A music professor at Coastal Carolina University has tuned up a concert saluting the late “Mother of Folk.”
For “A Jean Ritchie Tribute,” at 4 p.m. Sunday in CCU’s Edwards Recital Hall, on the main campus in Conway, Jill Trinka also will welcome two special guests: Jonathan Pickow – Ritchie’s son – and Susan Brumfield, a former student of Trinkla’s who later worked with Ritchie and is a professor of music at Texas Tech University.
Trinka said Ritchie, the youngest of 14 in her family in a Kentucky homestead with kindred known for songs “that go back generations and generations” in the Cumberlands had “an amazing talent of memorizing long texts of old ballads.”
Remembering her second year of teaching music, while in New Haven, Conn., Trinka talked about borrowing from a library vinyl albums by Ritchie and picking up audiocassettes to enjoy her music in the car.
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“I fell in love with the purity of her voice,” Trinka said, also recalling a teaching project at the time and “collecting traditional folk songs to use in the classroom. “That’s how I stumbled upon her.”
Later, when Trinka was teaching a folk music classics program in Round Top, Texas, between Austin and Houston, she met Brumfield, who would go on to write a dissertation about Ritchie and author books including “Hot Peas and Barley-O: Children’s Songs and Games from Scotland,” published by the Hal Leonard Corporation.
“Jean was a big help to Susan in that project,” Trinka said. “Jean wrote a statement that became the foreword for the book, so they had a very tight collaboration.”
Brunfield also assisted the singer in writing the book “Jean Ritchie’s Kentucky Mother Goose,” a collection published by Hal Leonard of songs, rhymes and stories recounted by Ritchie from her childhood. The last draft was completed three months before Ritchie died at age 92 last June at home in Kentucky.
“I was so saddened when Jean passed,” Trinka said, “because it’s really the passing of an incredible presence in American folk music. The songs she wrote, and the texts, are so fine, poignant, and they speak to the problems that happened in overdevelopment of the mountains. It’s very strong music, and tender at the same time.”
Brumfield invited Pickow to perform with her at a conference Trinka attended this past March in California, then Trinka asked if they would come to CCU for the Ritchie tribute concert this weekend.
“Her music is just so pure,” Trinka said, “and we hope to have some video footage of her ... so we can weave that into our performance. She was just such a special lady.”
Trinka said the plan calls for starting with some “traditional ballads” from the Ritchie family, followed by children’s, then folk, songs. She also has encouraged students from her CCU classes to demonstrate “a play party,” which she called “a very important part of folk music” that helped young people enjoy music through socializing not with dancing, but with “sung steps” and games, and the gatherings also “helped people communicate” in this country’s “westward expansion.”
With hopes the play party demo coming together this week, Trinka said they will try it, “although it can get very crowded on that stage,” and that the audience can voice their own appreciation in a singalong of Ritchie selections afterward.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: “A Jean Ritchie Tribute” concert
WITH: Jill Trinka, music professor at Coastal Carolina University, with special guests Jonathan Pickow – Ritchie’s son – and Susan Brumfield.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: CCU’s Edwards Recital Hall, on main campus in Conway, accessed from U.S. 501 or S.C. 544.
HOW MUCH: $7 general admission.
INFORMATION: 843-349-2787 (ARTS) or www.coastal.edu/news/culturalarts
ALSO, ART EXHIBIT: “Portfolios II,” with works by graduating seniors with degrees in studio art and graphic design, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through May 6 in Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery, in Edwards College building, accessed from U.S. 501 and S.C. 544 in Conway, with closing reception 4:30-6:30 p.m. May 6. Free. 843-349-6454 (call to arrange up-close parking for anyone with a disability or mobility matter) or www.coastal.edu/bryanartgallery.