Traditional music, storytelling showcase at Jones House Friday

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Article Published: Sep. 19, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 21, 2013
Traditional music, storytelling showcase at Jones House Friday

The Rural Academy Theater will start its Western North Carolina tour in Boone, with an appearance at ASU Thursday and a performance at the Jones House Friday.

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Summer comes to a close this weekend, but not before the town of Boone celebrates one more Friday night at the Jones House, wrapping up the 2013 concerts series with a traditional music and storytelling showcase.

Ballad singer and double-knock banjo master Rick Ward will begin the concert at 5 p.m., bringing generations of family and community traditions to the Jones House porch.

Ward grew up surrounded by the stories and sounds of Watauga County, and he was particularly fond of sitting at the feet of his grandfather, Tab Ward. Tab not only provided the inspiration for Ward to learn to play banjo and sing folk songs; he also helped him make his first instrument.

Ward’s father also built instruments, and the three of them all contributed to the banjo Ward most frequently uses. Playing his “three-generation fretless mountain-style banjo,” Ward plays tunes and sings songs that go back hundreds of years.

“Rick’s banjo style is unique to his family, and some of the ballads he sings had their heyday in the 16th and 17th century,” concerts organizer Mark Freed said. “Those old ballads came to this country with immigrants, and they were passed down from generation to generation in pockets of America, like Beech Mountain.”

Another tradition bearer of the old Beech Mountain culture is master storyteller Orville Hicks, who will follow Ward on Friday evening. Hicks is one of the best-known tellers of “Jack Tales,” stories he learned from his mother and relatives while growing up in the Beech Mountain community.

“These stories were one of the ways folks entertained before radio, television and movies,” Freed said. “They were also used to help encourage kids to get their chores done. Instead of telling your kid to clean his room before he can play video games, Orville and his siblings might be told they could hear a story if they got to work stringing beans on the porch.”

For many years, Hicks worked at the Aho trash and recycling station, where he had his famous “liar’s bench” and was known to share stories and jokes with patrons. These days, Hicks mostly tells stories on stages, but he makes the audience feel like they are right there with him on the porch or bench.

The concert will finish with master old-time musician Kilby Spencer, accompanied by clawhammer banjo player Kelly Breiding. Spencer grew up in a musical family in the Whitetop community in southwest Virginia. Both of his parents are old-time musicians, and Spencer and his sister have been around the music all of their lives.

“I’m not sure how young Kilby was when he started, but he clearly breathes the music and has the traditions coursing through his veins,” Freed said. “There are few people that can fire off fiddle tunes with the pace and precision that Kilby brings to the music and make it seem so natural and effortless.”

Spencer has performed at the Jones House previously with his band, The Crooked Road Ramblers, but will offer his set with paired down instrumentation on Friday.

Breiding, who will play with him, is a champion clawhammer-style banjo player, who has performed in Boone previously with her country band, Kelly and the Cowboys.

After the regular concert has concluded, the Jones House will feature a special presentation of Rural Academy Theatre, a horse-drawn entertainment production.

Rural Academy Theatre will begin with a large-scale toy theater adaptation of an ancient French folktale presented outdoors on a horse-drawn stage. Next, commedia dell’arte meets early film noir in a wordless “whodunit” romp, followed by a surprise silent film with live accompaniment by the Rural Academy Orkestrar.

The Concerts at the Jones House series is produced by the town of Boone and sponsored by the Downtown Boone Development Association, Mast General Store, Footsloggers, MPrints, Stick Boy Bread Company, Melanie’s and Farmer’s Rentals. Rural Academy Theatre is sponsored by Blue Ridge Community Theatre, Southern Appalachian Historical Association, Appalachian Heritage Council and the Appalachian State University departments of Theatre and Dance, Art, Sustainable Development and English.

The free concert starts at 5 p.m., rain or shine. People are encouraged to bring their own chair or blanket. The Jones House Community Center is located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information, visit or call (828) 262-4576.

Additional Images

The Rural Academy Theater will start its Western North Carolina tour in Boone, with an appearance at ASU Thursday and a performance at the Jones House Friday.
Photo submitted

Celebrated storyteller Orville Hicks will spin some yarns Friday at the Jones House in downtown Boone.
Photo submitted

On Friday, ballad singer and double-knock banjo master Rick Ward will kick off the final Jones House summer concert of 2013.
Photo submitted

With his Friday performance, old-time musician Kilby Spencer will conclude the town of Boone’s 2013 Summer Concerts at the Jones House series.
Photo submitted

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