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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Isaac Coleman, 2011

A 2011 interview with the late activist, Isaac Coleman by Rob NeufeldCivil rights activist and local civic leader Isaac Coleman, born Nov. 6, 1943 in Lexington, Ky., lived his last 44 years in Asheville, and died on May 10, 2016,.We talked in 2011 about his career, starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. Q:  Was the SNCC your first involvement in civil rights? A:   I was a student at Knoxville College, an African-American College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and…See More
May 22
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Stories by the River Benefit for Girls Rock Asheville at Ole Shakeys 790 Riverside Drive in AVL

May 21, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Sip a drink by the river and enjoy stories and songs on a warm spring day!All donations benefit Girls Rock Asheville!Stories read by:Lori Horvitz  Melanie McGee Bianchi  Kim Winter Mako  Ky Delaney  and Lockie Huntermusical guests Leo+VirgoSee More
May 18
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 4, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm
Author Susan S. Kelly will the speaker at Montreat College Friends of the Library annual luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 4, 2016.  She is the author of five novels and a major contributing author to Our State Magazine.Call 828-669-8012 Ext. 3502 for Reservations.  $16.00See More
May 17
Sheilah Jastrzebski replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion The history of Oakley
"This is an interesting article.  It gives a few clues to the neighborhood I imagine from the old days. The woman from who my husband and I bought our Oakley home, Melody,  always talks about "Mr. Wilson" who entrusted her with…"
May 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The history of Oakley

Oakley is a place with an unforgettable historyby Rob NeufeldAn earlier time PHOTO CAPTION: The Taylor family of Oakley: Jean, Virgil, Sadie Louise, and Dan, c. 1936.  Photo courtesy Dan Taylor.            “We had hobos come to our house, and my mother would never turn them away,” Dan Taylor says of his experience…See More
May 13
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
May 13
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends quarterly poetry and prose reading at Downtown Books and News

May 6, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Join your fellow literature-craving citizens at the next upcoming Juniper Bends reading on Friday May 6th at 7PM. We will be luxuriating in sound, soaking up nutritious poetry & prose after the dark winter. Our series aims to bring together both established and emerging writers, and we are honored to bring together Gary Hawkins, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie Johnson and Michael Pittard's collective word-magic for this lovely spring evening. As usual, our generous host site is Downtown Books…See More
May 3
Jack Underwood shared a profile on Facebook
May 3
Rob Neufeld commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Edwin, some are touched by the Holy Spirit, and find voice to our amazement.  Yet there are many who are not heard, no matter how much we'd like to hear.  How will you amaze? "
May 2
Edwin Ammons commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Do none consider that a greater power has designed all this and that all these recent discoveries are a tiny part of it? von Humboldt will not rise from the dust until I do and I am still upright so he must wait. Upon that eventful day it will be…"
May 2
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
May 1
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
Apr 30
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25

The Asheville Symphony scores its 50th--looking back at its history

Symphony No. 50--The roots and genesis of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra

Brooklyn-born Aaron Copland won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945 for his ballet, “Appalachian Spring.” Eighteen years earlier, Lamar Stringfield of Asheville had won a fellowship from the Pulitzer Prize jury for “the student of music in America who may be deemed the most talented and deserving.”


Stringfield, the committee noted, already had forty-one compositions to his credit, “many of which have been constructed by the use of folk music that has been preserved by the mountaineers of Western North Carolina.” The fellowship would yield his orchestral suite, “From the Southern Mountains.”


Stringfield was ahead of the curve.


“It is surprising that Stringfield’s name is not better known and his influence better acknowledged, in Appalachia at least,” wrote Douglas Nelson in his 1971 Chapel Hill dissertation, “The Life and Works of Lamar Stringfield (1897-1959).”


The Asheville Symphony acknowledges Stringfield as it opens its 50th anniversary season, September 18. Included with the program will be a book of memories, written by Arnold Wengrow from interviews with long-time participants.


Stringfield had been alive when the new Asheville Symphony had begun as an application for incorporation in 1958. By the time of its first concert in 1961, he was already two years dead.


The new organization took its name from the one that Stringfield had organized in 1927, when he had twenty-four musicians combine for a big, conducted sound. Five years later, he left to establish the North Carolina Symphony, the first state symphony in the country.


Stringfield’s historic achievements depended upon the development of great musicians, the presence of strong conductors, and an inclusion of contemporary orchestral music—principles that the current Asheville Symphony carries forward.


The roots of this movement rest in Asheville.


A local genius' raising


Stringfield and his bunch played instruments a lot when he was a boy here. During World War I, when he was twenty, he played cornet and flute for the North Carolina Regimental Band, composed mostly of boys from Western North Carolina.


“The bandsmen,” Nelson writes, “served also as first-aid litter bearers assigned to the Medical Corps with the duty of picking up the wounded.” Joseph DeNardo, Stringfield’s bandmaster, recalled in an Oct. 22, 1967 issue of the Asheville Citizen-Times that the band members had brought in casualties from the front in France at the rate of one every fifteen minutes.


It was during this period—when a release from horror was necessary—that Stringfield switched from cornet to flute, made remarkable progress in his playing, and began composing music.


He asked DeNardo, “If you take mountain music, would it be all right to put it into art song?”


Stringfield subsequently studied in Paris and conducted in New York. He won a prize for his flute and string quartet piece, “Indian Legend,” based on Cherokee themes. He performed Charles Griffes’ “Poem for Flute and Orchestra” at the Institute of Musical Art (now Julliard), featuring an American work for the first time in the school’s history.


To Asheville to start a symphony


On June 1, 1927, the announcement: “Come to the Plaza Theatre,” appeared on invitations from Stringfield for the first performance of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Among other things, he’d be conducting, “Mountain Song” from his suite, “From the Southern Mountains.”


Stringfield went on to pioneer many fields of musical endeavor: a folk institute, music therapy, collaborations with vocal mountain music, an amateur symphony orchestra, and a national symphony society. In 1942, he put his effort—seventy-six hours a week—toward ending World War II by working in an airplane factory.


The post-war period was Stringfield’s time of decline. He applied for teaching jobs, and was denied because he didn’t have a teaching degree. He continued to compose music, including songs for Hubert Hayes’ outdoor drama, “Thunderland,” but failed to get good income from it by promoting his song, “Daniel Boone,” as a pop single.


His health worsened. He began to feel hopeless about his influence. At the same time, the incorporation papers went in for “The Little Asheville Symphony Inc.” (“Little” was removed from the name in 1961.)


Stringfield died on January 21, 1959, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery.




The symphony’s rebirth involves personal stories


When John Bridges, 29-year-old theater and music enthusiast, returned home from New York City in 1956 and stepped off the train at the Asheville depot, he soon found himself in the midst of a renaissance.


Musicians hungry for an orchestra were gathering in the basement of Beth Ha Tephila to perform what they could: suites and overtures. The funding drought of the 1930s and ‘40s had made Lamar Stringfield’s 1927 Asheville Symphony Orchestra a long ago idyll.


“The first concerts that I heard were dreadful,” Bridges recalls about the mid-50’s get-togethers. “But we said, ‘We’ve got to get it started.’… It was more like a club. We had to beg people in advance, ‘Please come,’ so we could have a few people in the audience.”


Within a short time, the growth of what would become the current Asheville Symphony started.


Margaret Ligon, head librarian at Pack Memorial Library, hired Bridges to direct programs from the newly renovated basement in the library on Pack Square. His friendships led him to Joe Vanderwart, a pianist; and Helen Sorton, who would become the nascent group’s executive director.


Vanderwart knew all the musicians. He played in ensembles in people’s homes as well with the infant orchestra in spaces provided by the synagogue, the Asheville Middle School, and the First Presbyterian Church.


Asheville was his second chance at being a music maestro.


Vanderwart's former life


In the 1930s, Vanderwart had made a living playing piano with groups in Bavarian living rooms. Then, in 1939, the Nazis notified the Jews in his town to report to a center.


“He knew what it meant,” Bridges says about his friend, “but he went anyway. When he got there, the man in uniform who was checking everybody in was one of the people he had played concerts for.”


Without showing any signs of recognizing Joe, the officer told him, “You’re not in the age group. Go quickly.” Joe left and hid until he could get passage to New York, where he made ends meet by selling vacuum cleaners.


Joe met Jeanette Goldberg in New York. In the 1950's, they moved to Asheville, where Joe was employed in the lumber business.


Helen Sorton


Helen Sorton, a string bass player, came to Asheville after having served as the publicity chairman of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte. She established a regular schedule of what was at first called the Asheville Little Symphony. She persuaded city manager, Weldon Weir to give her an office in City Hall.


She initiated a fund-raising drive, which in turn compelled the symphony’s improvement. In 1961, the group hired Thomas Cousins, a composer and Brevard College instructor, to serve as the first continuing conductor. The word “little” was dropped from the symphony’s name.


The triumph, including the inaugural concert, Oct. 17, 1961, was the result of a new level of interest, organization, and funding in town. Talent had resided for a while.


Grace Potter Carroll, a pianist who had studied with Theodor Leschetizky, Paderewski’s teacher, taught select students in Asheville. Handel’s “Messiah” and the Rhododendron Parade involved large choruses and bands.


Frank Rutland, one of the symphony orchestra’s founders, took time off from his career as a chemist to play violin in small groups; and Jane McEntire, who worked for Hayes & Hopson Auto Supply, performed as a contralto.


At at least one of the small group performances, Lamar Stringfield, the genius of the earlier symphony, showed up. Arnold Wengrow, a symphony historian, has tracked down the diary of the then conductor, Sol Cohen, to the University of Illinois with the help of archivist Ryan Ross.


“The largest group yet,” Cohen wrote on Oct. 27, 1958 about that night’s rehearsal. “The little room upstairs in the Presbyterian Church completely filled. No Frank Rutland, no music, so I asked Lamar (Stringfield) to take over.”


When Stringfield left, Cohen took over. “I had to despite my resolution to quit,” he wrote.


“Well, it was rather a triumph,” he noted, “and Agnes (Whitman), who was there as acting concertmaster, was sweetness itself. Love apparently ruled, and I have never felt such a sense of power. Mozart g minor, Bach, all went with rhythmical precision and a dynamic force that was new to me. . . The whole evening was a revelation of harmony and joy.”


LEARN MORE

  • The Asheville Symphony, conducted by Daniel Meyer, opens its 2010-11 season — its 50th — on Sept. 18.
  • The symphony also performs at Asheville's Labor Day festivities, 7 p.m. Sept. 6, in Pack Square Park.
  • The Asheville Symphony's booklet, “Great Music Makes Great Memories: 50 Seasons of the Asheville Symphony,” will be published in October.
  • Visit www.ashevillesymphony.org or call 254-7046.

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