Jam series to begin with concert by Sons of Ralph

The 2012-13 First Thursday Old-Time and Bluegrass Jam Series at Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center will get under way Thursday, Oct. 4, with a concert presented by Sons of Ralph.

The group’s 7 p.m. performance of bluegrass music will be followed by an 8 p.m. jam session in which local musicians are invited to participate.

The Sons of Ralph features band patriarch Ralph Lewis, a Madison County native who turned 84 in April. A performer since the age of 15, Lewis has been a member of numerous bluegrass ensembles, including the Lewis Brothers, the Carolina Pals and the Piney Mountain Boys. He was a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys for two years in the mid-1970s and left Monroe’s group to perform with his sons, Marty Lewis and Don Lewis. Joining Ralph Lewis and his sons in the current Sons of Ralph are “Cousin” Steve Moseley and “Brother Oz” Ozzie Orengo Jr.

The concerts and jam sessions will continue at the Mountain Heritage Center through the fall and winter, with programs from 7 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. This year, the October and November events are being held in conjunction with the Mountain Heritage Center’s “Journey Stories” project, which includes a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution that is available for public viewing at the museum through Friday, Nov. 9. “Journey Stories” is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian and the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Support for Museum on Main Street is provided through Congress.

In keeping with the theme “Journey Stories,” the Oct. 4 program featuring Sons of Ralph will focus on tales of musicians’ lives on the road. The next program, on Nov. 1, will feature musical tradition-bearer Henry Queen, who will focus on the journeys of songs across oceans and through time.

The First Thursday concerts and jams at the Mountain Heritage Center are free and open to everyone. Pickers and singers of all ages and experience levels are invited to take part in the jam sessions, and the events also are open to those who just want to listen.

The Mountain Heritage Center is located on the ground floor of WCU’s H.F. Robinson Administration Building. For more information, call the museum at 828-227-7129.