Folklorists to offer ‘Cool of the Day’ workshop

Does being in a cool glen along the banks of a wild river in a deep forest ever make you want to break into song? Does it rekindle thoughts of pioneers and hard times? How did singing sustain them through long nights and lonely days? Young and old alike looked forward to hearing their favorite stories told and sung around the hearth when the work was done.

For a week this summer, folklorists Michael and Carrie Kline, devoted to singing and sharing Appalachian folk music, will lead a class through the Allegheny Mountain country of northcentral West Virginia, teaching songs from local family repertoires. Singing instruction will plant each of the old songs firmly in each student’s memory in the course of the week. The class will travel from Elkins daily to sing on mountaintops, huge rock formations, riverbanks and in shady groves. This weeklong program, titled “The Cool of the Day: Singing in Sacred Places,” will run daily from July 22-26. The class can accommodate 12 students and is expected to fill quickly.

Discounted early registration is available through Wednesday. Final registration will be June 15.

Michael Kline has been active since the late 1970s in preserving old ballads, work songs and fiddle tunes. Carrie Nobel Kline is a compelling singer and experienced documentarian. Recording in homes across the Alleghenies and beyond, they have documented the singing of West Virginia’s Hammons, Carpenter, Marks and Stover family members among many others, and enjoyed close friendships with traditional singers. He published articles about fiddlers such as Ernie Carpenter and Woody Simmons and singers such as Hazel Stover, Ethel Caffie Austin and Nat Reese. Music is at the heart of West Virginia culture and experience. From the very first, it sustained our ancestors. They sang to survive in the wilderness.

Two hundred fifty years ago, hardy immigrants from the British Isles began to settle the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Arriving on leaky ships after months on stormy seas, they brought to the New World musical traditions oftenpre-dating the Middle Ages. The ancient, raw ballads of old Europe have survived in the singing memories of many West Virginia families. The old, mostly a cappella songs resonate with images of ancient kingdoms, crusades, deeds of both valor and treachery, and broken-hearted love, as well as humorous ditties and religious ballads, blues and camp meeting songs.

Michael and Carrie Kline’s previous students have come from West Virginia and far beyond. Brooklyn, N.Y. resident Helen Engelhardt attests, “I went down to the hills of West Virginia for a week of Appalachian music and lore. It was the Klines – their warmth and love for each other and the people whose stories and songs they have dedicated their lives to recording and sharing – that was the ultimate gift.”

More information is available by emailing or calling 304-636-5444.