Something for everyone at the Opera House this summer
New Orleans jazz? Check.
Old time? Check?
Blues? We’ve got that, too.
Did we mention the skinny German juggler?
This summer the Pocahontas County Opera House will host a veritable kaleidoscope of performers on its stage, offering something for just about every taste.
Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy
June 7 • 7:30 p.m.
The current season goes out with a belly laugh with the antics of Hilby, the Skinny German Juggle Boy, on June 7.
Best described as a show without boundaries, Hilby is the living proof that being German doesn’t mean you cannot be funny. While being an expert in juggling all sorts of objects and subjects as well as countless circus and variety skills – unicycling, ropewalking, unsupported ladder, fire manipulations and eating, balancing stunts and more – he really gets his audience involved and creates magical and hilarious moments through their participation. Watch out for catapults, marshmallows, lots of Velcro and the bowling ball of terror.
Working in the tradition of the legendary silent vaudeville-inspired comedians such as Buster Keaton as well as the great mimes Marcel Marceau and Lecoq, Hilby presents a show without boundaries in which artistry and anarchy are blended into utter hilarity.
Equally at home on the stage of a renaissance festival, a cruise ship or the midway at the state fair, Hilby’s combination of comedy and feats of coordination have landed him on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, as well as the New York Times, which describes his performances as “rivetingly absurd.”
High Street Jazz Band
June 20 • 7:30 p.m.
Morgantown’s High Street Jazz Band will swing into Marlinton on West Virginia Day to bring a little New Orleans flavor to Pocahontas County. Based in Morgantown, the High Street Jazz Band was established in the fall of 2010 in the hopes of bringing the enjoyment of New Orleans Jazz music to the city.
“The sounds of the High Street Jazz Band are offbeat,” writes West Virginia Living. “Solos are often improvised, and the group uses no sheet music when playing so they can make more eye contact with the audience. The band memorizes songs at practices, writing originals and playing covers like ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’”
The band released its first album Undercover, in the spring of 2011. The main objective of the ensemble is to promote the welfare of the city of Morgantown and all its residents through public performance. This includes playing for various charity events, educational performances at schools around the state, as well as the band’s regular appearance on High Street every Friday night at 10 p.m.
July 18 • 7:30 p.m.
Born Old will kick-off the Pocahontas County Opera House’s two-day “Music in the Mountains Old-Time Festival,” celebrating traditional music and dance.
Born Old is Paul Gartner (banjo, guitar and vocals) and Doug Van Gundy (fiddle, guitar, banjo-mandolin and vocals). The duo performed as part of the Opera House’s annual Opry Night in 2012 and was featured on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage in 2010. Gartner and Van Gundy play traditional old-time music, drawing from the influences of West Virginia masters like The Bing Brothers, Melvin Wine and the Hammons family, as well as early country classics from the great artists of the 78 rpm era, including The Carter Family, Charlie Poole, Uncle Dave Macon, and more. Gartner and Van Gundy have been making music together for 15 years, giving performances that are both traditional and informative without sacrificing a very high energy, raucous fun factor.
Born Old’s Friday performance will be followed by a full day of crafts and demonstrations by the artists and artisans of the Fourth Avenue Gallery, followed by a square dance on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to pocahontasoperahouse.org for more details on the Music in the Mountains Old-Time Festival.
The Sea, The Sea
July 25 • 7:30 p.m.
The Sea, The Sea comes to the Opera House following the February release of their first full-length album “Love We Are We Love.”
The duo of singer-songwriters Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa first began performing and recording together in the fall of 2011. No stranger to West Virginia’s most famous stage, Stanley spent much of her youth backstage at shows alongside her father, Mountain Stage bandleader Ron Sowell. She even auditioned once, as a very young girl, for host Larry Groce.
“Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” he told her.
Many years later, he kept his word, inviting the duo to perform on Mountain Stage last May.
Costa is a familiar name in folk circles with several solo albums to his credit, recipient of songwriter awards at various festivals and as a member in the band Mon Monarch. In 2011 he was named Connecticut State Troubadour. Appointed by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism based on a recommendation by a panel of music professionals, he serves as an ambassador of music and song to encourage cultural literacy and promote the State of Connecticut. In addition to his regular touring schedule, which has seen him playing festivals, coffeehouses, clubs and theaters across the Northeast and the country, he plays at various state events.
In addition to being a singer and songwriter, Stanley is formally trained in musical theatre and dance, studying at both the Boston Conservatory and the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. She is co-founder of CT Sings: Stories from the Constitution State and prior to co-facilitating workshops with Costa, she also did theatre and playwriting workshops with children.
A reviewer for The Huffington Post recently described The Sea, The Sea as “a matchmaker’s dream — two of the loveliest male-female voices you might ever hear this or any other year.”
Austin Walkin’ Cane
August 9 • 7:30 p.m.
For more than twenty-five years, slide guitarist Austin Walkin’ Cane Charanghat, has been singing the blues, performing more than three hundred shows a year, recording numerous albums and telling the stories of blues legends to a younger generation. It has become a mission in his life to sonically paint different shades of the blues.
“I don’t need to re-invent the wheel. I just want to keep it rolling,” he says.
Walkin’ Cane has traveled all over the world to Australia, Nepal, France, Germany, England, Wales and the U.S. from New Orleans, Louisiana to Juneau, Alaska. Over the years he has acquired numerous blues and instrumentalist awards.
His latest album, “One Heart Walkin’” was released earlier this year. It was recorded in two days during the summer of 2013 at the historic G.A.R. Hall in Peninsula, Ohio—a former schoolhouse and Civil War Veteran’s hangout.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes One Heart Walkin’ as “a Whitman’s Sampler of blues styles and influences. But each one has the original stamp of Charanghat’s unmistakable guitar playing and powerful swamp-stomp vocals.”
Listening to One Heart Walkin’ is like being a passenger on the old Illinois Central Railroad as Walkin’ Cane takes the listener from the south side of Chicago, through the deep south of the Mississippi Delta, with stops in Memphis, Clarksdale and Bentonia, then to the end of the line of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys
August 30 • 7:30 p.m.
A perennial Opera House favorite, The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys are among West Virginia’s longest-running bluegrass bands. The group first organized in 1968 around the foursome of Richard Hefner (banjo/tenor vocal), his brother Bill Hefner (guitar/mandolin/baritone vocal), their late uncle Glenn “Dude” Irvine (mandolin) and the late Harley Carpenter (guitar/lead vocal). They took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County. For five years the group worked a weekly radio show on WVAR, in Richwood. They also made regular appearances at local events and regional bluegrass festivals. In the mid-1970s they recorded a pair of albums: “Million Lonely Days” and “Talk of the County.” More recent albums include “Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys 1968-1973,” “Live at Midnight,” “Live at The Opera House,” and “Live at Greenbrier Valley Theatre.”
As with many bluegrass bands, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have had changes in personnel over the years. Richard Hefner remains as the lone original member. Hefner’s traditional bluegrass banjo playing and tenor vocals have contributed both continuity and much of the “high lonesome” sound for which the band has become so well-known. He has displayed his banjo skills many times as a victor in contests and at the Vandalia Festival. Chris Nickell from Monroe County, contributes driving lead and rhythm guitar work as well as lead vocals. Rick Carpenter—son of founding member Harley Carpenter—picks a fine mandolin and sings lead and baritone vocals. Bass player Mike Smith, of Culloden, has worked with such notables as Larry Sparks, Dave Evans, and the Goins Brothers.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.