More than 180 digital assets from the ​Virginia Folklife Program can be viewed online thanks to a new partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. By partnering with cultural institutions worldwide, Google is making important cultural materials easily accessible to a large audience and digitally preserving the materials for future generations. The Virginia Folklife Program’s Eastern Virginia Gospel exhibit was launched for Black History Month along with those from an impressive array of other exhibitions focusing on African American history, arts, and culture. The Virginia Folklife’s exhibit joins nearly eighty others created by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The King Center, and many others.

Launch in full screen »

The Virginia Folklife Program’s virtual exhibit entitled Eastern Virginia Gospel connects viewers worldwide with some of the Commonwealth’s most unique gospel treasures in just a few clicks. Key elements of the exhibit include:

  • National Heritage Fellows The Paschall Brothers’ legacy explored through twenty years of photographs and recordings featuring never-before-seen concert footage of the Tidewater quartet.
  • Selections from the late “Gospel Queen of Richmond” Maggie Ingram’s family audio archive, including “I Come to the Garden,” a unique recording that strays from the better-known and more raucous gospel tunes of Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes.
  • “Put Me Down Easy: The Charlie McClendon Story,” a 30-minute documentary feature exploring racial relations in the Tidewater region of Virginia through R&B music of the 1960s.

In the exhibit, rare recordings such as those from the archives of the late evangelist Rev. Maggie Ingram are paired with a family history by Richmond-based journalist Don Harrison and photo and video assets from the Virginia Folklife Program archive. “Maggie is a national treasure, not just in her interpretations of gospel standards and spirituals, but also in her own compositions. She’s one of the great writers of gospel music,” said Jon Lohman, Virginia State Folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program. “Through Maggie’s story and others, this exhibit will shed light on the largely unknown significance of Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Norfolk to the development of the gospel music tradition. The Google Cultural Institute’s recognition of these individuals as great American artists is an exciting opportunity and invitation for further exploration.”

Sherman Holmes’ solo debut album, The Richmond Sessions, drops July 21

Special guests include Sammy Shelor, Rob Ickes, the Legendary Ingramettes, Joan Osborne, and more

Now available from these retailers:

iTunes Amazon Best Buy Barnes & Noble

On July 21, musician Sherman Holmes will release his first solo recording in his more than fifty-year career. The Richmond Sessions by the Sherman Holmes Project carries on the spirit of the revered Holmes Brothers by reimagining songs and making them their own. Produced by the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the record will be released by M.C. Records and will be promoted with a tour in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and New York, beginning in June 2017 (see below for specific dates and locations).

Sherman Holmes’ solo debut The Richmond Sessions can’t help being a milestone: it’s the esteemed singer and bassist’s first recording since the passing of his brother and musical partners in the Holmes Brothers, Wendell Holmes and Popsy Dixon, both in 2015. But his solo debut, dedicated to the memories of Wendell and Popsy, is no somber affair. The blend of bluegrass, gritty rock ‘n’ roll, and joyful gospel will be familiar to Holmes Brothers fans. And with some of his strongest vocals to date, the album demonstrates that Sherman is still an artist in his prime.

“Sounds pretty good for a 77-year-old, doesn’t it?” Holmes laughs. “I was overjoyed to do this, because I didn’t know how I was going to restart my career. We chose a good collection of songs that we wanted to do—we got some gospel in there, and some bluegrass. It’s a good mix of the Americana music, as I like to call it.”

Produced by Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman, The Richmond Sessions draws from Holmes’ longstanding Virginia roots. Its origins go back to 2014, when all three of the Holmes Brothers took part in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, sharing their expertise with young musicians. Wendell and Popsy both took ill before the apprenticeship could be completed, but Sherman stayed on to complete his mentorship. “I think that really helped him emotionally to get through it,” Lohman recalls. Sherman performed with his apprentice, a young singer named Whitney Nelson at the finale show; Lohman then persuaded him to take to the piano for a solo version of “I Want Jesus”—a gospel tune he’d sung in church as a child. “I was so moved by that, and went up to him right afterward and said, ‘We should really do a Sherman Holmes record,’ ” Lohman recalls.

Long beloved in the roots music world and beyond, the Holmes Brothers formed as a group in 1979, though the members had all been playing for decades by then. Sherman played behind the likes of Jerry Butler and John Lee Hooker in the early 1960s. The Brothers didn’t make an album together until In the Spirit in 1980, but word spread fast after that. Their fans were as diverse as Peter Gabriel (who not only signed them to his Real World label but had them back him on solo tracks) and Bill Clinton who had them play a presidential gala. They racked up numerous blues music awards and did further guest shots with Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, and Odetta. After their last album together—Brotherhood in 2014—they were honored with a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the government bestows upon traditional artists.

Producer Lohman made the new album a Virginia-style family affair, bringing in guests like the Ingramettes (Richmond’s “first family of gospel” of 50 years standing) and instrumentalists like dobro master Rob Ickes (twice nominated for a Grammy Award) and Sammy Shelor (multi-time IBMA banjoist of the year). Lohman added lesser-known but equally talented musicians Brandon Davis on guitar, Jacob Eller on bass, David Van Deventer on fiddle, and multi-instrumentalist Jared Pool. Manning the Hammond B-3 organ was Devon Harris (aka DJ Harrison), whose roots are in hip-hop and who has sat in with ?uestlove and the Roots. “The Holmes Brothers were always a group that transgressed boundaries,” Lohman explains. “They weren’t concerned with genre, they loved it all. We wanted to honor that on this album. It’s not a blues album per se, or a bluegrass or a folk album. But to me that’s an advantage, and people who loved the Holmes Brothers should really get into it. It was important to me to give Sherman his due, and jump start a new chapter for him.”

Another notable guest is Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Joan Osborne, who duets with Holmes on the Dan Penn and James Carr classic, “Dark End of the Street.” As Holmes explains, “I knew her before she even started singing. She came to New York to study film and one night she walks past Dan Lynch’s, the club we always used to play—we kind of put that place on the map. She heard our voices outside and walked in; she was almost afraid to say hello because you know, we were a little rough. But we’ve been friends ever since.”

Some of the song choices may be more surprising, like Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child,” Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” (nodding to The Band’s famous cover), and “Liza Jane,” the Vince Gill hit that Sherman says he’s wanted to sing ever since he first heard it on the radio. He’s loved the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Green River” even longer—in fact it was one of the last songs the Holmes Brothers worked on together. Sherman’s version features a fresh arrangement, with Ickes’ dobro talking the famous guitar lick.

The gospel tracks also come from the heart, including a version of the childhood church favorite, “I Want Jesus.” Especially notable is “Rock of Ages,” which Sherman performed with Reverend Almeta Ingram-Miller, who’s taken over for her late mother Maggie as the leader of the Ingramettes. “What she sings in that song is what she experienced, with the loss of her mother. It was a really powerful moment,” Lohman explains. Holmes’ assessment is more modest: “I had to sound like a real gospel singer on that one, and I never knew I could do that.”

With the album in stores in July, Sherman plans to hit the road for his first tour as a solo artist. “I’m really looking forward to getting out there,” he says. “That’s my life, man.”

Sherman Holmes Project Tour Dates
June 23: River and Roots Festival – Berryville, Virginia
July 13: Summer Arts Festival – Huntington, New York
July 17: Mountain Stage – Charleston, West Virginia
August 2: Music City Roots – Nashville, Tennessee
September 1: Joe Wilson Memorial Festival – Galax, Virginia
September 2: Song of the Mountains – Marion, Virginia
October 14: Richmond Folk Festival – Richmond, Virginia

The Richmond Sessions is available online and in stores July 21. Pre-order from these retailers now:


From the Folklife Archives: WTJU presents best of Virginia Folklife Program recordings

On Wednesday, June 7, Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman joined Larry Minnick on his show “Left of Cool” to present some of the best recordings from the Virginia Folklife Program’s archive. From CD album productions to field recordings, from church concerts to Festival workshops, this program is three hours of great listening.

Take a listen to hear some of these amazing tunes!

Note: the show begins with classical music from the previous show and about seven minutes of local news. Be patient for the Folklife portion of the show to begin.

Rahim AlHaj in Harrisonburg

Rahim AlHaj performs at Court Square Theater.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)

The Virginia Folklife Program hosted Rahim AlHaj for a two-day residency in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A small city in the rural Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is surprisingly diverse, and has recently embraced many regugee and immigrant populations. There are particularly large Iraqi and Kurdish populations, with Arabic now being the second most spoken language in the public schools. Rahim performed to a packed house at the historic Court Square Theater, and met and jammed with local Iraqi musicians, as well as bluegrass masters Nate Leath and Jared Pool. Rahim spoke and performed for students at the diverse student bodies of Spotswood Elementary and Thomas Harrison and Skyline Middle Schools. We’d like to thank our friends Gabe Huck and Theresa Kubasak, authors of Never Will I Write About Damascus, to help organize the events and connect us with the Iraqi and Kurdish communities in Harrisonburg, as well as the Al Sultan restaurant and the Vine and Fig Community for hosting these special events.

Rahim AlHaj performs at Court Square Theater with Jared Pool and Nate Leath.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
From left, Rahim AlHaj, Osman Ahmed and Nate Leath tune up before jamming at Al Sultan restaurant.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
From left Jared Pool, Osman Ahmed, Nate Leath and Rahim AlHaj jam at Al Sultan. Folklorist Jon Lohman is seated on the right.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Osman Ahmed, right, of Harrisonburg talks with Rahim AlHaj at Al Sultan restaurant. Oud player and National Heritage Fellow Rahim AlHaj performed at a number of schools and concerts in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Photographed on 5/18/17.
Photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program
Men listen to Osman Ahmed of Harrisonburg play his tanbour. Oud player and National Heritage Fellow Rahim AlHaj performed at a number of schools and concerts in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Photographed on 5/18/17.
Photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program
Rahim practices with Jared Pool and Nate Leath at Al Sultan.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim AlHaj talks with a music class at Thomas Harrison Middle School.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim AlHaj talks with students at Skyline Middle School.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim at Spotswood Elementary School.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim chats with local Kurdish musicians.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Vine and Fig.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim chats with local Kurdish musicians.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim AlHaj at Vine and Fig.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Rahim jamming with Kurdish musicians.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Vine and Fig.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)
Men perform a chapi dance during a jam with Kurdish musicians.
(Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff)

2017 Apprenticeship Showcase Photo Recap

We had a great day out at James Monroe’s Highland for the 15th annual Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase. Among bites of stew, fried dried apple pies, and soul food we hope you were able to take in all of the masters and apprentices in attendance. Here are some of our favorite photos by our own Pat Jarrett.

Ellen Ratcliffe dances while Kitty Amaral, Scott Freeman and Danny Knicely perform.
Artist Mama Girl talks with a patron.
Trish Fore plays with the Cabin Creek Boys.
Susan Gaeta and Gina Sobel perform.
Grayson Chesser and his apprentices carved decoys.
Ved Sheth sings Hindustani classical music.
Nader Majd performs Persian music with his son.
Danny Knicely, left, and Butch Robbins jam.
Cheryl Maroney-Beaver, left, and her mother Tina Ingram-Murphy sing while cooking soul food with family.
Members of Proclamation Stew Crew make Brunswick stew.
Evelyn Lahman spins wool into yarn.
Paddy Bowman participates in the Mesa ceremony.
Julia Garcia conducts a traditional Mesa ceremony.
Inlay work by Greg Galbreath of Buckeye Banjos.
Nate Leath, left, and Danny Knicely.
Aila Wildman, center, jams with Mason Via, left, and others.
Erika Godfrey Testerman plays with Cabin Creek Boys.
Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe call a square dance.
Deborah Pratt won the oyster shucking contest against her sister Clementine Macon.
Deborah Pratt won the oyster shucking contest against her sister Clementine Macon.
A grazing cow at Highland.
Joey Mirabile and his apprentice Logan Caine.
Julia Garcia conducts a traditional Mesa ceremony.
Julia Garcia conducts a traditional Mesa ceremony.
Sheep graze at Highland.

Apprenticeship Showcase FAQs

Deborah and Clementine can teach you how to shuck a “pretty” oyster (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Please join us for the 15th Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase this Sunday, May 7 from 12:00 to 5:00pm at James Monroe’s Highland.

Do I need a ticket? How much does it cost?
This event is free, there is no admission fee and no ticket. Just show up! Bring your friends and family!

How do I get there?
Directions are here. Parking is available on site.

Should I bring my kids?
Yes! Volunteers of James Monroe’s Highland will provide kids activities and games, including:

  • Period games
  • Make your own 3-corner hat
  • Design your own Presidential China
  • Monroe themed coloring pages
  • Monroe themed word-search

What can I eat there? Does it cost money?
Food will be for sale on site. Joey’s Hotdogs, Brunswick Stew by the Proclamation Stew Crew, fried apple pies made by Frances Davis will all be for sale. Oysters on the half shell shucked by Deborah and Clementine and taste tests of soul food prepared by Tina Ingram-Murphy will also be available (for which we’ll request a small donation to help cover costs). Unfortunately, Chef Ida MaMusu cannot attend.

What can I drink? Do drinks cost money?
For those 21 and older, we’ll have beer sold by Three Notch’d Brewing Company, cider by Blue Toad Cider, and tastings of Copper Fox Distillery spirits. Water and sodas will be sold for $1 by the Folklife Program, with free juice boxes available for kids.

Should I bring cash?
Yes, cash is preferable, but we can take checks. We also can take credit cards, though not all vendors can take them. You may need to exchange plastic for cash with our information desk.

Are there restrooms?
Yes, full restroom facilities are located next to the Highland gift shop. Port-o-johns will be located near the Pavilion.

What’s the weather going to be?
Ha, if we only knew! Right now forecasters are predicting partly sunny skies with high temperatures in the low 60s.

Are there chairs?
Yes, we will have audience chairs and tables for eating. There’s also plenty of gorgeous green grass to stroll around on.

Cambodian New Year 2017

Sochietah Ung dressing the dancers.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

Amidst boys wearing gold bandoliers chasing each other through the lower level of the Big Temple, Sochietah Ung is the eye of the storm. His hands move quickly with gold thread to put the finishing touches on a dancer’s gold and indigo costume. Satisfied with his work on the dancer’s skirt, he lifts the small girl onto a chair to affix gold jewelry around her waist and ankles.

More dancers await their turn on either side of him. On his right are young girls in sky blue. To his left are dancers with silver stars in their black hair, waiting to transform into the night sky when they take the stage. He is on a strict timeframe and moves quickly to the next dancer. In the explosion of gold thread, flowers, jewel-toned fabric swirls, and shining jewelry, he pauses to pinch the nose of one of the dancers and tells her to smile for the camera, adopting an avuncular tone for a moment before tackling the next stitch that needs to be made.

It’s backstage at the Cambodian New Year Festival and Ung is running the show as more than forty dancers prepare to perform onstage. The annual event takes place each April at the Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Silver Spring, Maryland, featuring performances of Khmer classical dance along with folk games, traditional music, and more.

A young boy peeks through the curtains.
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

Khmer classical dance can be traced to the Angkor Empire (802-1431), in present-day Cambodia. The postures and costumes that comprise the dance have roots in the epic Ramayana as well as the images of dancers carved on ancient temples. Ornately dressed and rigorously trained dancers perform highly controlled, stylized movements accompanied by a small orchestra of tuned gongs, drums, xylophones, and oboes. The ancient dance form reached the height of its expression in this era, but continues to be practiced and appreciated widely today, both for the skilled movements and the ornate costumes of its dancers.

Perhaps the most dazzling element of the costumes are the crowns—multi-tiered spires resembling the top of Buddhist shrines that symbolize Mt. Meru, the center of the Buddhist universe. The crowns are adorned with jewels and rosettes on springs that sparkle with the slightest head movement. Wings ensconce the ears. A crescent-shaped diadem, framing the face, distinguishes female from male crowns. To construct the Khmer costumes and crowns, one must study extensively to learn the traditional techniques and symbolism behind each aesthetic choice.

Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

However, many of those traditions were nearly lost during the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Scholars estimate that 90 percent of the dancers and teachers of the Royal Ballet and students and faculty at the University of Fine Arts perished during this dark period. Traditions were further uprooted as dancers and musicians who survived the genocide fled to the United States along with large numbers of their compatriots. Fortunately, some of the surviving artists were determined to keep their Cambodian cultural heritage alive in their new lives.

Sochietah Ung was one such artist. He escaped the Khmer Rouge by fleeing to refugee camps in Thailand, then making his way to Washington, D.C., in 1979. When he arrived in the U.S., he connected with a Virginia-based dance troupe led by master teachers, Phuong Phan, Moly Sam, and Sam-Ouen Tes. Ung’s grandfather had been an opera singer in Cambodia, so they asked him to help them make costumes for a Cambodian opera story. That was the beginning of his career as a Cambodian costume-, crown-, and mask-maker.

Since then, Ung’s costumes have become highly valued in both the U.S. and Cambodia, collected by aficionados around the world including Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, the premiere dancer of Cambodia’s Royal Dance Troupe. While on tour in the U.S. in 1985, she wore one of his crowns and told him, “You have fate. You were born to do this job.”

Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

In additional to continuing to create his own work, Ung is dedicated to teaching students young and old about his costuming techniques and traditional dance. Today, a large population of Cambodian-, Thai-, and Laotian-Americans in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland celebrate their culture through numerous festivals and performances. Ung’s work can often be found at these events—a swirling hemline here, an ornately glowing crown there—and he works to teach new generations about the traditions in which he was raised.

For this reason, he was selected as a Master Artist in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, working with Lena Ouk and Matthew Regan. Together, Ung, Ouk, and Regan have spent the last year experimenting with techniques and creating costumes and crowns for a variety of performances.

At the upcoming Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase, they will exhibit some of these amazing costumes and discuss their artistic process. This free community event celebrates traditional music, food, and crafts of residents of the Commonwealth, as demonstrated by the more than twenty pairs of master artists and apprentices who will be in attendance.

Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program
Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program

Now in its fifteenth year, the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program has drawn from a wide range of communities and traditional folkways to pair more than one hundred experienced master artists with dedicated apprentices for one-on-one, nine-month learning experiences, in order to help ensure that particular art forms are passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. The master artists are selected from applicants in all forms of traditional, expressive culture in Virginia—from decoy carving to fiddle making, from boat building to quilt making, from country ham curing to old-time banjo playing, from African American gospel singing to Mexican folk dancing. The Folklife Apprenticeship Program helps to ensure that Virginia’s treasured folkways continue to receive new life and vibrancy, engage new learners, and reinvigorate master practitioners.

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase is family-friendly and will take place on Sunday, May 7 from 12:00 to 5:00pm at James Monroe’s Highland near Charlottesville. Food and drinks will be available for purchase and performances of live music and handicrafts are scheduled throughout the day on two stages. To view the full event schedule, visit

Schedule and Special Guests Announced for Apprenticeship Showcase

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase at James Monroe’s Highland on May 7 from 12:00 to 5:00pm will for the first time host two stages to feature the master artists and apprentices. The performance stage will highlight the work of teams of musicians while the crafts area stage will give the material culture artists an opportunity to speak about their work. The showcase will end with a square dance called by the master callers Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe and their apprentice Hannah Johnson.

Performance Stage Schedule

12:00pm: Cabin Creek Boys and special guests
12:45: Opening remarks by Jon Lohman, state folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program
1:00: Sephardic ballads with Susan Gaeta and Gina Sobel
1:20: Hindustani Khyal Singing with Humayun Khan and Ved Sheth
1:40: Fiddle and bluegrass singing with Scott Freeman, Linda Lay, and Kitty Amaral
2:10: Appalachian singing with Linda Kay Justice and Helen White
2:30: Persian classical music with Nader Majd and Ali Reza Analouei
2:50: Recognition of crafters and food purveyors
3:00: Songwriters David and Mason Via
3:20: Fiddling with Nate Leath, Eli Wildman, and guests
3:40: Bluegrass mandolin with Herschel Sizemore and Mike Walker
4:00: Oyster shucking contest with Clementine Macon Boyd and Deborah Pratt
4:30: Square Dance called by Ellen and Eugene Ratcliffe and Hannah Johnson, with music by participating old-time artists

Crafts Area Schedule

12:30pm: Decoy carving with Grayson Chesser, P.G. Ross, Mark Ross, Drew Sturgis, and Andy Dunton
1:00: Soul food cooking with Tina Ingram-Murphy and Cheryl Maroney Beaver
1:30: Banjo making with Greg Galbreath and Peter Keller
2:00: Spinning and weaving with Evelyn Lahman and Dr. Michael Gilley
2:30: Paper sculpture with Mama-Girl and David Rogers
3:00: Cambodian costume making with Sochietah Ung, Matthew Regan, and Lena Ouk
3:30: Logsmithing with Gary and Tommy Horton
4:15: Bolivian mesa ceremony with Julia Garcia and Marcela Alejandra Ardaya Barron

Cabin Creek Boys (photo by Pat Jarrett).

The Showcase will open with music from the Cabin Creek Boys, who play old-time “hillbilly” music from the mountains of southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina They perform regularly at area fiddlers’ conventions, festivals, square dances, and other community events. Led by multi-instrumentalist husband and wife duo Chris and Erika Testerman, the band also includes Jackson Cunningham on guitar, Trish Kilby Fore on banjo, and Jerry Steinberg on bass. Both Jackson Cunningham and Chris Testerman have previously participated in the in the Apprenticeship Program: Jackson was a beekeeping apprentice to Jim King and Chris learned how to make dulcimers and other instruments from Walter Messick. Both are now excellent instrument makers in their own right, and both learned many of their skills from the late Audrey Hash Ham, a fiddle maker who was in the first ever class of Virginia Folklife master artists. Jackson specializes in archtop guitars and Chris mostly makes fiddles. Trish Fore’s husband, Kevin Fore, is also an excellent maker of clawhammer banjos.

What’s Cooking? Food makes the Showcase special

What makes the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase special? The unique stories of the food purveyors who participate in this annual event. This year’s Showcaseon Sunday, May 7 at James Monroe’s Highland from 12:00 to 5:00pm will feature several master artists demonstrating their skills plus a special guest serving up delicious eats for the public to enjoy.

Joey Mirabile of Joey’s Hotdogs
2016-2017 Master Artist

Joey Mirabile serves the same kind of hot dogs his father Tony made famous at his hot dog shop in Norfolk starting in the 1930s (Pat Jarrett/The Virginia Folklife Program)

Those familiar with Joey’s Hot Dogs, in Richmond’s West End, know these dogs are the pinnacle of what is one of America’s iconic foods. Joey’s father, Tony, started serving hot dogs at age fourteen at the start of World War II in 1939, when he worked for Bacali’s Hot Dogs in Norfolk. Known to many as “The Hot Dog Boy,” Tony sold hot dogs to celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., when they came to perform and stay at Virginia Beach’s first resort hotel, the Cavalier Inn. His mother, Geri, had worked at the soda fountain at the nearby People’s Drug Store. Tony and Geri married in 1950, and in 1962, Geri opened Tony’s Hot Dogs in Norfolk. Initially, she also served hamburgers and root beer floats, but when Tony took over running the business a couple of years later, he scaled back to just hot dogs with mustard, onions, and chili—no ketchup or chips allowed. In 1969, they opened a second store in Virginia Beach, which soon became a prominent fixture in the Beach’s culinary landscape. Joey carries on the tradition, using the same chili recipe his dad served back in the 1930s. Joey has worked with his apprentice Logan Caine, but can’t decide whether he will share the secret family chili recipe. Joey and Logan will both be serving up these delicious dogs at the Showcase.


Chef Ida MaMusu of Richmond’s Africanne on Main

Chef Ida MaMusu (photo by Sara Wood, Southern Foodways Alliance)

In 1980, Ida MaMusu fled war-torn Monrovia, Liberia, and came to the United States. Her grandmother, Ida Williams, was originally from Reston, Virginia, and went to Liberia as part of the American Colonization Society, a movement sending freed slaves back to Africa. Under her grandmother’s tutelage, Ida learned the art of cooking. When Ida MaMusu fled the war, she had no choice but to leave her entire family behind. She arrived in Richmond in 1986 and worked for the next decade to bring her two children and parents to the United States. After opening Braids of Africa on Broad Street in 1996, Ida found herself not only doing hair, but cooking meals for her customers. Inspired, she opened her first restaurant space next door in 1998, eventually moving to a smaller, better-located space on Main Street. Ida’s grandmother always told her that the things she learned from her were not hers to keep—that she must pass them on to keep her memory alive. In 2002, Ida started Chef MaMusu’s Cultural Cooking School to pass her knowledge on to young girls. Chef MaMusu will be cooking up some of her vegetarian specialties at the Showcase.

Proclamation Stew Crew – Brunswick Stew
2003-2004 Master Artists

The Proclamation Stew Crew will be cooking up 500 quarts of stew at the Showcase (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

What began—according to local legend—as a communal meal prepared for a hunting expedition in Brunswick County on the banks of the Nottoway River in 1828, has since become a time-honored regional tradition. The cooking of Brunswick Stew is now a staple at community gatherings, a source of local pride, the focus of spirited competition, and a true Virginia culinary art. Recipes for stews, which are prepared to feed hundreds of people from one pot, are guarded vigilantly. Stew chefs traditionally apprenticed with “stewmasters,” a title that takes years to attain. John D. Clary began helping to prepare Brunswick stew in 1973 and eventually ascended to the level of stewmaster in 1988. John has been an avid participant in the “Stew Wars” with Brunswick, Georgia, which also asserts a claim to the stew’s origin. His crew has won numerous cook-offs in Brunswick County over the years. With his fellow stewmasters Lonnie Moore and the late Phil Batchelor, he has mentored dozens of apprentices over the years, including members of the Proclamation Stew Crew: Chiles Cridlin, P.L. Baisey, Bobby Swain, Terry Swecker, Richard Bailey, John Norton, Quinton Nottingham, and Bimbo Coles, among many others. They will cook any size stew, anywhere, for anyone, as long as it doesn’t interfere with a Virginia Tech football game. For the Showcase, they will prepare 500 quarts for sale for the public to enjoy on site or take home.

Frances Davis – Fried Apple Pies
2008-2009 Master Artist

Frances Davis cooks up fried apple pies (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Known as “Fried Apple Pies,” “Dried Apple Pies,” or even “Fried Dried Apple Pies,” these locally made pies seem to have a ubiquitous presence throughout Southwest Virginia, appearing on the counters and shelves of country stores, gas stations, and community festivals. The defining characteristic of the pie is its intense flavor, accomplished through the use of dried apples rehydrated through a long simmering process with brown sugar. While each community likely stakes a claim for one of its local pie makers, Frances Davis of Rocky Mount takes the title as the ultimate “Fried Apple Pie Lady.” Her delicious fried-dough pies have been featured at festivals around the state. Frances was one of six children born to a sharecropping family. She learned to cook from her mother, and by the age of twelve was responsible for cooking for her entire family, as well as caring for other children too young to go to the fields. “I had to get up each morning around four, get the fire started to heat the house, and then be sure to have three full meals ready when the grownups came in from the field. Honestly, I didn’t really have a life as a child, because I had a big responsibility.” This responsibility led Frances to become one of the most respected and creative home chefs in the region and one of the most popular participants of Folklife festivals around the state.

Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd – oyster shucking
2008-2009 Master Artist

Deborah and Clementine can teach you how to shuck a “pretty” oyster (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

For communities on Virginia’s Northern Neck from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, the oyster fishery was perhaps the largest and most influential industry. Men and women employed in the fishery worked in a variety of jobs, from boat cook, captain, and crew to working in shore-based scow gangs or as shuckers. Shucking, in particular, provided many employment opportunities for African Americans throughout the Chesapeake Region. Though the oyster industry has experienced a dramatic decline since the mid-1990s, the art of shucking has continued as a highly competitive sport. Sisters Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd, whose parents met while working in one of the many small oyster houses that once dotted the Northern Neck coastline, are two of the top shuckers in the world, capable of opening two dozen oysters in less than three minutes. They have alternated in winning the U.S. National Oyster Shucking Championship for the past few years in St. Mary’s City, Maryland, as well as at the Virginia State Championships held each year in Urbanna, Virginia. The two sisters have battled it out in five epic contests on the Virginia Folklife Stage at the Richmond Folk Festival, and annually at our Virginia Folklife Showcase. At the Showcase, Deborah and Clementine will demonstrate how to shuck a “pretty” oyster, and will provide a taste of some delicious Rappahannock oysters.

Members of the Ingram family serve up soul food prepared by Tina Ingam-Murphy (photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Tina Ingram-Murphy and Cheryl Maroney Beaver
Soul Food Cooking apprenticeship: 2017-2018

Christina “Tina” Ingram-Murphy is the youngest daughter of the late Richmond gospel legend Elder Maggie Ingram. Born July 4, 1930, on Mulholland’s Plantation in Coffee County, Georgia, Maggie began playing the piano and singing at an early age, and developed a great love for the church and the ministry of the Gospel.  In 1961 Maggie moved her family to Richmond, where she formed the group Sister Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes with Tina and her other four children. The Ingramettes performed for more than 50 years, becoming Richmond’s premiere gospel group. As a single mom, Maggie had very few resources and often struggled to keep her family afloat.  “You know how you hear about those people who say they were poor and didn’t know they were poor?” Maggie’s eldest daughter Almeta likes to ask. “Well, we knew we were poor.” Almeta remembers how Maggie managed to prepare delicious meals for her children by stretching the most sparse and inexpensive of ingredients, even feeding many more than just her own family. The Ingrams are still known for their remarkable community work, providing meals for the homeless, shut-ins, and anyone in need of a healthy meal in and around the Richmond region. The Folklife Program had a taste of the their culinary prowess at the 2016 Richmond Folk Festival, where the Ingramettes prepared more than 500 meals for festival patrons, with Tina running the show.

Tina retired from singing with the Ingramettes to care for her family and ailing husband, which gave her more time to hone her culinary skills. She regularly consulted with Maggie to learn certain dishes, and learned from elder women at her church. Over time Tina became a master of what many call “Soul Food,” the tasty and resourceful home-cooking style associated with African Americans in the South.  While drawing heavily from tradition, Tina also makes healthy adjustments to her recipes. Her favorite dishes include candied carrots, purple cabbage, strawberry-banana pudding, southern cornbread, garlic mashed potatoes, turkey, meatloaf, baked spaghetti, and collard greens. Tina will share family kitchen lore with daughter Cheryl Maroney Beaver, a current Ingramette who has participated as a Master Artist in gospel singing in the 2014 Apprenticeship Program.

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Virginia Folklife Program Announces Apprenticeship Class of 2017–2018

Master candy maker Gene Williams of Chesapeake and apprentice Lee Bagley (photo by Jon Lohman/Virginia Folklife Program).

The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the 2017-2018 class of Master Artists in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. Master Artists are selected through a competitive process in all forms of Virginia’s expressive cultures. The ten new teams join more than one hundred pairs of masters and apprentices who have taken part in the Apprenticeship Program since its inception in 2002.

“Through this unique program, we work with incredibly accomplished musicians and craftspeople who are dedicated to passing along vitally important art forms to future generations,” said Jon Lohman, State Folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program. “Participants in this year’s showcase exemplify the remarkable range and diversity of folk traditions in Virginia.”

Introducing the 2017–2018 Master Folk Artists and their apprentices:

  • Master candy maker Gene Williams of Chesapeake and apprentice Lee Bagley
  • Master spinner and weaver Evelyn Lahman of Wythe County and apprentice Dr. Terence Michael Gilley
  • Master of logsmithing Gary Horton of Carroll County and apprentice Tommy Horton
  • Master Sephardic ballad singer Susan Gaeta of Fairfax County and apprentice Gina Sobel
  • Master of soul food cooking Christine Ingram-Murphy of Henrico County and apprentice Cheryl Maroney-Beaver
  • Master of Bolivian mesa ceremonies and rituals Julia Garcia of Arlington and apprentice Marcela Alejandra Ardaya Barron
  • Master banjo maker Greg Galbreath of Giles County and apprentice Peter Keller
  • Master fiddler Nate Leath of Rockingham County and apprentices Eli and Aila Wildman
  • Returning Master decoy carver Grayson Chesser of Accomack County and apprentices Drew Sturgis, P.G. Ross, Mark Ross, and Andy Dunton
  • Returning Master of classical Iranian and Persian music Nader Majd of Fairfax County and apprentice Ali Reza Analouei

Celebrating the completion of the 2016–2017 Master Folk Artists and their apprentices:

  • Master songwriter David Via of Patrick County and apprentice Mason Via
  • Master papier-mâché sculptor “Mama Girl” Onley of Accomack County and apprentice David Rogers
  • Master bluegrass fiddler and mandolinist Scott Freeman of Grayson County and master of bluegrass singing Linda Lay of Bristol and apprentice Kitty Amaral
  • Master Cambodian costume maker Sochietah Ung of Washington, D.C., and apprentices Matthew R. Regan and Lena Ouk
  • Masters square dance callers Eugene and Ellen Ratcliffe of Highland County and apprentice Hannah Johnson
  • Master old time duet singer Linda Kay Justice of Wythe County and apprentice Helen White
  • Master of Hindustani vocal traditions Humayun Khan of Fairfax county and apprentice Ved Sheth
  • Master of traditional photographic methods Richard Pippin of Staunton and apprentices Melissa Jones and Zoe Bearinger
  • Master hotdog purveyor Joey Mirabile of Richmond and apprentice Logan Caine
  • Returning Master bluegrass mandolin player and composer Herschel Sizemore of Roanoke and apprentice Mike Walker

The Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program pairs experienced Master Artists with gifted apprentices for one-on-one, nine-month learning experiences, ensuring that art forms are passed on in ways that are conscious of history and faithful to tradition. More than workshops or lessons, apprenticeship learning takes place in the art forms’ traditional contexts, calling upon the complete engagement of the senses and contextualizing the practices within the larger cultural landscape.

Cabin Creek Boys (photo by Pat Jarrett).

On Sunday, May 7, from 12:00 to 5:00 PM, the Virginia Folklife Program at VFH will partner with James Monroe’s Highland to host the Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase at the home of James Monroe. Now in its fourteenth year, the showcase is a FREE, family-friendly event that celebrates the traditional music, crafts, and foodways of Virginia, introducing the public to the Master Artists and apprentices who keep the traditions alive. This year’s audience will enjoy more than ten live musical performances and a dazzling display of engaging demonstrations. Special guests include the Cabin Creek Boys, one of Southwest Virginia’s finest old-time bands, among many others. Featured foods include real Brunswick stew, African cuisine from Chef Ida MaMusu of Richmond, fried apple pies, and oysters shucked by world champion oyster shucking sisters, Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon Boyd.

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Remembering Nan Perdue

“The Perdues, General Delivery, Woodville, Virginia” c. 1972.
Courtesy of the family

Nancy Martin-Perdue, a former scholar-in-residence at the University of Virginia, died Feb. 14. She devoted much of her adult life supporting and researching folklore in its many forms with her husband Charles L. Perdue. Nan was an avid gardener, researcher, and genealogist. She found connections between nearly everyone she met based on their surname.

Chuck and Nan married in 1954 and were devoted to each other during their 56 years of marriage. He died in 2010, also on Feb. 14.

As a scholar-in-residence in UVA’s Anthropology Department, she worked with Chuck during his 36 years on the faculty there. They advised and mentored hundreds of UVA students. Together they edited “Talk About Trouble: A New Deal Portrait of Virginians in the Great Depression,” published in 1996, and for almost 20 years they researched the displacement of residents from the area where the Shenandoah National Park was established.

The Perdues received a research grant and then had a residency at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, in 1984 and 1988, respectively, to work on the topic of the New Deal and folk culture in Virginia. As officers of the Virginia Folklore Society, Chuck and Nan worked with the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities to establish the Virginia Folklife Program in 1989.




“Many of us will remember when Chuck and Nan proposed and championed creating the Virginia Folklife Program at VFH, one of their many legacies, as well as unique contributions to the Virginia Foundation,” Director Rob Vaughan said. “It transformed us.” Their work has enriched the commonwealth, he added.

“Talk About Trouble” won the National Oral History Association Award for best book on oral history in 1997, and the Perdues were honored by the Virginia General Assembly for the work in 1998. The book consists of life histories recorded by members of the Virginia Writers’ Project, which they discovered hidden in the Virginia State Archives, and as far away as the University of Pennsylvania Library.

Courtesy of the family

Chuck and Nan shared a lifelong interest in music and singing, performing in area coffeehouses beginning in Berkeley, California and continuing when they moved to Fairfax, Virginia in 1960. They were active in the folk revival scene, performed in concerts and folk festivals, and helped found the Folklore Society of Greater Washington in 1964. They also revitalized the Virginia Folklore Society, for which Nan served as the president and the first webmaster.

In her own words from the Anthropology Department website, Nan said: “My concerns with issues affecting women, social class and power differences, history and the politics of culture, are themselves reflections of my own personal history and experiences. As the first woman in my family to graduate from college, I am obliged to a score of aunts and female relatives on both sides for their dreams and insistent encouragement. However, the primary source of my ethnographic and historical imagination was my paternal grandmother (1857-1953), who grew up on the northern Texas frontier amidst conflicts with both Comanches and the Confederacy in the Civil War. These factors contributed to my abiding interest in the processes by which groups are marginalized, how reputations and identities are shaped, and how stereotypes arise in the context of social change and cultural conflict.”

At UVA, they created folklore archives now housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library and named in honor of their two late sons: the Kevin Barry and Kelly Scott Perdue Archive of Traditional Culture, a collection of textual, audio, and visual materials related primarily to the folk culture of Virginia. Along with faculty and student papers, and manuscripts from the Virginia Writers’ Project, the Perdue archive also includes 300 33-1/3 rpm records of early Anglo-American and African-American music, the A. K. Davis collection of field-recorded Virginia music, and 65 original field-recorded tapes of African-American secular and church music recorded in Rappahannock-Culpeper County, Virginia, 1966-1972.

Surviving family members include a son, Martin Clay Perdue and Susan Holbrook Perdue of Palmyra, Virginia and daughters, Emily Stoddard and Sarah Martin Perdue; a son, Marc Charles Perdue and Molly Pickral of Charlottesville, Virginia and son, Nicholas James; Anne Elizabeth Bromley of Crozet, Virginia and daughters, Kathryn Bromley and Theresa Russell Perdue; a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Anne Steel Perdue of Albemarle County, Virginia and sons, Benjamin Tipton and Daniel Walton Perdue and wife Lauren.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at Preddy Funeral Home Chapel in Madison conducted by Donnie Hughes. The interment will be private.

The family will receive friends at the funeral home from 10 until 11 a.m. Saturday, February 18, 2017, one hour before the service. In lieu of flowers, donations made be made to: Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Virginia Chapter, 1160 Pepsi Place, Suite 306, Charlottesville, VA 22901