The Pocahontas County Opera House's annual Opry Night has come to represent some of the best in local traditional and country music talent from the Allegheny Highlands of West Virginia. On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., this year's Opry Night will showcase the music of The Classic Country Ramblers, Bill Hefner, Jeff Hefner, Paul Bennett and Justin Bennett and of "The Appalachian," John Wyatt.
The members of The Classic Country Ramblers come from a tradition of family teaching family. Paul Bennett started singing with his mother and grandmother, cranking up the pump organ or record player to sing with Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Bob Wills.
At the age of 6, Paul's own son, Justin, asked for a harmonica so he could play along and has long since picked up the guitar.
IN CONCERT — From left, Bill Hefner, Paul Bennett and John Wyatt will be performing at the Pocahontas County Opera House Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
In the Hefner family, Jeff Hefner learned mandolin from his mother when he was in grade school and later started on the guitar. His father, Bill Hefner, was the founding guitarist of the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys and is today a respected musician and guitar maker.
As the Classic Country Ramblers, Justin Bennett plays lead and sings tenor with Paul Bennett, who plays rhythm and sings lead. Jeff Hefner joins in with mandolin and harmonies, and Bill Hefner fills in all the gaps and plays the fire out of everything.
John Wyatt's music and storytelling celebrates the common bonds of faith and family and what it means to be Appalachian. His music has a hint of the old Carter style of playing with ballads of mountain life drawn from personal experience. Wyatt's stories also come from those experiences of growing up in rural Appalachia in the 1950s and 1960s.
A former railroad brakeman and a Baptist minister, Wyatt began to recognize the connections between the music, their faith and values. He and his wife, Donna Jean, are founders of the nonprofit Appalachian Cultural Heritage Alliance which promotes and preserves the more positive aspects of life in the mountains from yesterday and today.
Through his music, Wyatt encourages people to reconnect with their heritage and the proud, independent spirit that makes Appalachia great.
The traditional music continues the following weekend March 5 at 7:30 p.m. as The Bing Brothers are joined by award-winning fiddler Jake Krack.
Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are handicapped accessible. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request. Admission to all performances is $7 unless noted otherwise. Admission is available at the door and in advance at pocahontasoperahouse.org or by calling 304-799-6645.
Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Ave. in Marlinton. For information on other upcoming Opera House events, visit pocahontasoperahouse.org, or call the Opera House at 304-799-6645.
These performances are part of the 2010-2011 Performance Series sponsored by the Pocahontas County Opera House Foundation with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Financial support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals.