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Kathryn Byer & Richard Krawiec Joint Poetry Reading at City Lights Bookstore

June 14, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm
Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Byer and Richard Krawiec will be reading from their new collections of poetry on Sunday, June 14th at 1 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Kathryn’s new chapbook from Jacar Press, The Vishnu Bird, is both a memorial and memoir in lyric poetry. This clean-spoken, deeply-felt chapbook remembers the poet’s dear friend by tracing his vocation of anthropology, and honoring his spiritual depth through vignettes from the speaker’s own past. Richard Krawiec will…See More
2 hours ago
Glenda Council Beall posted an event
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Steven Harvey at Writers Circle at Writers Circlle around the Table

June 27, 2015 from 10am to 1pm
Writing workshop with Steve Harvey, retired professor at YHC and on faculty for Ashland University MFA.See More
3 hours ago
Ron Cooper replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash
"Terrific review and interview, Rob. Glad to see that Ron had full control over this collection. All of his work deserves to be read and re-read."
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Kathryn Stripling Byer updated their profile
Thursday
Lawrence Thackston posted a blog post

The Devil Returns!

Very excited to announce to my friends here at The Read on WNC that my publisher, Holladay House Publishing, will be re-releasing The Devil's Courthouse this summer. We are having a release celebration at Bearmeat's Indian Den in Cherokee, NC on Saturday, June 6, from 11 to 4. If you are in the area, please come out and help us celebrate! And we will be visiting bookstores across the WNC throughout the coming months!See More
Thursday
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Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Thursday
Sally Johnson posted an event

Book Launch: John E. Batchelor to Sign and Celebrate Newest Cookbook CHEFS OF THE COAST at Scuppernong Books

June 2, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
Help John F. Blair, Publisher, and food critic/restaurant reviewer John E. Batchelor celebrate the launch of his newest book, CHEFS OF THE COAST. There will be light refreshments and an opportunity to have your book signed by the author. The event, which starts at 7:00 PM, will be at Scuppernong Books.  For more information about CHEFS OF THE COAST please visit…See More
Wednesday
eston e. roberts posted a blog post

Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living

Eston Roberts announces publication of Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living--a re-definition and application of metaphor.See More
Tuesday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Tuesday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Steve Inskeep on Andrew Jackson and Cherokees--May 31 and June 1, 2015

Steve Inskeep, NPR Journalist, To Talk about Jacksonland at Cherokee Museumfrom press releaseSteve Inskeep will be speaking at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian about his new book, JACKSONLAND: President Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab.  The event begins at 2 pm Sunday May 31 at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian at 589 Tsali Boulevard in Cherokee, North Carolina. The event is open to the public free of charge.   The author will talk, discuss, and sign books,…See More
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City Lights Bookstore updated an event
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Contemplative Photography Companion for the Journey Home at City Lights Bookstore

June 6, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Asheville author Tina FireWolf will visit City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, June 6th at 3 p.m. to present her book, Beneath the Chatter.  Tina FireWolf will ignite your fire! Join her to hear how a 3 ft. tall corn plant was the sign to go on an adventure to write her book! She will share her personal story and tales from her book that illuminate  life lessons and help ignite us into Everyday Enlightenment. You will leave with a light heart and wider eyes to the world around you. Beneath the…See More
May 23

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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