In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the National Heritage Fellowship Awards to honor American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic. Modeled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept, the idea began with Bess Lomax Hawes, then director of the Folk Arts Program. Since its inception, over 200 artists have received the Heritage Award.
The following Virginians have received the award:
Tidewater Gospel Quartet
With grace and smooth harmonies, the Paschall Brothers proudly carry on the Tidewater gospel quartet tradition. Founded in 1981 by the late Reverend Frank Paschall Sr., an accomplished gospel singer and devoted father of 11 children, the group performs a classic gospel repertoire along with original compositions.
Reverend Frank Paschall Sr. trained five of his seven sons to accompany him in the earliest configuration of the group, which now includes several grandchildren. When Frank Sr. passed away in 1999, his son Tarrence assumed leadership of the group, but the lead vocal role is often passed around among members for different songs. The gospel quartet, as they are commonly known, typically includes five, not four, members -- "quartet" refers to the four-part harmony rather than the number of members.
The a cappella tradition in Virginia is rich and longstanding. Following the Civil War, the Tidewater, or Hampton Roads, area of Virginia -- including Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk -- became an important and lively center of African-American culture. Four-part harmony groups were common and performances took place everywhere from churches and street corners to show choir-like competitions in which groups were judged on both vocal gymnastics and appearance.
Old Regular Baptist singer
An elder in the Old Baptist Church, Frank Newsome is a proponent of lined-out hymn singing, one of the deepest and oldest musical traditions of Virginia. Newsome was born in 1942 in Pike County, Kentucky, where his father worked as a coal miner. One of 22 children, Newsome began attending Old Regular Baptist church services as a child with his mother. He settled in Virginia around the age of 20 and worked in the coal mines. After more than 17 years, Newsome contracted black lung disease and left the mines but took up new responsibilities at his church, using his vocal prowess to lead his congregation as a preacher and in the singing of hymns. Currently, he preaches at the Little David Old Regular Baptist Church in Buchanan County, Virginia.
Primarily located in Appalachian rural locations, Old Regular Baptists maintain the tradition of no musical accompaniment in their services. Instead, the congregation sings a capella with a preacher or elder singing a line of a hymn and the congregation repeating the same line in a mournful blend of voices. Due to the small geographic area where Old Regular Baptist churches remain, this musical genre is not well known and recordings made at Little David Church featuring Newsome's a cappella voice is one of the few times that a leader of this singing style has ever been recorded.
The influence of Old Regular Baptist singing can be heard in the old time music performed in the region as well as bluegrass music. Frequent Little David Church attendee, bluegrass legend, and NEA National Heritage Fellow Ralph Stanley has helped to draw attention to this art form by inviting Newsome to sing at his music festival. Newsome has also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and at the 2007 National Folk Festival in Richmond.
Folk Musician, Hiltons, VA
Also recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes Award
Janette Carter has spent a lifetime supporting and promoting traditional music of the Appalachian region. Her parents and Aunt Maybelle made up the Carter Family, known as the "First Family of Country Music." In the waning years of A.P. Carter's life, Janette promised her father that she would carry on his work. At the time, she was a cook in the local elementary school, but she began hosting informal music programs in the store that her father operated in southwestern Virginia, in an area known as Poor Valley.
In 1976, she and community members built an 880-seat amphitheater, the Carter Family Fold, beside the store. Seats were salvaged from old school buses and benches were made with railroad ties. A regular series of concerts has been offered there ever since. Today the Carter Family Fold attracts more than 50,000 visitors a year to this family-run monument to early country music. The Fold is not just a concert hall; on most evenings it is jammed with local families, and the dance floor is filled with young and old who are clogging, buckdancing, and waltzing to the acoustic music. Carter, a traditionalist at heart, allowed only the late Johnny Cash, June Carter's husband, to break her rule and to be the first and one of only two (along with Marty Stuart mentioned below) to perform there with electric instruments.
The 2005 National Endowment for the Arts National Fellowships Award ceremony will take place Tuesday, September 22, 2005 from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm. Cannon Caucus Room (Room 345), Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC. The National Fellowship Recipients will appear at a special concert on Friday, September 23, 2005, at 7:30 pm. Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University. Tickets are free and available by calling 301-565-0654 before September 16th, or they are available at the Lisner box office.
More information on the Carter Family Fold: www.carterfamilyfold.org/index.htm
Falls Church, VA
Flory Jagoda was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a member of the Sephardic Jewish community. When the Sephardic Jews were forced into exile from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, many settled in other Mediterranean countries but preserved their native language, called Ladino. Through her grandmother, Jagoda learned songs that had been passed down in her family for generations. She also became familiar with the region's Balkan cultural traditions. Jagoda escaped the destruction of Sarajevo's Jewish community and came to the United States after World War II. She has been recognized as an important carrier of a unique musical heritage and also as a composer and arranger of new Sephardic songs. In addition to passing that tradition on to her children, she has taught many students who now perform Ladino music.
Today, she tours widely and her music is circulated through recordings and in The Flory Jagoda Songbook. She is well known in the Washington, D.C. area for her willingness to perform at religious ceremonies, family celebrations and cultural events. Her performances are marked by musical beauty but also by her commitment to find meaning through affirmation of community in her personal experience.
Cambodian Musicians & Dancers
In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge terror of the 1970s devastated the institutions that supported dance drama. The tradition was uprooted as dancers and musicians who had survived the genocide fled to the United States. Three of these artists, determined to keep their heritage a living part of Cambodian life in the United States, formed the Apsara Ensemble.
Mouth of Wilson, VA
Disappointed by the quality of his first store-bought guitar from the Sears Catalogue, young Wayne Henderson tried to make a better guitar from a drawer bottom and some "black stuff" his father used to glue weatherstripping to the car door. The guitar came apart in the heat ("blossomed out like a morning glory") but this boyhood try launched Wayne Henderson's career as premier guitar-maker. Wayne Henderson began working with the late string instrument-maker, Albert Hash, who lived a few miles away. This relationship continued until Hash's death in 1982. Wayne Henderson's second handcrafted guitar was purchased for tools and cash. "Ever since, somebody's wanted one as soon as I get it finished," says Wayne Henderson.
Indeed, the wait for a Henderson Handcrafted Guitar is over two years. Wayne Henderson is also an accomplished musician. He has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Smithsonian Institution and has won over 300 ribbons at various fiddlers' conventions. For more information about the Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition see www.waynehenderson.org.
Piedmont Blues Guitarist/Singer
As a boy, John Cephas polished his piedmont-style playing with help from his cousin, David Talliaferro. John Cephas describes this finger-picking style as "alternating thumb and finger-picking where I keep a constant bass line going with my thumb. I pick out the melody or the words I'm singing with my fingers on the treble strings at the same time. It's almost like the guitar is talking, mimicking your feelings or the words to the songs and that steady accompanying bass gives it a jumping rhythm, a loping sound . . ." John Cephas began playing publicly in local house parties and dances in Caroline County, Virginia. It was at a birthday party in the 1970s, that Big Chief Ellis, a barrelhouse piano player, heard Cephas and invited Cephas to play with him professionally.
One of the players in the band was Phil Wiggins, a harmonica player. After the death of Big Chief Ellis, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins continued to play together and they have toured Europe, Africa, Asia, South and Central America and the Soviet Union. In 1986 they won the W.C. Handy Award for the Best Traditional Album of the Year and were also named the Blues Entertainers of the Year. In 1988, John Cephas won a Washington, D.C. Mayor's Arts Awards. For more information about John Cephas, see his web site: www.cephasandwiggins.com.
Fairfax Station, VA
John Jackson carried his warmth and music, as well as his love for his country and her people, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to more than 60 nations. The seventh son born to black tenant farmers, Suttie and Hattie Jackson, John worked as a farmer, butler, chauffeur, philosopher, humanitarian, Civil War Historian, gravedigger, and musician. People traveled to talk with him as much they traveled to listen to his music. John Jackson performed for former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the Congress of the United States, and numerous European heads of state.
Although he was a world famous musician, songwriter, and recording artist, John Jackson referred to himself as "just a working man." John Jackson was considered by many to be "the world's foremost finger-style blues guitarist" (The Connection).
Bluegrass Banjo Player/Appalachian Singer
Raised in the Clinch Mountain area of southwestern Virginia, Ralph Stanley and his older brother, Carter Stanley, learned ballad singing and banjo frailing from their mother. This style -- narrative songs of the oldest English language tradition to nineteenth century hymns sung a cappella -- still guides Ralph Stanley in performances today. Ralph's continuation of a cappella singing has led to a revival of unaccompanied singing in contemporary bluegrass bands. Originally a singer and banjoist in the duo formed with his brother known as the Stanley Brothers, Ralph Stanley continued on his own when Carter Stanley died in the mid-1960s.
Known for his sharp, tenor voice and banjo picking, he has performed on more than 170 recordings including his chilling O Death on the O Brother, Where Art Thou film soundtrack. Ralph Stanley is considered by many to be the epitome of "mountain soul." For more information on Ralph Stanley, see his web site www.drralphstanley.com.
For a list of all current and past winners, visit the NEA web site, National Heritage Fellowships.