Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 13, 2008

Fiddlers’ Convention showcases roots of American music

TAZEWELL, Va. — After taking in the sights and sounds of the Sixth Annual Tazewell County Old Time & Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention Saturday night, Alan Jabbour and his wife, Karen Singer Jabbour, spent a few hours Sunday morning visiting the Smithsonian Institute’s “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” traveling exhibit at the Crab Orchard Museum.

“It’s always different, everywhere the exhibit goes,” Alan Jabbour, 66, said Saturday evening after his appearance at the fiddlers’ convention. “It’s a great idea because there is so much diversity in the roots of American music.”

“When we took it to Hopewell, Va., the local community created another component for the exhibit by including a local exhibit on the music of that area,” Karen Jabbour said. “They made the exhibit unique to their community.”

Alan Jabbour is both a renowned old-time fiddle player and is founding director of the Smithsonian’s American Folklife Center. In 1966, Jabbour traveled to Glen Lyn, Va., and visited with the legendary old time fiddle tune master, Henry Reed. Three years later, Jabbour accepted a position with the Library of Congress and recorded Reed to preserve tunes that had been passed down from generation to generation by fiddler players who practiced their skills in the isolated Appalachian Mountains.

“The minute I listened to Henry Reed play, I thought to myself: ‘Wow! This is my mentor.’ I met him relatively late in his life and some of his skills were not as good as they had once been, and many people told me I should have heard him play when he was younger, but if you’re a fiddler, you can hear the music through the static.”

Jabbour played and lectured Saturday night to a fiddlers’ convention crowd at the Tazewell County Fairgrounds that seemed to laugh on cue, applaud when a remark called for it, but for the most part, sat almost suspended in the pin-drop silence as Jabbour talked about the tunes, the stories Henry Reed connected with each one and his subsequent research that confirmed the origins. For example, Jabbour introduced his performance of a fiddle tune called “Santa Anna’s Retreat,” that Reed learned from Quince Dillon.

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