Carolina Chocolate Drops perform at MC

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ April 17 performance will conclude the 2007-2008 Community Conversations Series.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ April 17 performance will conclude the 2007-2008 Community Conversations Series.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group of young African-American stringband musicians, will perform at 7 p.m., April 17 in Maryville College’s Humphreys Court.

The concert, which concludes the college’s 2007-2008 Community Conversations Series, is free and open to the public. In the event of rain, the performance will be moved to the Alumni Gymnasium.

Considered by one critic to be “the hottest thing to hit the old-time music community in decades” the Carolina Chocolate Drops is composed of three musicians who play the rich tradition of fiddle and banjo music once prominent in the Carolina Piedmont. Band members have studied with Joe Thompson of Mebane, N.C., who is considered to be the last black traditional string band player.

The group’s popularity is growing. Last year, members teamed with Alvin Youngblood Hart on four songs for the soundtrack of the recent Denzel Washington movie “The Great Debaters.” They performed on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” last June and in March of this year, returned from a European tour.

According to Dr. Maria Siopsis, assistant professor of math and computer science and chairperson of the Community Conversations Series committee, a member of the committee heard the group perform last year at MerleFest (an annual tribute to the music of Doc and Merle Watson) and recommended it for the series’ finale.

“She was really excited about them, and that’s what got the committee excited about inviting them to perform at Maryville College,” Siopsis said. She added that the band will bring something different to the series’ yearlong theme “American Voices.”

“While this is not a conversation in the traditional sense of the word, it is conversation through an art form, and that can often be a more powerful way to communicate. Also, we wanted to end this series with a celebration, and having the Carolina Chocolate Drops play in Humphreys Court certainly feels like a celebration,” said Siopsis.

Siopsis said she expects that many attendees at the performance will be thoroughly entertained and find themselves at home, musically, with the band’s style.

“The Carolina Chocolate Drops is more than a performing group. The members’ mission is to preserve the tradition of African-American old-time music,” she said. “I think many people may not be aware that this music, so familiar to Appalachia, has such a rich cultural history in the Piedmont.”

Community Conversations is conducted to facilitate conversations and discussions between members of the entire Maryville College community, citizens of Blount County and surrounding areas, college alumni and prospective students.

As the 2007-2008 series comes to a close, Siopsis said she wanted to thank the entire Maryville College community for several successful events.

“We were able to present such wonderful events this year thanks to support from MC Theater, Diversity Programming, the general education program and the Black Student Association,” she said. “The committee is very thankful to the entire MC community for their support of this series.”

For more information, contact Siopsis at 865-981-8163 or maria.siopsis@maryvillecollege.edu.

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