This year’s Celebration of Traditional Music (CTM) greets Halloween by focusing on British and Appalachian ballads, haunting tales of love and loss. The CTM honors the tradition of passing music, stories, and oral history from person to person in the Appalachian Region. Alice Gerrard is the featured performer.
As her website describes, “Simply put, Alice Gerrard is a talent of legendary status. In a career spanning some 50 years, she has known, learned from, and performed with many of the old-time and bluegrass greats and has in turn earned worldwide respect for her own important contributions to the music.”
The festival’s opening event, “In These Fields: A Folk Opera” takes place from 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, October 26, at Union Church (200 Prospect Street, Berea). No tickets will be sold, but the suggested donation is $10. Written by Silas House and Sam Gleaves, “In These Fields” explores the importance of food in mountain history and culture through monologue and song that is based on 175 years of life in the American South.
Friday’s events include an Appalachian Ballad Symposium and Appalachian Ballad Concert. The symposium features presentations by Loyal Jones, Elizabeth DiSavino, Chris Brashear, and Gerrard. It takes places from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, October 27, in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center Gallery (205 N. Main Street, Berea.). Admission is free.
The Appalachian Ballad Concert will be Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. at Phelps Stokes Auditorium. The concert is free for students with a Berea College ID and for children under 10. General admission is $10. Performers include Gerrard and Brashear, Sarah Wood, Hannah From, the Berea College Blue Grass Ensemble, and the Berea College Folks Roots Ensemble.
Saturday offers a variety of opportunities to engage in the festival through educational sessions, performances, and dancing. Free workshops on the claw-hammer banjo and singing ballads take place from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center Gallery. At 3 p.m., Gerrard and Brashear will discuss their interest in ballads and traditional music, and how it has influenced their songwriting. They will also sing some classic ballads that are often sung in a duet style.
On Saturday at 8 p.m., the Celebration of Traditional Music Concert takes place at Phelps Stokes Auditorium. The concert is free for students with a Berea College ID and for children under 10. General admission is $10. Performances include Gerrard and Brashear, Wood, and the Georgia Pick & Bow Old-time Band (From, Selu Adams, Etowah Adams, and Eli Stinson). Participants are encouraged to finish the evening at the Oh Contraire Contra Dance featuring the Berea Castoffs at the Action Folk Center (212 Jefferson Street, Berea. Admission is $5 for students with a Berea College ID and $8 for the public.
The CTM continues on Sunday morning with a hymn sing at Union Church from 9 to 10:15 a.m., along with Gerrard, Wood, and Brashear, From, Selu Adams, Etowah Adams, and Stinson. Deborah Thompson will lead the singing.