Noted musician and songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler, a Berea College alumnus, “is bringin’ it home” at this year’s Celebration of Traditional Music (CTM) with tales of ‘Memories Through Songs’ featuring traditional Appalachian folk music.
The festival’s opening event on Thursday, Oct. 10, will be the Stephenson Memorial Convocation Concert, headlined by Wheeler along with performances by Doug Orr of Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada and Whitewater Bluegrass Company from Ashville, North Carolina. The Convocation begins at 8 p.m., in Phelps Stokes Chapel on the Berea College campus.
Country Music Hall of Fame winner Chet Atkins said of Wheeler, “Billy Edd is a talented country boy who’ll never lose the common touch.”
Wheeler graduated from Warren Wilson College (North Carolina) in 1953 and from Berea College in 1955 before graduating from Yale’s School of Drama with a degree in playwriting. Wheeler was recently inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Association of Songwriters International’s Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of Distinguished Alumnus awards from Warren Wilson College and Berea College.
The 46th annual Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music will take place Oct. 11 to 14. Friday’s events include performances by Mike and Carrie Kline, The Pedigos, Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno, the Berea College Folk-Roots Ensemble and The Berea Bluegrass Ensemble. CTM’s first Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Loyal Jones, who started the event in 1974. The day starts at 11:30 a.m. with a performance by Mike and Carrie Kline in Hutchins Library and goes to 11:30 p.m. ending with a “Jam Session” led by Donna Lamb in The Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant.
Saturday opens an opportunity to learn more about the Appalachian Arts with hands-on activities with musicians and events near the Indian Fort Theater. Caller, Ron Buchanan, and Illegal Contraband will play a Saturday afternoon dance at the Pinnacles and a Saturday night dance at Woods-Penn Commons on campus. Saturday workshops start at the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Activities include Harmony Singing with the Lawson Family Band and Song Writing with Vivian Leva. Events at the Indian Fort Theater start at 10 a.m. with a fiddle contest with judges including Tom Cunnigham and Riley Calcagno.
The CTM concludes on Sunday morning with a gospel singing at Union Church from 9 to 10 a.m. led by singers Liza DiSavino, The Pedigos, Mike and Carrie Kline, Carol Elizabeth Jones, members of the Lawson Family and Vivian Leva/Riley Calcagno.
This year’s CTM will feature Berea’s first fiddle contest since the 1920s, which will have three divisions: age 12 and under, age 13 to 18, and over 18. The winner of each division will be awarded $50 and will perform at the Saturday evening concert. Contestants must pre-register by sending a $10 application fee and contact information to Elizabeth DiSavino, director, Celebration of Traditional Music, CPO 2194, Berea College, Berea, KY, 40403.
Admission is $10 to the evening concerts, $5 for the evening dance and $5 for entry to the craft fair (except for fiddle auditionees and their families). All other events are free to the general public, and all events are free for Berea College students with ID and for children age 10 and younger. For more information and schedule, call 859-985-3472, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Celebration of Traditional Music is partially supported by a grant by the L. Allen Smith Memorial Fund and is presented by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, the Music Department, the Celebration of Traditional Music Committee, and the members of the Berea College Folk-Roots Ensemble.
The Celebration of Traditional Music, established in 1972, encourages homemade music passed on from person to person in the Appalachian Region, and the musicians who play it. The longevity of CTM makes it one of Kentucky’s oldest music festivals. Many notable musicians have performed through the years, including Jean Ritchie, Bradley Kincaid, Billy Edd Wheeler, John McCutcheon, Alice Gerrard, Mike Seeger, Lily Mae Ledford, David Holt, Guy Carawan, Shelia Kay Adams, J.P. Fraley, John Harrod, Roscoe Holcombe, Bill Livers, and Addie Graham.