N.C. Symphony, folk musicians to share stage May 23

Above: Piedmont bluesmen John Cephas and Phil Wiggins will perform at the May 23 event.

Above: Piedmont bluesmen John Cephas and Phil Wiggins will perform at the May 23 event.

Traditional and folk musicians from across the state will share the stage with the North Carolina Symphony in a performance Wednesday, May 23, in Western Carolina University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Cherokee flute player John Grant Jr. will perform in Capital Bank Blue Skies and Red Earth.

Cherokee flute player John Grant Jr. will perform in Capital Bank Blue Skies and Red Earth.

Titled “Blue Skies and Red Earth” and sponsored by Capital Bank, the 7:30 p.m. performance is a celebration showcasing the richness of the traditional music of North Carolina. The concert is the first event of the FAPAC’s second annual “Sizzlin’ Summer Shorts Series.”

Originally presented in Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in September 2006, the success of the Blue Skies concerts prompted Capital Bank to bring the music to North Carolinians living far from Raleigh.

“When we heard the concert at Meymandi and saw the powerful audience connection and reaction, we knew this performance would impact citizens across the state,” said Grant Yarber, chief executive officer of Capital Bank. “As a business born in North Carolina, it makes perfect sense for our organization to support the symphony’s efforts to take this wonderful show to communities beyond the Triangle.”

The “Blue Skies and Red Earth” tour, which will visit other venues in North Carolina, was conceived, in part, to celebrate the orchestra’s 75th anniversary, said Scott Freck, general manager of the symphony. “This concert is exciting on so many levels,” Freck said. “In addition to spectacular solo performances, we have some exciting collaborations with the symphony. This is a wonderful way to help mark our milestone season.”

Music Director Grant Llewellyn, who recently harmonized with bluegrass artists at the symphony’s New Year’s Eve concert in Raleigh, said he is looking forward to performing this timeless music with the orchestra. “As a Welshman, I come from a country of people who love to sing and play traditional music,” Llewellyn said. “I’m thrilled to learn more about the traditional music of North Carolina and bring it to new audiences in our state.”

Performers in Capital Bank Blue Skies and Red Earth include:

• Cherokee flute player John Grant Jr.

• Eighth generation ballad singer Donna Ray Norton.

• Award-winning fiddler Ted Ehrhard.

• Vocalist and actress Tina Morris-Anderson.

• Banjo player Riley Baugus, of “Cold Mountain” fame.

• The Bailey Mountain Cloggers from Mars Hill.

• Piedmont bluesmen John Cephas and Phil Wiggins.

• Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion.

• Host/emcee David Holt.

Tickets for the performance are $25 for adults ages 18 and older, $20 for senior citizens ages 60 and older and WCU faculty and staff, $15 for groups of 15 or more, and $5 for students ages 5 and older.

Also on tap for WCU’s “Sizzlin’ Summer Shorts Series” are comedian, celebrity impressionist and country music recording artist Johnny Counterfit, on Saturday, June 16; Broadway clown, mime and physical comedian Avner Eisenberg, or “Avner the Eccentric,” on Saturday, July 7; and performances of folk music and dance by six groups from around the world as part of the 24th annual Folkmoot USA, on Tuesday, July 24.

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. in the main performance hall of the Fine and Performing Arts Center.

For reservations or more information about the series, contact the box office at (828) 227-2479.