Saturday, August 2, 2008

Song of the Mountains

In between showers we were able to take a few photographs of the restoration work called "Streetscape" (see July 30th entry) in downtown Marion, VA. The exterior of the buildings seem to have been given a good cleaning, because there is crispness to the brickwork that looks like "bath night" was very recent.

I thought I would just show some scenes from Main Street while writing about Marion from Joe Tennis' Southwest Crossroads of Virginia. The first two photos are of store fronts on the opposite side of Main Street from the General Francis Marion Hotel (photo 3) and the Lincoln Theater (photo 4).

In October, Marion celebrates Mountain Dew Days, a festival honoring one of the town's biggest claims to fame. The late William "Bill" Jones formulated the flavor of the soft drink Mountain Dew in Merion, following a series of experiments in the early 1960s at Marion's Tip Corp.

But the story actually begins much earlier. Barney and Allie Hartman of Knoxville, Tennessee, originated the lime green beverage as a mixer in the late 1940s. That mixer was redeveloped in 1954 as a soft drink called "Mountain Dew," bottled in Johnson City, TN, by Charles Gordon, in association with the Hartman brothers. The three of them later sold the original formula and the "Mountain Dew" name to Bill Jones.

By 1961, Jones had acquired all the rights and introduced Mountain Dew to regional stores. Sales soon grew and attracted the attention of Pepsi-Cola Company, which bought the Tip Corp. and Mountain Dew in 1964. And the rest . . . .

Tonight's performances were being taped for airing on the program entitled Song of the Mountains on PBS stations nationwide. Since it was a four-hour performance with Dale Ann Bradley, Tim White and Friends, the Circuit Riders, the Country Saloon, and the Snyder Family Band and there is only one Song of the Mountains show at the theater this month, I'm assuming this evening's performance will be divided and shown in four episodes. [Check your local listings for "Song of the Mountain" on PBS and look for us in the first row stage left (and TV screen left).]

The two photos shown here were taken before the performances began and show the stage, the TV cameras, and portions of the Mayan-influence theater (see July 30th entry). The theater is beautiful and the sound system is excellent. The townspeople can be (and are) very proud of the restoration of this grand theater.

Regarding the performance, the evening was unusual in that the two opening acts were, in our opinion, the most entertaining groups. The Snyder Family featured 9-year-old Samantha on fiddle and 13-year-old Zeb on guitar. Bud, their father, played bass, but it was Samantha and Zeb who introduced each other to the audience, announced the selections, and played well beyond their ages. Zeb played a tune he had written that showed a complexity beyond the level of an early attempt at composition. Remember their names.

The second group that caught our interest was the Country Saloon from Russia. The program notes say: "The band plays a hard drive Bluegrass style influenced by Newgrass Revival." I would have described the playing of the band and the fiddle playing in particular as "fierce." I didn't catch any of the names, but the woman playing fiddle played faster and with more intensity than any other person in any other group we've seen.

It was very enjoyable to hear how bluegrass was "translated" by this very talented group of performers. (In 2006 and 2007, they took second place at the Europe Bluegrass Festival.)

I took this last photograph just to show the contrast between the decorative Mayan artwork on the theater wall and the television camera.

Quite a range of cultures represented in this theater tonight.

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