01 September 2014

Whitetop Mountain Band in Ireland and Britain, 5-28 Sept. 2014

The Whitetop Mountain Band: (l-r): Jackson Cunningham, Martha Spencer, Chris Testerman, Debbie Bramer, Emily Spencer

Thanks to Martha Spencer of the Whitetop Mountain Band for more news of the band's three-week tour of these islands, beginning this coming Friday at Naul, Co. Dublin. The full schedule is:

Fri. 5th: Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre, Naul, Fingal, Co. Dublin; +353 (0)1 8020898
Sat. 6th: The Red Room, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone; +44 7747 120659
Sun. 7th: Roadside Tavern, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare; +353 (0)65 707 4084
Tues. 9th: St John’s Theatre, The Square, Listowel, Co. Kerry; +353 (0)68 22566
Thurs. 11th: The B Bar, Barbican Theatre, Castle St., Plymouth, Devon PL1 2NJ; +01752 242021
Fri. 12th-Sun. 14th: Cornish Bluegrass Festival, Hendra Holiday Park, Newquay, Cornwall; +44 1637 875778
Mon. 15th: The Bell Inn, 103 Walcot St., Bath BA1 5BW; +01225 460426
Tues. 16th: Burnett’s Hill Chapel, Martletwy, Pembrokeshire SA67 8AX; + 01646-651725
Thurs. 18th: St Ives September Festival, the Western Hotel, Gabriel St, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2LU; +44 1736 795277
Fri. 19th: The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Swanage, Dorset; +01929 439229
Sat. 20th: Bluegrass Plus Club, Ninfield Memorial Hall, Ninfield, nr Battle, East Sussex TN33 9EE; 01424 893390
Sun. 21st: The Green Note, 106 Parkway, London NW1 7AN; +44 20 7485 9899
Tues. 23rd: Anchor Inn, 52 Abbey St, Faversham, Kent ME13 7BP; + 01795 536471
Wed. 24th: Musically Monstrous Productions, Three Horseshoes, Chinnor Road, Towersey OX39 3QY; tickets
Fri. 26th-Sun. 28th: Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival, Moniaive, Scotland; + 01848 200272 or 07740 856047

Martha also sends the following bio material:

The Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop, VA, is an area rich in the old time music tradition; this band has deep roots in mountain music. The members have done much to preserve the Whitetop region’s style of old-time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style.

At the same time, Whitetop Mountain Band shows are very versatile and entertaining, containing everything from fiddle/banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honkytonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old-timey ballads, originals, and four-part mountain gospel songs. Shows also include flatfoot dancing. The band is well known for their high energy and charisma on stage.

The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Family Fold. The band has also performed at all sorts of venues throughout the United States from festivals to concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in NYC, Carter Family Festival, Dock Boggs Festival, World Fair, Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival, and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals the band has performed at. They were featured on the NCTA Crooked Road Music tour of California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho in October 2007 and the East Coast tour of MD, VA, PA, NJ, WV and D.C. in 2010. The band members have toured overseas in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. WTMB has also taught and been master musicians/dancers for workshops and classes in fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals, and dance all over the US. Some of these include Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC, Cowan Creek Music School, KY, Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap, and Mt Rogers Combined School.

The band currently has recordings on Mountain Roads Recordings, Arhoolie Record Label, and Virginia Foundation of the Humanities. The band members have also been recorded by June Appal and Heritage and on fiddle compilations for Rounder Records.

The Whitetop Mountain Band has been featured in many books, magazines, and TV/radio shows about Appalachian music such as The guide to the Crooked Road, A Hotbed of Musicians, Strings of Life, In Good Keeping, Country Music Television, Travel Channel, PBS, Old Time Herald, and many TV news and radio programs.

Lineup for 2014 tour
Emily Spencer (banjo, vocals), Martha Spencer (guitar, fiddle, vocals), Jackson Cunningham (mandolin, vocals), Debbie Bramer (bass), Chris Testerman (fiddle)

The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle, and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter Martha Spencer plays with the band as well. She is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass, vocals) and dancer. She has taken part in many Master flatfoot dancing workshops and performances also. Jackson Cunningham, plays mandolin, guitar, and vocals in the band. Jackson has also played music since early childhood. He grew up in a musical family as well and has performed in several bluegrass and old time groups from the West Coast to the East. He also has sung in duet and trio groups as well and has recordings out on the VFH label. Jackson also plays clawhammer banjo and harmonica. Debbie Bramer, originally from Michigan, moved to Fancy Gap, Virginia in the early 90s. Debbie plays bass and dances in the band. Debbie has been a member of several clogging teams and been active in many dance workshops and competitions. Chris Testerman grew up in Whitetop and learned fiddle from Emily Spencer while attending Mount Rogers school.

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