Arnetta Yancey

“I realized that as much as things have changed in the world as a whole, people still look for those old songs that pulled their ancestors through. That’s what those hymns do. Today, people are still looking for those songs.”

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Raymond Strum

Raymond Strum is considered one of the elder statesmen among musicians in the tri-county area, equally adept at singing a shuffling country weeper or a high lonesome bluegrass song.

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Bishop Dready Manning

Inspired by the fleet-fingered playing of musicians like Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed, he had one goal: “I wanted to be a blues guitar player.”

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Johnnie Ray Francis

Johnnie Ray Francis considers his work in traditional arts to be an integral part of his Native American identity. Once, he remembers, an acquaintance asked him, “’Have you quit building Indian crafts?’ I said, ‘How can you ask the Indian such a thing as that?’”

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Arlene Bice

Arlene Bice’s interest in ghost stories began some years ago, in her native New Jersey, when she and her family members were all visited—independently and unbeknownst to one another—by the same apparition in the old house in which they lived.

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Otha Wilkins

Over time, Wilkins became a formidable accordion player, adept at playing traditional songs in the genres of bluegrass, country, old-time, and gospel. His repertoire includes songs like “The Kentucky Waltz,” “Corrina, Corrina,” “Blue Skirt Waltz,” and “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”

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Cameron Eaton

“I always heard music,” says Eaton. “When I was playing, I would hear music chiming in my ear. It was always something that was with me, whether I had an instrument or not.”

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Wallace Evans

Growing up in a farming family in Granville County, Wallace Evans and his siblings sometimes helped their mother tack quilts that she had pieced, by the potbelly stove, in the wintertime.

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Chambergrass – Kim Terpening & Dave Schwartz

“Most of the time, we try to keep the songs pretty pure in what they are, whether they’re classical or bluegrass. We try not to mix them up too much. We’ll mix in little things, but I think 80% of what we do is pretty much either bluegrass or classical.”

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About the Project

In 2010 and 2011, the North Carolina Folklife Institute—with partners including the Warren County Library and Arts Council, members of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, and the Concerned Citizens of Tillery—conducted research on the living and historical traditions of Warren, Vance, and Halifax Counties. The project is a chapter of NCFI’s Statewide Heritage Initiative, which has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Resourceful Communities Program of the Conservation Fund.

NCFI folklorists Michael Taylor and Sarah Bryan interviewed dozens of tradition bearers in the three-county region, Taylor working primarily with musicians, and Bryan documenting non-musical traditions. The fieldwork was supplemented by interviews that Taylor conducted in 2009 with Warren County musicians, as part of the New Harmonies exhibit, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the North Carolina Humanities Council. Bryan also researched archival sources of documentation on the area’s folklife traditions. The Haliwa-Saponi Tribe made available interviews conducted in 2010 for the Haliwa-Saponi Arts Documentation Project, which provided important insight for the project as well. Photographer Christopher Fowler made portraits of many of the artists who participated in the project, and photographic documentation of their work. Throughout the research, NCFI received invaluable guidance from community-based advisors, including Sue Loper, former Director of the Warren County Library; Gary Grant, Director of the Concerned Citizens of Tillery; Marty Richardson, of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe; and Jereann Johnson, cofounder of the Heritage Quilters.

Read more ….

The audio recordings, transcripts, photographs, and other materials gathered in the course of this research are archived at the North Carolina Folklife Institute in Durham, and will be archived at the offices of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe in Hollister and at the Warren County Library in Warrenton as well.

Click here for an electronic copy of this report.

Click here for full-color PDF’s of artist profiles.

Full-color PDFs of artist profiles are available from the North Carolina Folklife Institute. Contact NCFI at (919) 383-6040 or staff@ncfolk.org.