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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Tribute to fiddling master
Carolina Chocolate Drops pay homage with concert
 
Published Monday, March 4, 2013 8:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

The Charlotte Folk Society is hosting a tribute concert to honor N.C.-born fiddler Joe Thompson, but it’s also a reunion.


The March 8 Gathering Concert featuring the Carolina Chocolate Drops celebrates the life and music of Thompson, who was a mentor to the Grammy-winning group’s members. Chocolate Drop Rhiannon Giddens Laffan will reunite with former member Justin Robinson at the 7:30 perform at Great Aunt Stella Center, 926 Elizabeth Ave. Admission is free but donations will be appreciated. Parking is free at the deck next to the center.


“I’m really excited about it,” Laffan said. “When the Charlotte Folk Society asked us to do it, it was a no-brainer because first of all, it’s the first year we haven’t had Joe and I think it’s important to mark that. Also, the Charlotte Folk Society was one of the first groups to really support us when we were starting out as a band and gave us a place to play.”


Thompson, who died last year at 93, played at Carnegie Hall. But he is credited with passing on the African American fiddle-and-banjo string band tradition handed down from his slave grandfather to his father and uncle.  None of the younger Thompsons were interested in taking up the string band, but Thompson found eager students in 2005 at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone. Laffan, Robinson and Dom Flemons became regular visitors at Thompson’s Mebane home, where he shared the legacy and music of a nearly forgotten Piedmont music form. The Chocolate Drops’ 2011 album Genuine Negro Jig won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. 


“If you take race out of it, it’s still remarkable,” Laffan said. “Just the fact we’re playing old-time music and having a career, a very thriving career, it’s not a thing where we’re having to take a day job. This is not music you could traditionally take around the world solely. People are into it now. I feel like we came along at a good time.”


The Chocolate Drops’ relationship with Charlotte has been strong. A December show at the Neighborhood Theater sold out and Charlotte was one of the first cities to embrace the band’s music.


“Charlotte is one of our big bases,” Laffan said. When we go we know we’re going to have a fantastic time and a great crowd. Like Asheville and Atlanta and Durham, it’s one of the places that when we go we’re going to have a great time.”


Refreshments, a song circle, and informal jam sessions follow the hour-long concert; visitors are welcome to join in or simply listen.  Charlotte Appalachian Dulcimer Club members offer loaner instruments to visitors wishing to try their hands at playing. 


On the Net:
www.folksociety.org

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