The Branson Regional Arts Council, in association with Ozark Mountain Music, will present a program on the history of traditional Ozark music, emphasizing fiddle music and other historical songs familiar to the early settlers of the region.
This free community concert takes place on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Owen Theatre in Downtown Branson.
The presentation will trace the history of Ozark fiddle music from its mid-1600 origin in Scotland through Ireland, Appalachia and on into the Ozarks at the signing of the Louisiana purchase. Still common in the Ozarks today, this style of music was the foundation for many others including gospel, country, and bluegrass. In this lively program, several accomplished musicians including Mike Micham and MSU student Josh Lee, will explain the progression of the music, and perform many traditional tunes and songs.
Historically, old time fiddle music helped sustain the early Ozark settlers.
At the signing of the Louisiana Purchase an onslaught of setters, mostly of Scot descent, poured across the Mississippi River leaving behind their already depleted land in the Appalachian Mountains as they sought new homesteads in a familiar terrain, the Ozarks. These hardy folks already felt comfortable settling in the lonely river bottoms and isolated valleys of the Ozarks. To sustain themselves in what could have been a very stark life, the Scots brought their fiddles with them and continued with traditions established back in their homeland generations before. Through community parties and festivals, these agrarian settlers imprinted the Ozarks with its first music.
Today, following in that early tradition, there are still weekly community fiddle jams as well as yearly festivals and contests that celebrate the fiddle.
“In this time of social upheaval, it is particularly important to continue to bind together our present with our past,” stated Bob McGill, founder of Ozark Mountain Music who is presenting this free community event.
Ozark Mountain Music was incorporated by Bob McGill as a 501 (C) (3) not-for-profit corporation ins 2012 with the mission of teaching, learning, and keeping alive the history and culture of the Ozarks.
The organization has sponsored fiddle camps for young people ages 11-17 who desire to learn old-time Ozark Fiddle music. From these camps, a select group of students were invited to join The Possum Holler Fiddlers, and have given over 100 performances in Churches, festivals, nursing homes and pre-schools in the Branson area. They have traveled and performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, twice at the White House in Washington D.C., and three members of the group traveled to Haiti in 2017 to conduct a week-long fiddle camp featuring gospel music. Ozark Mountain Music also began as an after school program offering fiddle music to young aspiring musicians.
The Ozark Mountain Music program began as a result of a Traditional Ozark Music concert at Juanita K Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield, Missouri honoring long-time Ozark fiddler, Bob Holt. A famed American fiddler, Mr. Holt was known for his lightning-fast, energetic old-time style. He played his signature song “Ninth of January” at as much as 144 beats per minute while playing for square dances.
In 1999, Mr. Holt was honored in a ceremony at the White House as a recipient of a Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States’ highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. At that time he played in concert at the Kennedy Center. Bob Holt passed away in his home town of Ava, Missouri on March 19, 2004 at the age of 73.
In addition to the free concert at the Historic Owen Theatre on November 17, a second performance is also scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell, Springfield. Anyone interested in learning more about traditional music and its impact on music today is encouraged to attend one or both presentations.