Music has always played an important role in the lives of people in Appalachia. When the settlers arrived, the most remote and rustic house probably had a musical instrument of some sort. Longhunters may have carried a pennywhistle or jew’s harp on their solitary treks in the mountains.
Settlers from England, the Scottish Lowlands and Ulster brought ballads and dance music with fiddles to accompany them. Songs and melodies from greater Europe arrived with German, French, Polish and Czech settlers. The dulcimer is believed to be a modification of the German Scheitholt. Enslaved African Americans brought a tradition of communal worship and work songs with a style and rhythm that were quickly incorporated into musical pieces. They also introduced the banjo, an iconic symbol of Appalachian culture, to the region in the 18th century. The guitar originated in Spain and was in the colonies but became popular in the early years of the 20th century. It was then soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War, where they had heard guitar music in Cuba and other Spanish-speaking areas, who ordered guitars from catalogs.
As areas became more populated, families would gather with their neighbors and bring whatever instruments they had. Those without instruments used readily available items such as basins, buckets, spoons, washboards, and jugs to join in the fun. Musicians who played fiddle, dulcimer, mandolin, guitar, and banjo brought their diverse backgrounds together to form new and dynamic music. Old-time, bluegrass, and country music genres all originated in the Appalachian Mountains.
The county of Transylvania has a rich musical heritage. Musicians Harley Raines and Ray Smith have generations of music makers in their family trees. The two played for 40 years as part of Sounds of Silvermont and now provide upbeat entertainment at the Cathey’s Creek Community Center on Thursday nights. They will bring their music and pieces of Transylvania history to the stage during the Appalachian Folk Festival on Saturday, October 8 at the Allision-Deaver House in the Pisgah Forest. The festival starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Hightop Harmony will take the stage at 10:15 a.m., Skyward Blue at noon, and Harley and Ray at 2 p.m. There will be activities for the whole family, home tours, programs and artisans. . Bring the family and get a taste of Appalachian culture. Festival sponsors are College Walk Senior Living Community, Ecusta Brewing and Fisher Realty.
To learn more about Appalachian culture, visit the Transylvanian Heritage Museum at 189 W. Main St. The museum’s exhibit, Mountain Legacies: Exploring Appalachian Culture, will run through October 15. The exhibit and accompanying programs are supported by North Carolina Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The museum is open Thursday to Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.