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An Incredible Lineup During Story Sessions at Pocahontas Opera House

The Pocahontas Opera House Foundation is expanding the Story Sessions Project into a podcast and five more video episodes! Starting Monday, May 9, the brand-new podcast will be aired on the Opera House Radio Hour on Allegheny Mountain Radio at 1 PM or wherever you listen to podcasts. The podcast and season two videos will be released weekly from May through August. Season one videos are available on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, or the Opera House website.

Monday, May 9th: Richard Hefner

Richard Hefner started picking banjo in 1967 and the next year formed one of West Virginia’s longest-running bluegrass bands, Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys. The group first organized in 1968 and took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County. Hefner remains as the lone original member.Richard Hefner picks the banjo in the style of Don Reno, Ralph Stanley, and Earl Scruggs and is able to sing and back himself up at the same time. Fiddler Blaine Sprouse, guitarist Dave Bing, and other local musicians will join him for the Ivy Terrace concert.

Monday, May 16: Jack Krack

Fiddler Jake Krack is one of today’s top old time fiddlers. He has won the Galax Fiddler’s Convention and various other Fiddle Contests numerous times, and the band has won best old-time band at Galax 4 times.

Monday, May 23: Story Session w/ Trevor Hammons

Monday, May 23: Trevor Hammons

Trevor Hammons is the great-grandson of Lee Hammons. At festivals and competitions, his style of banjo picking draws crowds and wins awards. The Vandalia Gathering is an annual festival held in Charleston, West Virginia devoted to old-time and bluegrass music.  At the Vandalia Gathering the past few years, he’s been one of the top five musicians in the old-time banjo category, an honor usually awarded to older musicians.

Trevor says he tries to preserve his family’s style of music by using the same old-time Appalachian style of fingerpicking on the banjo that was used by his great-grandfather Lee Hammons and by Sherman Hammons.  It’s a style of fingerpicking similar to clawhammer that uses the thumb and tips of the fingers to play the strings in a downward motion. 

Monday, May 30: Story Sessions features Kelsey Beverage

Monday, May 30: Kelsey Beverage

Kelsey keeps the tradition of old-time music alive and thriving. She is a native of Pocahontas County, growing up with Clover Lick on her generational family farm. Arts, music, and crafts are something that has been a long tradition in her family. At an early age, she started taking banjo lessons from Pam Lund, who taught her many of the songs featured in the story sessions. When she’s not playing banjo you can catch her on the ski slopes at Snowshoe in the winter or floating down the river at Ace Adventures. Keeping true with the state’s motto – Kelsey lives up to nothing but, Wild and Wonderful.

Monday, June 6: Story Sessions with Mike Burns

Monday, June 6: Mike Burns

West Virginia banjo and fiddle player Mike Burns has been playing old-time for many decades and had the good fortune as a young man to learn from many of the older generation: Melvin Wine, Wilson Douglas, Mose Coffman, Sherman Hammons and more.

This project was successfully piloted in 2021, and gathers the stories of those musicians who continue to play and pass down the music that dates back to the early settlers.

You will see that the videos weave together song and story to tell the ongoing tale of mountain music and its influence on Appalachian culture, emphasizing Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

After successfully piloting the first phase of the Story Sessions, the Opera House secured support and funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council, The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and The Snowshoe Foundation to continue with phase two of the project.

The Opera House has also teamed up with podcast producer Emily Chen-Newton to revisit the first five episodes and interviews so that they can be adapted into a podcast series. Emily is a co-founder of the Traveling 219 series broadcasted on West Virginia Public Radio. Since then, she has worked with Omaha Public Radio in producing the radio show, Made in the Middle. She has also covered several news events for National Public Radio and produced serval other podcasts through her media company, Figure Podcasts.

This project was conceived of and managed by Ryan Krofchek, who serves as the Opera House Marketing Director

This project was conceived of and managed by Ryan Krofchek, who serves as the Opera House Marketing Director. Krofchek interviewed each of the musicians, engaging in a dialogue that generated the stories each told about their musical journey and the origins of the songs they played. His questions were edited out of the final videos to keep the focus on the musician and the history of the music.

Season one musicians included Richard Hefner, Jake Krack, Trevor Hammons, Mike and Mary Sue Burns, and Kelsey Beverage. Phase two features Mike Bing, Dave Bing, Mary Sue Burns, Dwight Diller, and Homer Hunter. Each of these musicians have their own stories and experiences to share. Their lives have been shaped by the music and culture that surrounds them in their everyday life.

Bing Brothers at Alleghany Echoes, Marlinton WV in June 2021

Phase two features Mike Bing, Dave Bing, Mary Sue Burns, Dwight Diller, and Homer Hunter.

Brothers Mike and Dave Bing started traveling to Pocahontas County in the early 1970s for fishing trips along with Williams River with their father. They were introduced to the Hammons Family by buying night-crawlers from Sherman Hammons, who lived close by. After a few pickin’ parties on the Williams, they were hooked on old-time music. Since then, Mike has helped create and curate Allegheny Echoes, a summer workshop that celebrates and teaches the musical culture and traditions born out of these hills and hollers.

Dave Bing is among West Virginia’s finest traditional musicians who plays the banjo, fiddle, and guitar.

Officials at the West Virginia Folklife center awarded Bing the Traditions Salute Award for embodying West Virginia and Appalachian culture.

Dwight Diller has been credited in the Library of Congress recordings of The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family’s Traditions. Diller has taught banjo for over four decades and is considered one of the most prominent exponents of the clawhammer banjo tradition. He has been referred to as the “guardian of traditional West Virginia Music” in a 1997 issue of Sing Out and was chosen as a representative of the Appalachian region at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC.

Homer Hunter is a well-known bluegrass and gospel musician from Stony Bottom, along the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County. Hunter is mainly known for organizing the Hunter’s Family Reunion held in Stoney Bottom each year. He has played with many groups, including the Stony Bottom Boys and the Flat Top Pickers.

Mary Sue Burns, who accompanied her husband, Mike Burns, in season one, will be brought back for season two to share her songs and stories. Mary Sue, who is now a retired teacher from Pocahontas County, has had a long career in old-time music, playing with Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters. Her love for old-time banjo music started in the early 1970s and eventually led her to meet her husband and then to Pocahontas County.

This series will not only archive this history but will make it accessible to a greater audience through multiple medias.

This project will benefit the public in several ways, including archiving history, showcasing our culture, providing enriching entertainment, and promoting more exposure for traditional musicians.

For more information about The Pocahontas County Opera House or The Story Sessions, please contact Ryan Krofcheck at (304) 552-3446 or via email ryan@pocahontasoperahouse.org.

SPONSORING ORGANIZATION

The mission of the Pocahontas County Opera House is to be the “cultural heart of the community.” The Pocahontas County Opera House Foundation was formed in 1998 to manage to program for the newly restored, century-old Opera House in downtown Marlinton, WV. The Foundation currently consists of 12 volunteer members from all county areas representing various interests and organizations. They produce 15-20 live performances each year and have a weekly radio show on WVMR. They also bring performances to local schools and sponsor a summer theater camp and after-school program for Pocahontas County school students.

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