Looking Back at the NEA Heritage Award Concert


 A week ago I wrote about the NEA Heritage Fellows Concert - but submitted to DCMETROTheatre.com a  bit late so he could not publish it. You know "old News"." Rather than scrap it I am posting here thinking there may be some storyteller folks that would want to read about it.

NEA Heritage Fellows in an Extraordinary Evening at Lisner Auditorium

By Ellouise Schoettler

“For one night each year, the National Endowment of the Arts invites recipients of the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts to share their art forms with the public at the NEA National Heritage Fellowship Concert.”  From NEA Press Announcement.  The event is open Free to the public.

Last Friday evening as I left the concert at Lisner Auditorium I

heard a woman say to her companion, “it was an extraordinary evening.” His reply, “It always is.”

This year nine extraordinary artists in the folk traditions were selected from a wide feel of nominees as 2013 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows. They are Sheila Kay Adams, Ballad Singer. Musician and Storyteller, Ralph Burns, Storyteller of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Veronica Castillo, Ceramicist and Clay Sculptor, Seamus Connolly, Irish Fiddler, Nicolae Feraru, Cimbalom Player,

Carol Fran, Swamp Blues Singer and Pianist, Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez, Chicano Musician and Culture Bearer and Pauline Hillarie, Tradition Bearer, Lummi Tribe.

Friday night the Fellows appeared “In concert” at Lisner Auditorium, Washington DC with Nick Spitzer, Host of the weekly radio program American Routes was Master of Ceremonies.  Find bios along with audios and videos of all the Fellows HERE.  http://arts.gov/lifetime-honors/nea-national-heritage-fellowships/2013-nea-national-heritage-fellowships-concert

Only large color panels defined the space on the stage.  The performers were the main focus and one after the other they performed in top form before an audience who appreciated the traditional arts and they did not hold back on their enthusiasm.

Of the nine performers I was most touched by two women, ballad singer and storyteller Sheila Kay Adams and Swamp Blues singer Carol Fran.

I do have to tell you. Not only am I a fellow storyteller, I too  like Sheila Kay Adams,  am a North Carolina native . Also I have seen her perform in a tent packed wall to wall by up to 2,000 people at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee where story-lovers love her. Friday night she did herself proud as she shed her light on traditional ballad singing, storytelling and her home state.

She was not on stage specifically to tell a story but she’s a Tar Heel through and through so she couldn’t help herself.  Her causal patter with the audience about her hometown of Sodom in Madison County, NC evolved into a bit of a story. Her 7 generation deep-root connection with traditional music passed down through her family became another bit of a story. Her  explanations that ballads are songs that tell a story added to the story quilt she was piecing.

She sang two ballads, the first accapella and the second she accompanied herself with the bango. Her voice was clear and crisp and the beautiful melodies were true as she sang the stories in her songs.  Her ballad singing and her songs took the audience back more than 200 years to experience the purity of the tradition. It was a moment. More about Sheila Kay Evans HERE. 

A stranger to me, Carol Fran, is a Swamp Blues singer from New Orleans, La. She and a back-up group of jazz musicians closed the concert by bringing the audience to their feet.

Her red sequined dress glittered about her as, using a cane, her pianist gently assisted her to the center of the stage. As soon as she accepted the microphone she took charge . Her deep, resonant voice belted forth a song.

Carol Fran is called the Sarah Vaughn of New Orleans. She showed the audience she is still in command of her voice in both English and the French of Louisiana.  Her eyes were shining and her face smiling as she sang. Her body swayed gently with the music and her feet that had needed help coming on stage were slightly dancing.  She came to life in her music and inspired the audience.

“I am 80 years old this year.”  She declared proudly to the audience and a wave of applause roared back to her.

More information about Carol Fran HERE. 

It was an extraordinary evening. Don’t miss it next year. It is Free to the public. You can sign on to the Lisner Auditorium web page HERE. They will keep you informed.


Granny Sue said...

Sounds amazing, Ellouise!

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