in.

- You always, I'll let you start there because you always started off in D and I started off in G. You can go to D.

- [Narrator] The first family of music in these parts is the VanHoy family.

- Back when this music all started, it wasn't anything but for entertainment except the music. And it was a natural thing and it's enjoyable and people just kept doing it.

- Okay what you think could look better, celebrating 70 years, then put-

- [Narrator] Once a year, the VanHoys invite musicians from all over the world to come and play at Fiddler's Grove.

- Yeah, well you can hear it behind us right now. You can't walk through this campground all weekend and not hear two or three jam sessions going on at the same time. Different styles and fiddlers trading tunes and playing together for the first time, or playing harmonies with each other. It's a wonderful experience and people like myself travel many, many hours to spend 48 hours here. And I build my yearly calendar around it. I wouldn't miss it.

- [Narrator] The place is called Fiddler's Grove, but it's not just for fiddles. There are 26 different categories of competition during the weekend. People bring all the traditional string instruments. It's sort of a melting pot, the American experience. There's a guitar, which came with settlers from Spain, dulcimer from the Middle East, to mandolin from Italy. Africans brought a gourd with gut strings that became the banjo. The sound is as old as the country itself and is celebrated all weekend long.

- Good evening. It's a pleasure for me to welcome you folks here for the 70th consecutive fiddlers contest at the Union Grove. Our family works real hard to try to get the place ready for you and get the grounds clean and run as many of the ticks and the chiggers off as as we can.

- [Narrator] And this year's festival was opened by Master Fiddler JP Fraley from Kentucky.

- Called, "Wild Rose of the Mountain."

"Come and Sing For Me" performed by Hit & Misses

♪ My burden is heavy ♪

♪ My way has gone weary ♪

♪ I have traveled a road that is long ♪

♪ And it would warm my heart my brother ♪

♪ If you'd come and sing one song ♪

♪ Sing the hymns we sang together ♪

♪ In that plain little church with the benches all worn ♪

♪ How dear to my heart how precious the moments ♪

♪ We stood shaking hands and singing a song ♪

"Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" performed by Grass Vibrations

♪ Ain't gonna work on the railroad ♪

♪ Ain't gonna work on the farm ♪

♪ Gonna' lay 'round the shack ♪

♪ 'Till the mail train comes back ♪

♪ And roll in my sweet baby's arms ♪

♪ Roll in my sweet baby's arms ♪

♪ Roll in my sweet baby's arms ♪

♪ Lay 'round the shack 'till the mail train comes back ♪

♪ And I'll roll in my sweet baby's arms ♪

"Sweet Home" performed by Evergreen String Band

♪ So I took my Bible on mouthful of cheese ♪

♪ I fell down on my sinful knees ♪

♪ I got more religion than a dog got fleas ♪

♪ I'm a-gettin' ready to go ♪

♪ Sweet home, lovin' it in heaven ♪

♪ Sweet home, hand me ♪

♪ Sweet home, lovin' it in heaven ♪

♪ All the gates wide open ♪

♪ And I'm gettin' ready to go ♪

- I felt very much at home the first time I came here and because people had digested their music, they were sharing it together. It wasn't a scary thing where you had to get up and stage and perform for other people. Everybody shared in the joy. Everybody felt they were part of the family. And this was a great pleasure 'cause that's the way I believe it should be used. "Stranger at the Door" performed by Marty Kaufman and Mary Hardy Roberts "Tallahassee" performed by Tommy Isenhour and Katherine Monitz "Golden Slippers" performed by Molly & Matt Barrett

- The wonderful thing about old time music is it doesn't take any batteries. It doesn't take any-- You don't have to run to a store to get it. You know, you can make a fiddle or a guitar out of a tree, you know? And this is the way people, I mean there's been fiddles for 500 years. This instrument was invented in Italy and it's gone all over the world. It's the most versatile instrument known to humankind. "Turkey in the Straw" performed by Henry the Fiddler and friends alright, we're gonna start off with a little fiddle tune that probably nobody's ever heard of. It's about a bird you eat on Thanksgiving, and it's called "Turkey in the Straw." Key of G, boys.

"Boil Them Cabbage Down" performed by Original Orchard Grass Band

"Soldiers Joy" performed by Mill Run String Band

"Shady Grove" performed by Peppercorn Lane

♪ When I was in shady grove ♪

♪ Sittin' in a rockin' chair ♪

♪ And if those blues would bother me ♪

♪ I'll rock away from there ♪

♪ Well I had me a banjo made of gold ♪

♪ And every string would chime ♪

♪ And the only song that it would play ♪

♪ Was wish that gal was mine ♪

"Hell Broke Loose in Georgia, performed by Konnarock Kritters

"Sugar Hill" performed by Roan Mountain Hilltoppers

♪ Get your banjo off the wall ♪

♪ Grab your fiddle, Bill ♪

♪ Hitch them horses to the sleigh ♪

♪ We're going to Sugar Hill ♪

♪ Jay bird sittin' on the mountain top ♪

♪ Red bird sittin' on the ground ♪

♪ Black bird sittin' in the sugar tree ♪

♪ Shaking that sugar down ♪

"Second Wind" performed by Big Mon "

At the Cross" performed by The Cockman Family

♪ At the cross, at the cross ♪

♪ Where I first saw the light ♪

♪ And the burdens of my heart rolled away ♪

♪ It was there by faith I received my sight ♪

♪ And now I am happy all the day ♪

♪ Amazing grace how sweet the sound ♪

♪ That saved a wretch like me ♪

♪ I once was lost, but now I'm found ♪

♪ Was blind but now I see ♪

♪ At the cross, at the cross ♪

♪ Where I first saw the light ♪

♪ And the burdens of my heart rolled away ♪

♪ It was there by faith I received my sight ♪

♪ And now I'm happy all the day ♪

♪ And now I'm happy all the day ♪

♪ Day, day, day, day ♪

♪ Day, day, day, day ♪

♪ Day ♪

"Rain Crow Bill performed by Zeb & David Holt

- I've been spending some time with the the oldest person in the world who lives in North Carolina. Her name is Susie Brunson and she's 123 years old. Yeah, she was born in 1870. Ulysses S. Grant was president when she was born. And I ask her what's the very first instrument she ever saw? And she said there was no money in the black community in Bamberg, South Carolina at that time. And the only instrument they had was the washboard. She told me that they would do all night dances to just the sound of the washboard. And I thought, how could that, how could you make enough music with a washboard to dance all night? So I got myself one. I might add that if you're looking for a washboard this is the stradivarius of all washboards. It's the zinc king lingerie model. You just put thimbles on your fingers and I'm gonna play an old tune that I learned from Doc Watson called "The Rain Crow Bill." I'll show you what this thing can do 'cause it can put out some rhythm. I was sitting around and Suzy Brunson, the 123 year old woman said, "You know, I haven't heard the washboard in 112 years." I said, well, I'll get one and learn how to play it for you. So I go down there and play it, and play this tune for her.

- [Narrator] Harper Austin VanHoy was the fifth child of Henry and Ada Casey VanHoy. He says he was born to the music.

- Daddy taught me to play the banjo. He also played the banjo and the fiddle.

- [Narrator] Harper first met Winona Rash, the second daughter of Union Groves postmaster when they were in school.

- Oh, I packed my lunch with care because I thought, oh, I had some coconut cake, and I thought, oh, I hope Harper notices this and wants a piece of it. He didn't pay me much attention.

- [Narrator] They were married when Harper came home from the war.

- I just wanna publicly say I love this woman a whole lot and she's just the backbone of this outfit.

- Come in, somebody.

"Orange Blossom Special" performed by the Flavil Miller Band

"Orange Blossom Special performed by Suzuki Violins/Nassau & Charlotte NC

- All right, here we go. Woop! Turn it to the side, put it up, woop! Drop it on your chin and never let it go.

- [Narrator] Mary Hardy Roberts travels from Virginia every year and teaches a special workshop she calls "First-Time Fiddlers, Young and Old."

- Down, up, two and down. Woo, good!

"Blue Bells of Scotland" (featuring Dobra slide guitar)

New song begins;

♪ Mississippi river ♪

♪ Deep and wide ♪

♪ My gal left me, Lord God I cry ♪

♪ As she goes on without me ♪

♪ I'm sittin' on the top of the world ♪

- You got to be there and hear it and feel it and tap your foot, snap your fingers and if you got the right kind of coordination--dance to it.

- Now I'm gonna pick a little and you dance for 'em, okay? Now dance for 'em.

- Clogging started with the immigration of folks from Europe and influences really from everywhere. There's quite a bit of Irish influence, a lot of Indian, American Indian Cherokees specifically, influence. African.

- This is a tune I learned from Uncle way back. Well he learned it when he was a boy. He's just, well, I guess a hundred and two years old, is really the old tune is, so... It's one of the first ones I learnt. I learned it from him and my daddy. They used to play together, at square dances, and first one thing, another. It's called "Leather Britches"

"Leather Britches" performed by Benson Flippen

- Today we are gonna honor an old fiddler by the name of James Napoleon Chislom. He was come from Europe to the United States and he lived near Charlottesville, Virginia. He worked in the vineyards of Thomas Jefferson.

- Clarence Green taught me this song and it's about Andrew Jackson and his last battle in New Orleans in 1812. I hope you like my version of the 8th of January and here it goes.

- The elder generation in this music are really honored by the ones that want to kind of learn at their feet. And they're always glad to share their knowledge which is really nice to come up here. A lot of people come up here to learn from the masters.

"Lost Indian" performed by Edd Michaels and Friends

"Lost Indian" performed by Melvin Sladon

"Lost Indian" performed by Ralph Blizen

- One of the unusual things about traditional mountain music when you think about it, is that it was one form of entertainment in which men and women had equal opportunity. Next, let's welcome Ora Watson. Now Ora, with all the others I've had to ask them their age.

- I don't mind a bit. I'll be 83 years old the 27th of June.

- Now tell 'em a little bit about how you learned to play the fiddle.

- From my cousin of mine, his name was Charlie Isaacs. Years ago, about when I was about 14 years old.

"Down Under" performed by Ora Watson

- I wanna show you how to play the bottle right now. This is an instrument I learned from a fellow named Junior Thomas from Wendell, North Carolina. You just play it by blowing in it, like this. And singing the notes around it. Now he's got a little piece he calls "The Race," between the freight train and the hound dogs. It sounds like this:

- [Narrator] David Holt has done more than just about anybody to preserve the old time traditions. He has spent most of his life traveling the back roads in the piney woods of North Carolina just talking to people about their music.

- As I'm sure many of you know a lot of our old traditional music came over from the British Isles and this is one of them.

- [Narrator] Henry the Fiddler is a true figure from another time, an old time traveling musician. For more than 20 years Henry has traveled the country living in his small van playing music for parties and conventions and school children, he even carries a tuxedo for special occasions. Henry first found Union Grove in the 1960s and has been coming back ever since.

- This is the oldest continuous running fiddling event in the United States of America. And it is a major undertaking to keep something like that going through depressions and you know, wars and everything, you know, and just the fact that this family has that dedication is amazing to me.

- [Narrator] When it was first organized by Henry P. VanHoy in 1924 the Old Time Fiddlers Convention was a fundraiser for a new schoolhouse in Union Grove. VanHoy was a teacher there and a pretty good fiddler. The Easter event was held at the schoolhouse for more than 40 years. The whole VanHoy family worked hard every spring. Henry's sons, Pierce and Harper, never missed a convention except when they were serving in World War II. By the end of the 1960s the Union Grove Convention had become world famous and was just too big for the school. Pierce VanHoy moved the convention to his farm nearby. He continued to promote it, and the crowds grew to more than 150,000. By 1979, it had overwhelmed the whole community and it was closed by the state, a victim of its own success. Meanwhile, Harper VanHoy continued with a smaller event just up the road. And 25 years later, he's glad he did.

♪ Goin' on down ♪

♪ Down to Fiddler's Grove ♪

♪ Pick up the fiddle ♪

♪ Or grab the bow ♪

♪ And we'll make music ♪

♪ Where'evr we go ♪

♪ We'll play too fast ♪

♪ Or we'll play too slow ♪

♪ We're goin' on down, down, down, down, down ♪

♪ Down to Fiddler's Grove ♪

♪ We're goin' on down ♪ ♪

Down to Fiddler's Grove ♪

- I just wanted to tell you that I love you and you're a great bunch of people. I don't care where they are in America today. There's no greater bunch of people than is sitting before me this afternoon. "Forked Deer" performed by Nations Fork Band

- For those of you who weren't raised in the country and don't know poison ivy when you see it, it's growing over here to the left. And some of the children--I've announced this before-- but some of the children are playing in it. They're not gonna like the result. If your child is playing in it, I'd suggest you go take 'em and give 'em a bath as fast as you can.

"Sally Goodin" performed by Big Country Bluegrass

- Time to give 'em a big hand

- Time to give them a big hand!

"Cotton Eyed Joe" performed by Mt. Rogers Old Time Band

"Gold Watch and Chain performed by Guitar Shop Band

♪ Well I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you my gold wedding ring ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you this heart in my bosom ♪

♪ Only say that you'll love me again ♪

♪ Darlin' how could I stay here without you ♪

♪ You know that it breaks my poor heart ♪

♪ This whole world would be cold love without you ♪

♪ Tell me now that we never will part ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain love ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you my gold wedding ring ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you this heart in my bosom ♪

♪ Only say that you'll love me again ♪

♪ It started one day in Renoso ♪

♪ A village in old Mexico ♪

♪ A girl and a Mexican soldier ♪

♪ Were sweethearts a long time ago ♪

♪ They made big plans for a wedding ♪

♪ All of Renoso would go ♪

♪ And Jimmy the mexican soldier ♪

♪ Married to Sarah Sero ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ Jimmy's last letter to Sarah ♪

♪ Began with a message like this ♪

♪ Dear one, how sweet is the memory ♪

♪ Memory of our parting kiss ♪

♪ I'm like the dove in your window ♪

♪ It's chosen just one mate for life ♪

♪ You are the one I have chosen ♪

♪ The one that I want for my wife ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ Oh ♪

- It reminds you of a simpler kind of life. You know, and everybody's life is so complicated these days. When we can focus on the music, then it seems like, it's... We have that, you know, nobody can take that from us.

- [Narrator] John Cockman of Cheryl's Ford, North Carolina is a father of five children. Every time his wife had a baby he planted a hundred peach trees near their home. "Keep the kids out of trouble," he says. These days when they're not picking peaches, the Cockmans are busy picking music.

♪ Well, about John ♪

♪ John, the Revelator ♪

♪ Saw Jerusalem comin' down ♪

♪ He said, John ♪

♪ John the Revelator ♪

♪ And when he looked around ♪

♪ He saw feet like brass ♪

♪ Eyes like fire ♪

♪ And heard a great voice sayin' come up higher ♪

♪ He said John ♪

♪ John, the Revelator ♪

♪ Saw that city of God. ♪

- The next song we're gonna do for you is a song that John Jr. has written. And I think it's just a most beautiful song. It's a story about a family back during the depression years in Cabarrus County.

♪ Mama raised up 13 children ♪

♪ In a house so full of love ♪

♪ Even even through the Great Depression ♪

♪ Seems we always had enough ♪

♪ And when someone came to call ♪

♪ Well, they were never turned away ♪

♪ And we'd tell them of the old man ♪

♪ And the blessing that he gave ♪

♪ We didn't have a lot ♪

♪ And what we had we'd freely give ♪

♪ Didn't Jesus bleed and die upon the cross ♪

♪ That we might live ♪

♪ And it seems like there's none to spare ♪

♪ Remember there is always just enough to share ♪

♪ Thereby some have entertained angels unaware ♪

♪ When it seems there's none to spare ♪

♪ Remember there is always just enough to share ♪

♪ Thereby some have entertained angels ♪

- [Narrator] Robin Warren is a classically trained musician. She came south from New York as a graduate student in the early seventies.

- I was taking a course on ethnomusicology and instead of writing about Japanese music or Indonesian music I wanted to write about some kind of American music that wasn't part of my culture.

- [Narrator] After spending time at Fiddler's Grove, Robin changed her tune.

- Harper, the first time that I remember being here, I was, well I was about 10 or 12 years old. It was in 19 and 38 and I've played mostly at every one of 'em since then.

- [Narrator] LW Lambert is probably the most famous musician in Union Grove. He got his start at the Fiddler's Conventions in the 1930s, and traveled with his band across the United States. He even played Lincoln Center in New York City.

- You see, when I grew up, of course, we didn't have television, we didn't have running water, we didn't have indoor plumbing, we didn't have anything like that. We entertained ourself. And like I've told a lot of them, that we made our own entertainment. And on the weekend, when we didn't have to work, we'd sit up nights--in my family, my mother and my father and my sisters and myself-- would sit up a lot of times all night long and pick and sing on the weekend.

- [Narrator] Another local band that got it's start at Fiddler's Grove is Crash Vibrations.

♪ Oh the pain of lovin' you ♪

♪ Oh the misery I go through ♪

♪ Never knowing what to do ♪

- You know, it was very natural to listen to this kind of music and to sing and dance to this kind of music when they were all playing it. But then later on, it's when we started thinking about that it's actually we're carrying down something that has been built years and years ago, and that hopefully our children will enjoy.

♪ On heaven's bright shore ♪

♪ There's gonna be no more dyin' ♪

♪ Not one little grave ♪

♪ In all that fair land ♪

♪ Not even a tear will dim the eye ♪

♪ No one up there will say goodbye ♪

♪ Just singin' his praise through endless days ♪

♪ On heaven's bright shore ♪

- It's the most important thing in my life. You know, it means a lot to me. It's something, I think it's a gift that can never be taken away from me. You know, if everybody could do this, they'd say, "Man, this is fun." "This is the best thing that's ever happened to me."

♪ To that fair land ♪

♪ Made perfect by love ♪

♪ When I woke up, the milky white way ♪

♪ See that homecoming in array ♪

♪ How great it must be for angels to see ♪

♪ A pilgrim reach home ♪

- It's when you grow up hearing it and you know that this is an important part of our family get togethers, whatever. And you hear it, you see the instruments around, you're more inclined to pick it up and continue playing. And it's just something, well, that's kind of expected but yet you want to do it too because you realize how much pleasure and enjoyment you get personally besides giving others pleasure, too.

Hal Beaver & Black grass

♪ On the seventh hour ♪

♪ On the seventh day ♪

♪ On the seventh month ♪

♪ Seven good doctors say ♪

♪ He's born for luck. ♪

♪ You gonna see ♪

♪ I got $700 baby ♪

♪ Don't you mess with me ♪

♪ You know I'm here ♪

♪ Everybody in the world gonna know I'm here ♪

♪ Oh I'm the hoochie koochie man ♪

♪ Everybody in the world gonna know I'm here ♪ ♪ Playin my song ♪

- All right.

Shaped Note Singing

♪ I brush the dew on Jordan's banks ♪

♪ The crossing must be near ♪

♪ Oh come angel hand ♪

♪ Come and around me stand ♪

♪ Oh bear me away on your snowy wings ♪

♪ To my immortal home ♪

- One more time!

- The life of the music is, is very, very precious to me. Preserving a tradition that held families together and gave great enjoyment to the families and then to those who love to listen to it.

- That it's a family affair. And it's just wonderful that the people from many states around and from all walks of life and so many of them have learned to play at their mommy's or their daddy's knee, you know? And it's just a fine tradition to...

- Well, I'll say it this way, so long as we got people like Harper VanHoy and his lovely wife, it will keep going.

- [Narrator] The festival is over for another year and the musicians go back to their real lives. Some of them won't play again until they make the pilgrimage next year. When they do, the music will be waiting for them. "Midnight on the Water" performed by Ralph Blizard