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 on NPR’s Mountain Stage

Sherman Holmes onstage at The Rex Theater in Galax. (Pat Jarrett/Virginia Folklife Program)

Sherman Holmes kicks off this weekend’s Mountain Stage with selections from his first solo album in his fifty-year music career, The Richmond Sessions. Sherman, a Christchurch, Virginia-native, played bass in The Holmes Brothers, touring the globe with his brother Wendell and lifelong friend Popsy Dixon until their passings in 2015. The new album reflects Holmes’ musical inspirations, from country and blues to rock and traditional gospel songs featuring Richmond’s “first family of gospel” the Ingramettes; multi-time IBMA banjoist of the year Sammy Shelor and Grammy-nominated dobro player Rob Ickes among others.

Steve Earle and the Dukes follow The Sherman Holmes Project on the September 22 airing, along with other performers. More information on Sherman Holmes can be found here and information on this episode of Mountain Stage can be found here. This show will air on Friday, September 22 at 10 p.m. on WHRV, WHRE, WHRL, WHRG and WHRX; Saturday, September 23 at 2 p.m. on WVRU and 5 p.m. on WAMU; and on Sunday, September 24 at 8 p.m. on WMRA, WMRY, WMLU and WMRL.

Southwest Virginia the place to be this weekend for great music

Join the Virginia Folklife Program in Southwest Virginia this weekend for three great events:

Friday, September 1: Second Annual Show for Joe
** Concert now at Rex Theater at 4pm, 113 East Grayson Street, Galax, VA 24333**
*Workshop now at 2pm at Chestnut Creek School for the Arts, 110 N Main Street, Galax VA 24333*

Concert tickets: $25, general admission only or (866) 308-2773, ext. 245
More Information»

**Due to the possibility for severe weather, the Show for Joe concert has been moved to the Rex Theater in downtown Galax**

*A workshop remembering Joe Wilson will take place at the Chestnut Creek School for the Arts at 2pm with Linda and David Lay, Sherman Holmes, Frank Newsome, Riley Baugus, and author Fred Bartenstein*

Band of Ruhks, and Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley join Linda and David Lay, Reverend Frank Newsome, Stevie Barr, Johnny and Jeanette Williams, the Whitetop Mountain Band, and special guests the Sherman Holmes Project and The Legendary Ingramettes for a second annual A Show for Joe: The Joe Wilson Memorial Music Festival.

Fore the second year in a row, the Blue Ridge Music Center is ecstatic to bring a collaboration of some of the most well respected bluegrass, Americana, and old-time musicians from the Appalachian Mountains together to honor the late Joe Wilson. The memorial showcase is presented by the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in collaboration with the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia is for Lovers, and 98.1 WBRF Classic Country.

In 2015, the music community lost visionary Joe Wilson. From his brainstorming sessions with then Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Gary Everhardt to create the Blue Ridge Music Center to his influential work with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Wilson’s passion for the music of the Blue Ridge Mountains was immeasurable. He produced festivals, recordings, national and international tours, and helped create the Roots of American Music exhibit housed at the Music Center. A native of Tennessee, Wilson was instrumental in the development of The Blue Ridge Music Trails and The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trails. He was also the author of A Guide to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Many musicians can attest to Wilson’s guidance in their musical careers.

Virginia-state folklorist Jon Lohman recalls Wilson’s impact on artists and the music world. “It would not be an overstatement to say that Joe Wilson was one of the most productive and influential cultural figures of his generation. His tireless work on behalf of artists and the community-based folk traditions that they mastered transformed not only the lives of these artists but of countless communities and audiences he exposed to them,” Lohman said. “These artists include some who have gone on to gain global recognition. Joe famously brought a then-unknown teenage fiddler named Alison Krauss on an international tour of master fiddlers, and showcased the likes of Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, and Wayne Henderson early in their careers.”

Leading up to the concert at 4 p.m., the public is invited to enjoy a workshop led by Fred Bartenstein editor of Roots Music in America: The Collected Writings of Joe Wilson and Lucky Joe’s Namesake: The Extraordinary Life and Observations for Joe Wilson and featuring performances by special musical guests.

Saturday, September 2: Eleventh annual Albert Hash Memorial Festival
Grayson Highlands State Park

Legendary fiddlemakers Albert Hash and his daughter Audrey Hash Ham

The 2017 Albert Hash Memorial Festival  will be held Saturday, September 2nd at Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.The festival will take place at the park’s Henderson Stage picnic area. The day-long festival runs from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The festival honors beloved fiddler and fiddle-maker Albert L. Hash, a man known for his dedication to old-time music and his impact on generations of musicians. The festival hopes to preserve and promote traditional mountain music, dance, crafts, and instrument making, while honoring Albert Hash and giving back to the community through music. Local crafts, concessions, a farmers’ market, cakewalks, and plenty of dancing will take place along with special music, dance performances, and instrument making displays.

Performers include the Whitetop Mountain Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer, Wayne Henderson and Friends, Luke Bell and Kinman, Slate Mountain Ramblers, Kelley and the Cowboys, and Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy Cajun Group.

There is a $10 per person admission fee and a $5 per vehicle parking fee. Admission for children age 12 and younger is free. The Albert Hash Festival is a community event made possible by volunteers.

More Information»

Saturday, September 2, 7pm: Song of the Mountains with the Sherman Holmes Project and Jim Lauderdale
The Lincoln Theatre, 117 E. Main Street, Marion, VA 24354
Buy Tickets»

Sherman Holmes (left) with Jim Lauderdale (right) perform at Music City Roots. Photo by Jacqueline Justice.

Song of the Mountains is the official television show of Virginia and features bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, and Americana Music and currently airs on more than 120 public television outlets across the United States. On Saturday, September 2, a live concert featuring the Sherman Holmes Project, Jim Lauderdale, Webb Wilder, and Judy Marshall will be recorded for future broadcast.

Song of the Mountains is recorded live at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia.

More Information»


NPR’s World Cafe to feature Sherman Holmes Project

On Monday, August 7 NPR’s World Cafe will feature the Sherman Holmes Project. From WXPN studios in Philadelphia, host Talia Schlanger interviewed Sherman Holmes on June 21 at In Your Ear studio in Richmond, Virginia, where Sherman, performed with Almeta Ingram-Miller, Cora Harvey Armstrong, Jared Pool, and Jon Lohman.

The World Cafe segment includes scorching performances by Sherman and his band, as well as a lively discussion of Sherman’s childhood, the musical legacy of the Holmes Brothers, and his new album, The Richmond Sessions, his first solo recording in his more than fifty-year career. The album is produced by the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and released by MC Records.

TUNE IN: World Cafe can be heard on more than 200 stations nationwide. Fans can tune in to their local station at the scheduled World Cafe broadcast time by checking local listings. To listen live online, fans can hear the WXPN Philadelphia stream on Monday, August 7 at 2pm ET at by choosing WXPN from the ‘Listen Live’ drop-down at the top of the page. The segment will be archived for on-demand streaming at at approximately 5pm ET on Monday, August 7.

When Sherman sings “I want Jesus to Walk with Me” as if it was his last song for eternity, while Rob Ickes’ dobro lets out wailing, sorrowful glissandos, and the Ingramettes sing the Amen choir, it’s a magnificently moving moment, a soul-stirring song that will bring tears to a Hells Angel.

–Frank Matheis, Living Blues Magazine

Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child” manages to sound like a back catalog Holmes Brothers treasure while incorporating the newly minted bluegrassy feel as well. Ickes’ dobro slides greasily over and Shelor’s banjo skitters around the relentless funk as Lohman’s harp sneaks in and out, wailing mournfully, the Ingramettes scalding the paint off the mics with gospel fervor on every turn.

–Grant Britt, No Depression

Produced by the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities, The Richmond Sessions genuinely represents a public appreciation for the music and memory of the Holmes Brothers as Sherman continues to perform and record music.

Black Grooves

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:


Argentinian Bluegrass Band Che Apalache Tours Virginia


The Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) announces the summer tour of Argentinian bluegrass band, Che Apalache. The band will perform across North Carolina and Southwest Virginia, in communities including Galax, Floyd, and Abingdon. The tour runs from Thursday, July 20 to Sunday, August 20; see full tour dates and sample media links below.

The Che Apalache tour offers a unique opportunity for the social and cultural integration of the fast-growing Latino community in Galax and surrounding counties. Mexicans and other Latinos are one of the largest and fastest-growing immigrant communities in Southwest Virginia. The tour will provide cultural exchange opportunities for the Argentinian musicians with both Appalachian musicians and Latino communities in Virginia.

Notable tour spots include the Old Galax Fiddler’s Convention, the Fries Fiddler’s Convention, Heartwood, and Floydfest. The band will also perform at several schools in Galax and Grayson County, coordinated by the Chestnut Creek School for the Arts.

About Che Apalache

Che Apalache was formed in Buenos Aires by North Carolina-native Joe Troop, who has lived in Argentina teaching music for the past 10 years. Troop, who plays fiddle and sings lead, came into contact with local multi-instrumentalists and singers through his teaching. Other band members include: Pau André Barjau Mateu from Tepoztlan, Mexico, who plays banjo and sings bass; Martin Bobrik from Buenos Aires, who plays mandolin and sings tenor; and Franco Martino, also from Buenos Aires, who plays guitar and sings baritone.

Che Apalache carries a clear Argentinian root in the word che, which in Argentina, is used in casual conversation as a term of endearment toward a friend or loved one. The word’s meaning is equivalent to the American English terms “brother,” “sis,” or “homie.” Apalache means Appalachian, thus the band’s name can be roughly translated into “my Appalachian homeboy.” Che Apalache symbolizes the band’s hope of achieving unity in the Americas from North to South.

Tour Dates and Locations

  • Thursday 7/20 – 1:30pm – El Buen Pastor (discussion & presentation) – Winston-Salem, NC
  • Thursday 7/20 – 5:00pm – Scuppernong Books (discussion & presentation) – Greensboro, NC
  • Friday 7/21 – 10:00am – The State of Things (WUNC radio interview with Frank Stasio) – Durham, NC
  • Friday 7/21 – 7:30pm – Triad Stage – Greensboro, NC
  • Saturday 7/22 – 5:00pm – Fernandez home (house concert) – Durham, NC
  • Sunday 7/23 – 6:45pm – Rooster’s Wife – Aberdeen, NC
  • Wednesday 7/26 – 7:00pm – Ted’s Fun on the River – Wilmington, NC
  • Thursday 7/27 – 7:00pm – Vimala’s Curryblossom Café- Chapel Hill, NC
  • Friday 2/28 – 7:00pm – The Bullpen – Durham, NC
  • Saturday 7/29 – 7:00pm – The Blue Ridge Center – Galax, VA
  • Sunday 7/30 – 10:15-11:00am (VIP Stage), 3:15-4:15pm (Healing Arts), 6:15-7:00pm (Workshop Porch), Floydfest – Floyd, VA
  • Monday 7/31 – Saturday 8/5 – The Appalachian String Band Festival – Clifftop, WV
  • Sunday 8/6 – Sunday 8/13 – The Old Galax Fiddler’s Convention – Galax, VA
  • Wednesday 8/9 – 1:00pm – Chestnut Creek School for the Arts (discussion and presentation) – Galax, VA
  • Thursday 8/10 – 6:30pm – Heartwood – Abingdon, VA
  • Tuesday 8/15 – 6:00pm – The Bywater – Asheville, NC
  • Thursday 8/17 – Friday 8/18 – School visits in Galax and Grayson Co, VA
  • Friday 8/18 – Sunday 8/20 – Fries Fiddler’s Convention – Fries, VA
  • Sunday 8/20 – 2:00pm – Muddy Creek Music Hall – Winston-Salem, NC; 6:00pm – El Buen Pastor – Winston-Salem, NC



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