Saturday, April 01, 2006

Down the Crooked Road

Shelor Family Gathering
Shelor family; of a musical tradition
Click on pictures for a larger version.

Another day out, with loved people and well-known faces. Yesterday was the dedication of the first Crooked Road kiosk, which has been placed in Meadows of Dan. This was a very personal event for many people in our area; the musicians honored are friends, relatives, and mentors. The tradition of music in the Blue Ridge Mountains is becoming well-known, thanks to modern invention and the popularity of bluegrass. But old-time music still survives, with different and softer rhythms.

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Local musicians jamming

The kiosk is a lovely simple structure, set at the end of one of the store parking lots. The two panels describe a little of the history of music in the area and there are pictures and stories of the musical families. Music runs with the blood, inherited from Scotch-Irish and German ancestors that settled the mountains, with traditions that have lasted two hundred years and more. The old songs reflect the themes of mystery, murder and love, and there is a strong gospel trend. Even today on every bluegrass CD there is usually one gospel song.

When I was small I remember being surrounded by music. My mother played piano at the church, my grandfather almost constantly had a banjo in his hands, my uncle played a guitar. Every gathering meant music, in some form. At our Shelor family reunion, one of the highlights of the day was the gathering in the old Concord church building of the singers of the family. I played outside in the creek with cousins, while old hymns rang across the rough-cut lawn, echoing in old time a cappella harmony through the narrow woods beyond.

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Shelor Women

The Shelor girls sang yesterday, softly, old time hymns so often heard and long remembered, as the musicians gathered by the kiosk. I'm not a musician, can carry a tune if someone else is there, so I'm always astonished that a collection of musicians that have never played together can form a group on the instant and produced such wonderful sound. The tradition runs deep but so does the talent.

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The kiosk has a transmitter, and a five minute or so recording is played that describes the music of the area and samples the music of Meadows of Dan, past and present. A litany of names is called, Boyd, Blackard, Cockram, Foddrell, Shelor, Spangler, and more, that are a record of my heritage and of my memories. A Cockram boy honored favorite cousin with the credit of starting his musical life with her teaching so long ago.

The wind blew. We stood and held the tents down while the honored guests spoke, music played, food was served (of course) and there was much talk and visiting. Then chairs were packed away, tents folded, wires wrapped and banners rolled, while the organizers breathed a sigh of relief that once again, a successful event was over. The memories kindled by a morning's reflection remain, and a little part of Meadows of Dan will be shared with the world, one tourist at a time, as they listen to music from the past by the side of a crooked road.

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