Music of the South: Weymouth Opens Its Doors for Unique Program
“Coming Together,” subtitled “An Afternoon of the Musical Roots of the American South,” introduces a program at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities exploring the styles of music that had their beginnings in the South — everything from the rock ’n’ roll sounds of Elvis Presley to gospel, jazz and traditional bluegrass.
From the Great Room in Weymouth and spilling out into its gardens, this unique undertaking, scheduled for Saturday, July 10, will celebrate the South’s musical heritage.
Featured artists include well-known musician, historian and entertainer Billy Stevens, whose presentation, “Discovering Elvis,” sets the tone for this musical happening. Also performing in the afternoon-long schedule are jazz pianist Bob Murphy, The Fine Blue Line and the Gospel Choir of First Missionary Baptist Church of Southern Pines.
“The music of Elvis was a logical starting point for a program that would appeal to a broad cross-section of residents of Moore County,” says Vivian Jacobson, who heads up the organizing committee. “Elvis was for everyone, despite their ethnic, social or economic backgrounds — he brought people together.”
Billy Stevens, an ambassador of American culture who has performed in more than 50 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well closer to home in North Carolina, blends together the spoken portions of his programs with a musical performance. In this way, he provides historical context for understanding the development of American music.
According to Stevens, the story of the discovery and rise to fame of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll parallels a musical interaction between black and white communities that defines all American popular music.
“Elvis’ music is a potent example of the deep debt America owes to black/white dialogue and cultural exchange,” he says.
In addition to “Discovering Elvis,” Stevens’ newest program, called “Sincere Forms of Flattery,” is on the afternoon’s schedule. In this presentation, Stevens shows how from Stephen Foster to the Beatles, and from Elvis to Eminem, every generation creates its own new music.
Regarding the concept behind putting together an event at Weymouth which incorporates the music of Elvis, jazz, gospel and bluegrass, Vivian Jacobson, a longtime member and supporter of Weymouth, believed that an informal afternoon of music emanating from Southern traditions would attract attention and draw families with children, young adults, business and professional people who perhaps have never been to an event at Weymouth.
“Weymouth has been known for its classical musical series, but we wanted to expand that idea to include other types of musical offerings as well, and what better time than a summer’s afternoon to open the doors of Weymouth to our residents who haven’t had the experience of visiting the center before,” says Deidre Newton, a member of the organizing committee.
Pointing out that people should feel free to come and go as they wish, Jacobson says, “If there is a certain part of the program that interests you, come for just that hour, or stay for the whole period.”
For instance, Billy Stevens starts the afternoon off with “Sincere Forms of Flattery” to be followed by Bob Murphy, the dean of piano jazz in Moore County. Murphy, a native North Carolinian who taught band music in schools in North and South Carolina and Georgia before becoming a performing musician, has been a popular draw at clubs and resorts throughout the Sandhills. Presently entertaining at the Carolina Hotel, he will demonstrate the finer points of jazz as he plays some of the old favorites of the genre, accompanied by Jerry Mashburn on bass.
Next up, the scene shifts to the outdoors as The Fine Blue Line, a group led by Robbins resident Teddy White for the past nine years, performs bluegrass favorites. The five members of Fine Blue Line, playing banjo, guitar, mandolin, dobro and stand-up bass, have been featured at such local events as Springfest, Farmer’s Day, at festivals at the Malcolm Blue Farm and have been heard at the Clyde Maness Music Barn in Carthage. Recently they were awarded first place in a competition at Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival in Snow Camp.
“Discovering Elvis” will move the action back indoors, and then the 25 voices of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Southern Pines Gospel Choir, under the leadership of Damon Clark, will give an outdoor performance of the best of gospel music to round out this exceptional adventure into the roots of Southern music.
Sponsorship of “Coming Together” has been supplied by several members of the Friends of Weymouth, as well as by Village Printers in Pinehurst and the local outlet of Staples. Major sponsorship is provided by McDonald’s in Aberdeen, Seven Lakes and Carthage.
“Our business is built around support of the community, and when I first learned about the Weymouth program, I knew that it was something that we wanted to sponsor,” says Martha Butler, speaking on behalf of the family business operating the McDonald’s locations. “The event is affordable, educational, historical, and it also is a great family activity.”
Her hope is that many of the diverse members of the community in Southern Pines and the surrounding areas who have never been to Weymouth will come and enjoy the whole, or a part of the, afternoon.
“Weymouth is such an asset to our community, and my goal is to introduce as many people as I can to this wonderful place,” she says.
“Bring your family, friends, picnic and a chair for an afternoon of fun and entertainment,” says Jacobson.
Tickets available at the door are $10 per person with no charge for children under 12.
The Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities is located at 555 East Connecticut Ave. in Southern Pines.
Contact Pinehurst writer Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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