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Bluegrass Breaking Up Christmas Concert at BCM

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Breaking Up Christmas ConcertJoin us on Saturday, January 6 at 7pm for a Bluegrass Breaking Up Christmas Concert featuring The New Smokey Valley Boys, The Cabin Creek Boys, and Mountain Park Old Time Band! Breaking Up Christmas is an old Blue Ridge Mountains tradition where people celebrated the 12 days of Christmas with house parties filled with old-time stringband music and Appalachian cheer. January 6 marks the end of those 12 days, and what better way to say goodbye to the festive season and welcome in the new year than with a night of energetic and entertaining old-time music live in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Performance Theater and broadcast via Radio Bristol?

This concert program is inspired by the current special exhibit The Luthier’s Craft: Instrument Making Traditions of the Blue Ridge. Several band members are luthiers featured in this exhibit, including Kevin Fore from The New Smokey Valley Boys, Chris Testerman from The Cabin Creek Boys, and Johnny Gentry from the Mountain Park Old Time Band.

Special thanks to Renasant Bank for sponsoring this event. Tickets for this event are $15 + Virginia admission tax.

The New Smokey Valley Boys are a group of young men who have come together to honor one of-old time music’s greatest string bands: Benton Flippen and the Smokey Valley Boys. The original group based out of Surry County, North Carolina, was led by the late Flippen and Paul Sutphin from the 1970s all the way through to Flippen’s death in 2011. Though various members came and went, the group was known for its hard-driving square dance style and received numerous awards over the decades. Along the way Flippen invited younger folks to be a part of his group, including current members of the New Smokey Valley Boys. Andy Edmonds was a member of the group for 12 years and learned to fiddle directly under the guidance of Flippen. Kevin Fore also played with Flippen for numerous years and provided a solid Round Peak banjo sound for the band. Wes Clifton comes from a long line of musicians, including his legendary grandfather Verlen Clifton; Wes played in the Smokey Valley Boys the last few years of Flippen’s life. Todd Hiatt also comes from a very musical family and adds mandolin to the band in true Surry County fashion. Though these guys have played together for years in various combinations, this group is dedicated to reviving a particular sound that once dominated the old-time scene.

Mountain Park Old Time Band was formed 10 years ago as a group of friends who happened to enjoy old-time music getting together to have a good time. Members of the band include Roger Stamper (fiddle & vocals), Dr. Mark Handy (banjo & vocals) Johnny Gentry (guitar, Dobro & vocals) C.T. Janney (Wwashboard & flatfoot dDancer) and Nancy Gentry (bass). The band has been very fortunate to have played at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, the Carter Fold, the Blue Ridge Music Center, just to name a few. The band plays at the Alleghany Jubilee the second and fifth Saturday of every month, and they have been featured on All Things Considered on NPR for playing at the second longest radio show in the country on WPAQ. They have opened for the bluegrass super group Blue Highway, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. They have been the winners of Instrumental Group of the year at the Blue Ridge Uprising in 2013. Mountain Park Old Time Band is known for their dance music whether it be square dance, flat foot, clogging, two step, or waltz. More than anything, they have a great time and it shows in their performances!

The Cabin Creek Boys play old-time hillbilly music from the mountains of southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina, performing at area fiddlers conventions, festivals, square dances, and other community events. Led by multi-instrumentalist husband and wife duo Chris and Erika Testerman of Lansing, North Carolina, the band also includes Jackson Cunningham of Grant, Virginia, on guitar; Trish Kilby Fore of Galax, Virginia, on clawhammer banjo; and Jerry Steinberg of Salem, Virginia, on bass.

Chris Testerman was raised in the Whitetop section of Grayson County, Virginia. While attending Mount Rogers Combined School, he became interested in fiddle playing and was a member of the Mount Rogers School String Band. After a lot of hard work, determination, and guidance from mentors Thornton and Emily Spencer, Chris emerged as a strong Whitetop-style fiddler. Chris toured Canada in 2013 and the United Kingdom in 2014 with the Whitetop Mountain Band. Following in the footsteps of another legendary Whitetop fiddler, Albert Hash, Chris also builds fiddles; he learned much of his craft from Audrey Hash Ham and Archie Elmer Powers. Chris also sings harmony for the Cabin Creek Boys in the style of the early Stanley Brothers recordings.

Erika Testerman, originally from Mount Airy, North Carolina, grew up in a musical community and was taught and influenced by well-known Surry County musicians Chester McMillian and Mac and Steve Snow. Erika and Chris teach in the Sparta School’s Junior Appalachian Musicians program and feel it is important to pass on the area’s musical traditions to the younger generation. Many times during the Cabin Creek Boys performances, Erika will lay down her guitar and pick up a fiddle, joining Chris on a few toe-tapping tunes. Erika also brings a real talent for singing to the Cabin Creek Boys.

Jackson Cunningham, from southern Oregon, is no stranger to old-time and bluegrass. He grew up around music and has been playing guitar and singing most of his life. He has toured in many different states and abroad, including England and Australia. Like Chris, Jackson is a luthier and specializes in building guitars and fiddles; he learned most of his techniques from Wayne Henderson, Herb Key, and Audrey Hash Ham. Jackson does most of the lead singing for the Cabin Creek Boys and will happily pull out his mandolin for a tune on occasion.

Born and raised in the Lansing community of Ashe County, Trish Kilby Fore began playing the clawhammer banjo after suffering a knee injury playing softball. Trish was fortunate to be around many good musicians growing up and attended jam sessions and dances with her grandparents. Trish’s banjo playing style was influenced by Emily Spencer, Enoch Rutherford, Harold B. Hausenfluck, and Larry Pennington. In 1997, Trish had the opportunity to tour Germany and France with the old-time band the Farmer’s Daughters. Married to banjo player and maker Kevin Fore, Trish often plays a Round Peak banjo with a Formica checkerboard-design neck that he made for her. Trish also sings a few songs with the Cabin Creek Boys.

Although Jerry Steinberg was not born in Virginia, he got here as quick as he could, and he has made his home in Salem, Virginia, for most of his life. Jerry learned to play the bass in his mid-30s and was lucky to get his start in old time with Kyle Creed and in bluegrass with Ted Lundy. Jerry’s timing is the foundation for the Cabin Creek Boys’ hard-driving, high-energy and danceable beat; Jerry can walk, slap, and chime the bass. A walking encyclopedia of old-time, bluegrass and hillbilly music, Jerry is often sought-out by fellow musicians, academics, and the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine to answer those “hard-to-answer-type” questions.

The Cabin Creek Boys have fun entertaining audiences with their style of traditional music that includes old-time hoedown instrumentals, bluegrass songs, two-step numbers and waltzes, and they love to make people happy with their music.

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