ELKINS - The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College is celebrating the conclusion of its summer season as the internationally syndicated radio program "Mountain Stage with Larry Groce" brings its show and a host of award-winning musicians to Myles Center for the Arts on Saturday.
With roots in American and Irish music, the line-up features fiddle virtuoso Mark O'Connor, bluegrass singer, songwriter and mandolin player Sierra Hull, indie rock band Cardinal Sons, the Celtic band OCEAN Orchestra, and old-time musicians Dave Bing and Ben Townsend.
"We are thrilled that 'Mountain Stage' will be the final concert in the Augusta Summer Concert Series," notes Beth King, interim director of the Augusta Heritage Center. "'Mountain Stage' and Augusta both have long traditions of supporting music in our state and beyond.
"Larry Groce and Adam Harris have pulled together an amazing line-up reflecting what we hold important at Augusta preserving long-standing traditions and making them an important part of our current times. And, you will hear some familiar voices from the Augusta family in the concert."
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at augustaheritagecenter.org or by calling the Davis & Elkins College Box Office at 304-637-1255. The concert will be immediately followed by a dance in the open-air pavilion.
"It's a treat for 'Mountain Stage' to come back to Elkins and the Augusta Heritage Festival," says Groce. "This part of West Virginia has long been a music center for the state, and over the past few decades Augusta has made it a world learning center for traditional music of many types. We're excited to bring what we think is a very strong line-up of talent to this show, including some of West Virginia's best musicians."
Described by The Los Angeles Times as "one of the most talented and imaginative artists working in music any music today," Mark O'Connor has long been one of the country's most sought-after session players. In addition to winning every major fiddle contest before he hit his teens, and having more than 750 LP credits, O'Connor has racked up six Country Music Association Musician of the Year awards. His 1996 release "Appalachia Spring" spent 16 weeks at the No.1 spot on Billboard's classical chart while the follow-up, "Appalachian Journey," earned him a Grammy in 2001.
O'Connor's first full-length orchestral score, "Fiddle Concerto," has become the most-performed modern violin concerto. In 2001, O'Connor released "Hot Swing!" a tribute to legendary French jazz master and O'Connor's longtime friend and mentor Stephane Grappelli. On his new release, "MOC4," O'Connor collaborates with six acclaimed violinists he has mentored. The recording is the latest installment of O'Connor's series dedicated to classic American music.
O'Connor has also issued the next book in his revolutionary teaching program, "O'Connor Method Book IV." The book includes the sheet music for "MOC4," and furthers O'Connor's mission to redefine string music education in schools and private studios around the world with the genres and styles embedded in American music culture.
When Sierra Hull was just 12, none other than Alison Krauss invited her onstage at the Grand Ole Opry and she was soon courted by Krauss' label, Rounder Records. At age 16, Hull released her debut, "Secrets," and her studio bands have included veterans like Stuart Duncan, Randy Kohrs and Bryan Sutton.
Attending Berklee School of Music, Hull became the first bluegrass musician to receive the school's most prestigious award, the Presidential Scholarship. In the past three years, she has been nominated for five IBMA awards and may be the first woman to win the mandolin category.
Matt Glaser, head of Berklee's American Roots Music Program, said, "She has no limitations as a musician." Her current release, "Daybreak," features seven original songs.
Balancing heavy synth lines and crunchy guitar with steady drums, the three brothers of Cardinal Sons cultivate a sound steeped in the musical identity of their upbringing. Raised in Mississippi and finding a home in New Orleans, John, Joe and Dave play danceable, folky, indie rock leavened with three-part harmonies and a left hand for a bass player.
Their debut recording "Cardinal Sons Make an EP" honors the straightforward, whole-souled creative process that took root among them early on. With the release of their debut came endearing videos, one for "October Rolls," a second for "Underdressed," and later, a fully animated piece for "Young Guns." The videos showcase their unmistakable dynamic and a quirky, but candid preview of the brothers.
While preparation began for their next recording, Cardinal Sons traveled to New York City in the fall of 2013 and won the NewSong Contest, an international performance and songwriting showcase and competition. Their winnings included 10 days of studio time in March 2014 with producer Charlie Sexton at Asheville's Echo Mountain Recording Studios, as well as performances at the Sundance Film Festival, New York's Lincoln Center and the appearance on NPR's "Mountain Stage."
Out of the sessions with Sexton came the Cardinal Sons' follow up, "The Echo Choir EP." The five-song EP sees the brothers expanding and refining their sound, crafting venerable pop hooks without losing sight of their soulful foundation. The EP is slated for a 2014 release on the back of the lead single, "Day of Summer."
Led by accordionist, keyboardist and songwriter Jennifer Cutting, the OCEAN Orchestra describes its music as "Celtic Music for Ancient Moderns."
A staple throughout the mid-Atlantic region at festivals and concert halls, the group also features superb vocalist Lisa Moscatiello, Scottish fiddling champion Andrew Dodds, and Steve Winick on vocals and percussion. Both Cutting and Winick work at the Library of Congress while Winick earned a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania, and teaches at George Washington and George Mason universities.
Dave Bing and Ben Townsend, both long respected in the old-time genre, are resident instructors at this year's Augusta summer sessions.
Bing, of Bing Brothers and Gandydancer fame, lives in Roane County. He plays and records with Gandydancer and has made several solo recordings. He is a veteran teacher and musician who has performed throughout the United States and abroad. He plays a wide variety of West Virginia fiddle and banjo music, from the Hammons Family to bluegrass, and from square dance standards to obscure crooked pieces.
Townsend has been focused on playing traditional and contemporary string band music in different groups and solo for the past 10 to 15 years, first with a band based out of West Virginia called The Fox Hunt and then with Old Sledge and the Iron Leg Boys. Most recently he is a member of the internationally known Hackensaw Boys.
To register for classes or learn more about the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College summer sessions, visit augustaheritagecenter.org, email email@example.com or call 304-637-1209.
Programs offered by the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College are presented with financial support 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.
Heard weekly on NPR stations across the country, "Mountain Stage" is produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and is celebrating its 31st year on the air. The audience will participate in a recording that will be heard nationwide on NPR stations and overseas on the Voice of America.
For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.