These Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music

2007 Appalachian String Band Festival at Camp Washington-Carver, Clifftop WVIf you want an unforgettable drive, drive west from Washington, D.C., for about one hour, turn onto Skyline Drive, take it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and drive to the end. These two roads follow the Blue Ridge Mountains for almost 600 miles (965 km). And if you drive them, you’ll experience one of the most historic (important to history) and beautiful areas in the eastern U.S.

You can’t drive fast here – the speed limit (how fast you can drive) is lower than usual – but you wouldn’t want to. Every turn in the road shows you something new – rugged (rocky) mountains and pastoral (farm-like) valleys (land between mountains) with waterfalls, rivers, and lakes. Forests and fields (areas of open land) of colorful wildflowers come to the edge of the road. And if you look carefully, you may see deer, bears, wild turkeys, and other wild animals.

One thing that sets these roads apart (makes them different) is that the area around them is treated as a historical museum. Historical places and buildings have been protected and taken care of so people can enjoy them as they were originally (from the beginning) and learn from them. When you drive these roads, you drive through history.

If you open your car window and listen carefully as you drive, you may hear something else that sets this area apart – the music. These hills are alive with the sound of music.

The hill music can be difficult to describe. It’s old-time music, some of it brought by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland. It’s string-band (see the photo) music. It’s bluegrass music. It’s the music of the people who live here. And they love to make it.

You can hear the music on street corners and in barber shops (where men get their hair cut). Evenings and weekends you can find people gathered on someone’s front porch (area in front of a house with a roof but no walls) or in someone else’s barn (large farm building), making and enjoying music.

Chris Wohlwend recently wrote about his visit to a popular gathering place called The Red Barn. It was a very casual gathering, he writes. Admission (cost to get in) is free. And everyone is welcome. Many of the people bring food to share with everyone else.

When it’s time to start, the musicians pick up their instruments and, in the words of one of their popular songs, “make them sing.” Any musician is welcome to “sit in” (participate; take part), and many do.

The Red Barn has about 100 seats (chairs), and on the night Wohlwend went, about 75 people were there. During the performance, some listened, some danced, some sampled (took a small amount of) the food, and others visited with (talked to) friends. A dog wandered (walked casually) through the crowd from time to time, and a young boy leaned (rested) against the stage (raised area where the musicians sat), fascinated by (extremely interested in) the fiddle (violin) player.

At the end of the evening, Wohlwend wrote, after almost everyone had gone, one of the men picked up his fiddle and began to play one of his favorite songs alone, “oblivious (not aware) that the barn was empty. He was playing for his own enjoyment.”

If you’d like to look at Wohlwend’s article, which includes photos and a link to one of the songs he heard, you can find it here.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

String band photo courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to These Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music

  1. Val says:

    Warren, thanks for such an interesting article. I would be happy to visit the gathering like that, because such places have the unique spirit, when you are there you start to feel absolutely free and easy. I enjoy attending different performances and concerts especially informal ones.

    One day, I was at a concert of not very well-known musician in a small studio. But to me it was the best concert ever! The musician played and sang so talently, he talked to the audience, everyone felt like they were among the old friends, not at a concert. And after that I was at a big concert of one famous singer in a huge concert hall. I don’t remember anything about that evening, it left no impression. It was noticable that that singer didn’t do his best, it was just one of his countless performances.

    Since that time I prefer small and not very formal concerts, where you can interact with musicians and other people around you. So, I think that I would enjoy visiting The Red Barn. May be, somewhen…

  2. Dan says:

    Hey, Hi.

    Nice getting to know this corner of the US.
    Living myself circled by mounts, I would like to visit the Appalachia region in order to see differences in vegetation and rocks.
    By the way, as I look outside the mount is turning brown with some yellow and reddish spots. Very nice.

    Not knowing the Flat-step clogging dance, I saw a couple of videos on Ytube. Wow, you have to make those legs going. Not easy.


  3. lili:) says:

    Hello Everyone! Sorry I’m not a new comer. It’s just Betty. I think it’s about time I give myself a different name. It’s much simpler. And it’s a funny face! 🙂

    OK let me get started on writing something about the post above.

    Thank you Dear Warren for the nice article. The title reminds me of the song “The Hills are alive” in the film “The Sound of Music”.

    I listened to the song from youtube again after reading your article. It really breaks my heart to listen to a song that I loved a few decades ago. The music was so powerful!

    Anyway, I’d like to thank you for so many new words and phrases in this article. It’s the first time I learn the phrasal verb “visit with” (talked to).

    Look forward to reading from you again.


  4. lili:) says:

    Sorry Warren I have made a typo in my post.

    “It’s the first time I learn the phrasal verb “visit with” (talked to)”

    should read as:

    “It’s the first time I learn the phrasal verb “visit with” (talk to)”.

    Just want to say something about my experience of learning English as a second language:

    When I was little, I was told by a friend that her teacher said if students could write a good composition with only simple words, that’s the best composition.

    I didn’t understand the reason behind it. We’ve been told that we need to use ‘big’ words to demonstrate that we have a wide range of vocabulary.

    Now that I have been learning English almost everyday since about 5 years ago, I can understand the meaning behind the saying that:

    “If students could write a good composition with only simple words, that’s the best composition.”

    In order to achieve that, we need to have a wide range of “phrasal verbs”. Most non-native English speakers have not learned lots of phrasal verbs. Very often we learn lots of vocabularies which we can’t use in a proper manner when we try to use them.

    That’s how I feel anyway.

    Many thanks again Warren, see you soon.


  5. Dan says:

    Hi Lili:)

    I like your new name Betty. Do not ask me why, but it sounds kind of French.

    What about you Lili, do you like visiting places such as the Appalachia region with all the mountains the wild flowers, Bears and so on?
    Or, do you prefer staying in the city?

    I would only go there in order to see the wild Turkey. I bet it is a beautiful bird and even smart. I would love to see it in its environment.
    Looking at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s channel on Y.Tube I have also seen an interesting lizard called “Eastern fence lizard” it’s funny and looks very proud.
    I love observing lizards during the summer. They make me smile all the time.
    The copperhead snake looks interesting as well.

    Thank you Lili. I would love to have a neighbor like you over here. I kind of envy your friend in England where you live.

    Bye! have a good week!

  6. emiliano says:

    There is a movie, there is a song
    and the name of the movie and the song is LILI the movie
    and Hi Lili the song.

    Of course, Dan, it is a French name and the movie was beatiful
    The actress was LESLIE CARON and she was nice an beautiful
    like our old Betty. The man was Mel Ferrer and he moves little
    puppets like they were friends of Lili………see the movie, it is

    Congratulations Lili, I like your name very much.


    Hi LiLi

    On every tree there sits a bird
    Singing a song of love
    On every tree there sits a bird
    And every one I ever heard
    Could break my heart
    Without a word
    Singing a song of love

    A song of love is a sad song
    Hi-li Hi-lili Hi-lo
    A song of love is a song of woe
    Don’t ask me how I know
    A song of love is a sad song
    For I have loved and it’s so

    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili…. Hi-lo

    A tear for him, a tear for me
    A tear for the love he swore
    A tear for him and one for me
    And one for under the tree
    And one for wherever my love may be
    And then I shall weep no more

    A song of love is a sad song
    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo
    A song of love is a song of woe
    Don’t ask me how I know
    A song of love is a sad song
    For I have loved and it’s so

    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo Hi-lo
    Hi-lili Hi-lili…. Hi-lo

    Good wishes LILI, emiliano

  7. emiliano says:

    By the way our dear Betty, or LiLi, you may watch the song
    at Youtube singing by Leslie Caron.


  8. lili:) says:

    Thanks Dear Emiliano’s and Dan,

    This is amazing! I didn’t even know Lili was a proper name, certainly didn’t know it’s a French girl’s name.

    These days, every step I move, I did it without knowing why. I think God is helping me choose what I do, like accidentally discovering this website and reading from you all almost everyday now.

    I attended an English class last year. The English teacher told us her name had 3 “i”, two in her first name and one in her surname, because her mother believed that a name with 3 “i” would bring her luck.

    That’s why I made up Lili, two i in it, plus one “i” in my surname, 3i!

    I’ve watched Lili stars Leslie Caron singing the song “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” just now. So nice, thanks!

    Life is interesting.

    Thanks again Dan and Emiliano.


Comments are closed.