Join Bill Cochran, Dan Casey and others for outdoor recreation in Southwest Va. Click here

DESTINATION: ROANOKE
Tour the City Market, Roanoke architecture, visitor's center, and churches. Find hotels and restaurants or book a trip to the Star City. Click here

DESTINATION: NEW RIVER VALLEY
Discover the New River Valley through the eyes of its residents. Sections for outdoor activities, athletics, newcomer information, and a special kids' section. Click here

DESTINATION: SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE
Ben Gardner, the inland Skipper, is your host for the SML guidebook section. Find detailed newcomer information, recreation opportunities, talk of inland sailing, and regional history and culture covering three Va. counties. Click here

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TRAVEL CALENDAR

THEATER TOUR OF LONDON
04/08/2001    --  04/16/2001
April 16-23. Sponsored by Barter Theatre. The trip includes three stage shows and a trip to Shakespeare's birthplace. The cost is $2,199 and includes lodging, breakfast, and round-trip airfare from the Tri-Cities airport. For more information, call 619-3303.

VIRGINIA TECH ALUMNI ASSOCIATION TRIPS
04/08/2001    --  06/30/2001
March 16-23. The trip includes excursions to Versailles, Champagne country, the Marais district and the Louvre and lodging near Place de l'Opera. $1,995; China and Yangtze River Cruise: April 15-May 5. Visit the Great Wall, Beijing, Hong Kong and other tourist sights. Prices begin at $3,895; Germany's Rhine River: May 10-18. The trip includes visits to Bonn, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Freiburg and other sites. $2,395; England's Cotswolds: June 3-11. The trip includes visits to Gloucester, Tintern Abbey, Blenheim Palace, Oxford and other sites. $2,395; Sicily: June 30-July 9. The trip includes visits to Agrigento, Villa de Casale, Syracuse and other sites. $2,295. For more information, call 231-6285 or email Lwedin@vt.edu.

Black Powder Demo
04/17/2001    --  04/17/2001
Virginia's Explore Park will host a demonstration of 18th century "marks-shooting" contest. The event will consist of a select group of 18th century interpreters participating in a mid-1700s flintlock shooting match. Saturday, April 7, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Virginia's Explore Park is located at milepost 115, Blue Ridge Parkway. Contact Lu Sadler at 427-1800 or lsadler@explorepark.org

World Bicycle Tour Slideshow
04/18/2001    --  04/18/2001
Blue Ridge Bicycle Club member, Randall Johnson, will present a slideshow and discussion of his recently completed around-the-world bicycle tour with Odyssey 2000. Roanoke County Library meeting room 7:00 pm. Seating and parking are very limited.

Raid at Martin's Station
04/20/2001    --  04/22/2001
Join us, as we slip into the shadows of Virginia's 1769 Wilderness. You will see and hear history come alive as over 150 living historians re-enact life on the Virginia frontier. Activities include: a re-enactment of the burning of Martin's Station, tours of Native American warrior camps and colonial militia camps, frontier cabin life, 18th century food vendors and colonial traders, selling their wares.

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April 2001

Courtesy of Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo Club
The Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo Club onstage at the Roanoke Civic Center.

The Blue Ridge bluegrass tradition lives on in Roanoke, Va.

Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo Club keeps the music alive

BY DEBBIE NASON

When you visit Roanoke, be sure to catch the monthly performance of the Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo Club.

This cultural gem showcases the longstanding Bluegrass traditions of the southern Appalachians. Twelve acoustic groups perform for twenty minutes each, with selections ranging from soulful a capella singing to joyous clogging (traditional Appalachian dancing) to energetic ensembles of mandolin, guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass and steel guitar.

The concert is usually held the first Saturday of every month, from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. (the informal atmosphere allows for patrons to come late and/or leave early). During the colder months, the venue is the Roanoke Civic Center. In summertime, locations might include the Vinton or Salem farmer's markets. Admission is free, donations requested.

The concert experience transports you back to an earlier time, before television or radio, when entertainment meant playing music along with family and friends.

As you enter the corridors of the Roanoke Civic Center, even before entering the auditorium, you suddenly come upon groups of musicians in very tight circles, practicing their numbers and jamming with one another.

As you pass by each circle of musicians, you are amazed at the intensity of their commitment. All these musicians perform for free; many have done so for years.

For Robert Dowdy, banjo player and lead vocalist of the popular Dowdy Brothers, one of the most important reasons for playing for the Fiddle and Banjo Club is to get his children involved in playing Bluegrass. "I started playing here with my brothers when I was twelve years old," he says.

Now in his forties, Dowdy brings his own children onstage to play with the band. "It takes the youngsters to keep the heritage alive," he says.

Once you enter the auditorium, you see a bare stage with a red barn and fields for backdrop. As he has done for over 31 years, emcee Hillard Jones rules the roost. With his cowboy hat, Appalachian twang, and forceful energy, he announces each act and banters with the crowd. He is the fearsome but good-natured keeper of the timeclock, making sure that the performers stick to their allotted twenty minutes.

The Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo club was founded in 1969 to "foster and preserve old-time and bluegrass music." The club comprises 24 bands and three clogging groups, and the music spans genres and generations.

Along with Old-Time music (the traditional music that developed in isolated Appalachian communities through the 1930s) and Bluegrass (pioneered by Bill Monroe in the 1940s from his own Old-Time roots), some Gospel music is also thrown into the mix.

Overall, the music is spiritual, energizing, soulful, yearning and joyful. The plaintive wails of some singers send shivers up the spine. Oftentimes, performers will give the lineage of the pieces they perform -- where they originated, who performed them in the past, how they have evolved.

Kinney Rorrer, host of a local Appalachian-music radio program, describes some differences between Old Time Music and Bluegrass:

"Old Time music usually is played slower whereas Bluegrass is often played a lot faster and pitched in a higher key. Bluegrass also often features 3 or 4-part harmony singing while Old Time tends to be more instrumental in nature.

"Singing is usually done solo. Old Time music's songs and instrumentals are often drawn from folk sources. Old Time music is closer to its roots: Scots-Irish fiddle tunes and ballads and African-American blues. Bluegrass instrumentals and songs usually have known authors such as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, etc," he says.

The Fiddle and Banjo Club celebrates an American art form with roots in Western Europe and the British Isles. As emcee Hillard Jones says, "We have a ball and it's a ball that keeps on rolling."

Don't miss it.

The next concert will be held at the Roanoke Civic Center on April 14th, 2001 from 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

For more information

Roanoke Fiddle and Banjo Club
roanokefidbanclub.tripod.com

Newsgroup on Southern Fiddle and Banjo music
www.best.com/~stevesag/otfaq.html

"Back to the Blue Ridge," weekly radio program on NPR
www.wvtf.org/Back2BR.htm

Debbie Nason is a Roanoke-based freelance writer.

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