TITLE: Legends and Legacies Concert: A Celebration of Public Folklore
SPEAKER: Bill McComiskey, Brendan Mulvihill, Tom Mauchahty-Ware, The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters, The Sweet Heaven Kings, Phil Wiggins
EVENT DATE: 2009/09/10
RUNNING TIME: 176 minutes
A Legends and Legacies concert celebrates Joseph T. Wilson and the NCTA Collection coordinated and produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA).
Speaker Biography: Accordionist Billy McComiskey is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and a longtime resident of Baltimore, MD. He began playing the button accordion in the 1950s, when he was six years old. At fifteen, he began studying with the master accordionist Sean McGlynn. In the 1970s, McComiskey relocated to Maryland, and began playing with the Washington, D.C. area band The Irish Tradition, which also featured Brendan Mulvihill. Since the 1980s, has been part of the NCTA-sponsored touring ensemble Green Fields of America. In addition to several solo recordings, he has recorded albums with The Irish Tradition, Trian, The Pride of New York, and The Green Fields of America. He has won both the All-Ireland button accordion championship, and All-Ireland Fiddle/Accordion Duet Championship with Brendan Mulvihill.
Speaker Biography: Fiddler Brendan Mulvihill was born to Irish parents in Northampton, England, and immigrated to New York with his family in 1965. His father, fiddler Martin Mulvihill of Ballygoughlin, County Limerick, was the best known Irish music teacher in America from the early 1970s until his death in 1987, and was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 1984. Brendan learned to play the fiddle from his father in the Bronx, and by 1972 was accomplished enough to win the All-Ireland Fiddle Championship. In the mid-1970s, he moved to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and formed the group The Irish Tradition with Billy McComiskey and Andy O'Brien. He has recorded albums as a soloist, as a member of The Young Tradition, and as a duo with pianist Donna Long. In 2005, Brendan received the Maryland Traditions Folk Arts and Culture Apprenticeship Award for teaching the art of traditional Irish fiddle playing in Maryland.
Speaker Biography: Tom Mauchahty-Ware is a Kiowa-Comanche flute player and singer. He is a descendent of Belo Cozad, a well-known Kiowa flute player. He is also the son of Wilson Ware, a fancy-dance champion and powwow singer who died in 1961. Mauchahty-Ware has recorded several albums of flute music which reveal a skilled musician with extraordinary command of his instrument and the various techniques of creating sound. Since the 1980s, he has also been involved in recordings of powwow music and other Native American genres involving singing and drumming. He has performed in a duo with Millard Clark, and with the blues band Blues Nation. He is also a skilled traditional artist in several media: painting, sculpting, flute making, bead working, and feather working. Mr. Ware leads an ensemble of Kiowa-Comanche musicians and dancers.
Speaker Biography: The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters come from the musically rich region surrounding Galax, Virginia, and are known for playing high-energy dance tunes. The group has won the prestigious first place old-time band prize at the Old Fiddlers' Convention in Galax eight times. The Bogtrotters have played at several notable festivals including the Chicago Folk Festival, Merlefest, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Eddie Bond, the band's fiddler, is also a fine vocalist, and he knows many of the old mountain ballads that date back to previous generations. The New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters' name comes from the original Bogtrotters, the famous Galax-area band of the 1930s, which featured Crockett Ward, Wade Ward, Fields Ward, and Alexander "Eck" Dunford. The original Bogtrotters were recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. Tonight's performance by the New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters will take its place beside those historic recordings in the American Folklife Center's archive.
Speaker Biography: The Sweet Heaven Kings is the premier brass band at the United House of Prayer in Anacostia. The gospel brass band tradition is unique to this denomination. It was introduced into services by charismatic church founder Bishop Charles M. "Sweet Daddy" Grace. Grace established his first congregation in 1919 in West Wareham, Massachusetts, with an emphasis on the direct, physical experience of the Spirit. From the 1920s onward, as the church spread rapidly throughout the South, Grace began using brass instruments as the centerpiece of his all-day, all-night services. By the 1960s, trombones became the instrument of choice for House of Prayer bands, and groups were expanded to create a fuller, more multi-layered sound in the vein of large gospel choirs. The Kings of Harmony was formed in Washington, D.C., during this period and Norvus Miller emerged as the group's leader. Sweet Heaven Kings is comprised of sixteen musicians, including two of Miller's sons, one of whom now leads the band. Instruments include trombones, sousaphone, baritone horn, and a percussion section with bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals. The instrumental "voices" are arranged in three- and four-part harmonies. The music builds slowly through songs to a sustained crescendo known as "thundering," with lead players improvising and blowing with great intensity.
Speaker Biography: Phil Wiggins was born in Washington, D.C. in 1954 and spent his childhood summers at his grandmother's home in Alabama, where he listened to old-time hymns sung in church in the traditional call-and-response style. Phil was attracted to the blues harp as a young man and began his musical career with some of Washington's leading blues artists, including Archie Edwards and John Jackson, and attributes his style to his years spent accompanying locally noted slide guitarist and gospel singer Flora Molton. Wiggins' harmonica sound developed from listening to piano and horn players, as well as the music of Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy Williamson I, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton and Junior Wells. Phil also apprenticed with Mother Scott (a contemporary of Bessie Smith). Wiggins spent most of his career playing as a duo with the late John Cephas. Besides being a renowned harmonica player, he is also a gifted songwriter and singer whose material helped to define the duo's sound. As a harmonica-guitar duo, Cephas & Wiggins were uniquely able to exemplify the synthesis of African and European elements which co-exist in the blues. Much of the melody and imagery is Western, of course. However, the call-and-response interplay between the harmonica and guitar, the complimentary rhythms, and the microtonal slurs generated by "stretched" guitar strings and "bent" harmonica notes are all quintessentially African.