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Sweet! MECC to host second Sweet Folk Instruments gathering

Entertainment Staff • Feb 21, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Va., will hold its second annual Gathering of the Sweet Folk Instruments next month.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., March 15 and will introduce and promote the autoharp, hammered and lap dulcimers, folk harp, psaltery and folk singing to beginning musicians. It will also extend the knowledge and skills of seasoned musicians.

The goal of the festival is to preserve the traditional performance of these instruments by attracting and teaching youth and adults the culture and musical heritage of the region.

Participants may enroll in up to four workshops scheduled in the morning and afternoon.

Each workshop is $20 per person. Instrument workshops are limited to 14 students. Youth ages 6-18 who have participated in the Wise County Jams program and/or MECC’s Mountain Music School can register for instrument workshops at half price.

In addition, two children’s workshops will be offered for younger youth.

An evening concert will also be featured.

This year’s instructors are Sarah Morgan, John and Kathie Hollandsworth and Thistle Dew.

Morgan started her musical journey at just 7 years old and has fallen in love with traditional and folk music through the years. A native of East Tennessee, Morgan has incorporated the rich musical heritage of the area into her music. At 18, she placed first at the 2012 National Mountain Dulcimer Championships held in Winfield, Kan. She has also won multiple other titles, including Mid-Eastern Region Mountain Dulcimer Champion, Kentucky State and Southern Region Champion.

Morgan was a finalist in the 2013 International Acoustic Music Awards.

At the Gathering of Sweet Folk Instruments, Morgan will be teaching four workshops on the lap or mountain dulcimer. The workshops will offer playing techniques to advance beginning students to an intermediate level of performance, introduce intermediate students to the DGD tuning and songs and introduce more advanced dulcimer players to Scottish Aires.

John and Kathie Hollandsworth are natives of Christiansburg, Va., and have been performing and teaching since the early 1980s, with a repertoire that includes, but is not limited to, traditional Appalachian, old-time and Celtic music.

John Hollandsworth has been developing his own autoharp style since childhood, when he became familiar with traditional music through hearing friends and relatives play stringed instruments.

His playing style incorporates both chromatic and diatonic techniques, and he is sought after as a workshop leader and classroom teacher of his style and repertoire. He was a finalist in the International Autoharp Competition in 1989.

In 1991, he was named the first champion of the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship. John Hollandsworth has taken first place in the autoharp contest at the Galax Fiddlers Convention since 1991 as well as being named “Best All-Around Performer” for three years. He is a custom maker of fine Blue Ridge Autoharps, which are now played all over the United States and in Japan, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom.

In 2010, John Hollandsworth was inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame for his talents as performer, teacher and luthier, and is one of only 17 living members of that body.Kathie Hollandsworth sings and plays hammered dulcimer and upright bass. She has won numerous ribbons at the Galax Fiddlers Convention and was named “Best All-Around Old-Time Performer” at the Maury River Fiddler’s Convention in 2000.The Hollandsworths are popular performers and clinicians, both in the Virginia/North Carolina region and nationally.

John Hollandsworth will be teaching beginning autoharp, intermediate autoharp and advanced autoharp to introduce students to accompanying vocals, playing melody and advanced right-hand techniques.

Kathie Hollandsworth will be teaching an advanced hammered dulcimer workshop.

Thistle Dew is a Celtalachian band that has “roots” in the larger collaboration, Bloodroot, which has existed in many iterations since 1998. The band’s current members are: Rhodyjane Meadows on lead and harmony vocals, autoharp, Celtic harp, guitar and mountain dulcimer; Laura Laughridge on lead and harmony vocals and mountain dulcimer; Ellie Hjemmet on lead and harmony vocals, guitar, banjo, chelsimer and mountain dulcimer; and Peggy Holtsclaw on doghouse bass.

Thistle Dew is known for its unique and dynamic instrument arrangements and beautiful vocal harmonies. Meadows will teach a beginning workshop on the Celtic folk harp, and Hjemmet will teach a beginning workshop on lap dulcimer.

Pre-registration is required for the Gathering of the Sweet Folk Instruments event.

For more information, or to register, visit www.mecc.edu/sweetfolk or call Terry Garrett at MECC’s Workforce Development Center at (276) 523-2400.

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