Festival Music and Oral Tradition

From dulcimers to washtub bases, you will always hear a variety of instruments raising their voices at the festival. Fiddles will certainly be heard at the festival, and they are one of the most commonly played instruments in the old-time style and kept alive by the West Virginia State Folk Festival. Next to the fiddle, banjos are also one of the most commonly played instruments in the old-time style at the West Virginia State Folk Festival. Old-time fiddle playing and banjo playing may be heard at the Square Dances, in the jams about town, in the concerts, and especially at the Fiddle Contests.

Fiddle & Banjo Contests are held in the GSC Fine Arts Center at the corner of Court and High Streets. Contests for contestants 50 and older are held on Friday at 2:00 p.m. Contests for contestants under 50 years old are held on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

Contestants should show up back stage to register before the 2 p.m. contest. Each contestant will be expected to perform two pieces of old-time music. They will be allowed one accompanist, such as a guitar, etc. Contestants will announce the name of each song just prior to playing it.

Old time ballad singing, story telling, and shape note singing are also at the heart of the festival. For a great heritage experience, be certain to attend the evening concerts. Concerts are held Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:00 p.m. in the GSC Fine Arts Center at the corner of Court and High Streets.

There is also an unaccompanied gospel sing at 11:00 a.m. Saturday in the Methodist Church located on Main Street. Heavenly Highway Hymnals will be passed out. The 2007 gospel sing was led by Jane Law, Jesse Marks, Jack Lowther, and Bob Carpenter.

In addition, Bob Cain conducts a shape note singing workshop at the Church of Christ located on Powell Street. There are fiddle and banjo workshops and a special square dance workshop.
An oral traditions tent always showcases old time singing and music, poetry, and story telling. The Gilmer County Historical Society sponsors Living History Presentations. The 2007 presentations included William Hunt who took on the identity of Andrew Montour, Indian Scout. (1710-1774) The second presentation was Patty Cooper’s presentaion of Betsy Ross.

There is a special session entitled Papa Gainer’s Favorite Songs. Molly Gainer Walters and Mary Catherine Calame, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Dr. Patrick Gainer, our festival founder, sings his favorite folk songs and tells his favorite stories.

One of the best things about the Folk Festival is that music and oral traditions can happen anytime of the day or night, just about anywhere. Some of the best sessions tend to happen after the sun goes down and temperatures cool a little. Inside or out, day or night, the music is always great at the festival.

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