Culture is a term that is sometimes difficult to define. A dictionary definition would focus on the collective beliefs, customs, and arts of a particular group of people. A more layman definition is “the way we do things – most of the time.”
In Alleghany County, the arts culture stretches along a lengthy continuum. Locally raised country music star Del Reeves and Bill Monroe’s fiddler, Art Wooten, anchor spots along that continuum. A variety of old-time and bluegrass musicians are scattered up and down that line. Visual artists craft beautiful pottery, baskets, quilts, paintings and stained glass panels. Writers and poets craft prose that stirs our imaginations. Local farmers add to the arts culture with symmetrical rows of Christmas trees, fields of pumpkins, and acres of rolling pastureland.
Reflective of that arts culture is an overall way of life that is self-reliant and self-sufficient. Yet, we understand the necessity and value in coming together to accomplish things that can’t be accomplished alone. On the surface it seems to be an odd mixture of independence and interdependence. But, in fact, the mixture makes perfect sense.
A group of diverse, county women are working together to bring the symphony to Alleghany County. Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Rita Woodruff, Frances Huber, and Una Lindh have deep roots in the community and a strong desire to deepen the arts culture of the county.
This isn’t a new idea. Some 60 plus years ago, Gene and Margaret Motsinger brought the North Carolina Symphony to Sparta. Before settling in Alleghany permanently, France Huber recalls being invited to the symphony by the Motsingers in 1994. When she returned to Atlanta, her city friend asked what exactly she did when in Alleghany County. Conscious of the subtle accusation, Frances answered rather smugly, “I attended the symphony.”
Native residents recall the buildup during their school days leading up to the symphony’s arrival in town. They listened to recordings and learned about the various instruments. They remember a presentation in which a group of children sang along with the performance.
But somewhere along the way, the symphony stopped coming to Sparta. Three years ago, this dedicated group of women decided it was time to bring classical music back up the mountain. With the help of Charlie Scott of Alleghany Community Television, the group was put in touch with Western Piedmont Symphony. Based in Hickory, NC, the company has brought their musical talents to Sparta for the past two years.
The mission of this endeavor is very much the same as when the Motsingers began this journey years ago: to expose school aged children to the symphony (grades 3-8 will experience a special afternoon concert); to reinforce the love of all music throughout the community; and to generate broad appeal for all artistic mediums.
It has been said that music bridges perceived gaps that separate individuals and brings people together. Classical cellist Yo Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer and bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Conner teamed together to blend classical and traditional mountain music, exhibiting how the two genres aren’t so far apart.
Here in Sparta, this group has set out to do the same. Their desire is to see a full house of happy people leave the concert eager to experience the vast array of Alleghany culture -the way we do things around here (at least most of the time). Taken collectively, it is all Absolutely Alleghany.
Save the Date:
The Western Piedmont Symphony will perform at the Alleghany Community Auditorium on August 27, 2015. The pubic performance begins at 7:00 pm. Seating is priced from $20.00 to a very affordable $5.00.
For information about helping sponsor this event, contact Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Chair of the Friends of the Alleghany Community Auditorium at 336-472-4401.