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Honor Thy Mother: Carter Family Fold's annual gospel concert pays tribute to Janette Carter

Marci Gore • Oct 29, 2015 at 7:30 PM

HILTONS, Va. — Carter Family Fold Executive Director Rita Forrester said hosting a show that features only gospel music is the most fitting way to honor the memory of her mother, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 82.

“The person I loved and respected the most was my mom. When we decided to do a tribute, it just seemed fitting and right to do a gospel tribute to her. Her faith was something that was very important to her and this pays tribute to both her and her faith,” said Forrester.

The Carter Family Fold in Hiltons will present the eighth annual gospel concert in honor of Janette Carter — the founder of the Carter Family Memorial Music Center Inc. — at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 1.

Eugene Wolf, Ronnie Williams, Tim White, Teddy Helton and, Russian musician, Mitya Kuznetsov, will perform.

Admission to the concert is $10 for adults; $3 for children 6 to 11; and free for those younger than 6. Tickets will be available only at the door on the day of the concert. Doors will open at 1 p.m.

Janette Carter began presenting shows of old-time and bluegrass music in 1974 in tribute to the Original Carter Family. She started the shows as a result of a promise she made to her dying father, A.P. Carter. A.P. asked his daughter to keep his music alive; she promised him she would try.

The Carter Family Fold, the Carter Family Museum and the A.P. Carter birthplace cabin stand today as a lasting tribute to the culmination of that promise.

Despite the fact that Janette Carter didn't finish high school, she founded one of the first rural arts organizations in the United States, established a museum and preserved the musical legacy of the Carter Family — the first family of country music — for generations to come.

Gospel music makes up over a third of the Carter Family song catalog. A.P. passed up a chance to record for Brunswick records before recording for Victor in 1927. Brunswick wanted him to play the fiddle. Although A.P. knew how to play the fiddle, he and his mother considered the fiddle “the devil’s instrument.” Carter Family shows — mostly concerts at local schools in the early days — were advertised as “morally good.” Forrester says it’s a motto that the Carter Music Center strives to continue live up to — more than 40 years after weekly concerts began at the Fold.

In addition to their performances at the Carter Family fold this weekend, Eugene Wolf and Mitya Kuznetsov will also kick-off a two-week tour celebrating the release of their new CD, “Where We'll Never Grow Old,” a collection of American country hymns and spirituals from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Their first stop on the tour will be as guests of Dave Carter on WETS FM on Saturday.

Wolf and Kuznetsov met in 1997 when Wolf was studying Russian with Anna Gabruseva, a teacher from Johnson City’s sister city, Rybinsk, Russia. During that same time, Kuznetsov, a Rybinsk native and a member of the Russian folk group, Seventh Water, was visiting Bill Clifton and Tineke Marburg in Mendota, Va. Gabruseva thought Kuznetsov and Wolf should meet. The two hit it off and spent some time working and performing together.

When Kuznetsov returned to Russia, he and Wolf lost touch for a number of years. But, in 2012, Wolf found Kuznetsov on Facebook and the two musicians reconnected.

Besides their performances on WETS and at The Fold, Wolf and Kuznetsov’s tour will take them to the Barter Theatre at 7:30 p.m, Wednesday, Nov. 4; the Lincoln Theater in Marion, Va. at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7; and The Down Home in Johnson City at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Proceeds from the Carter Family Fold’s gospel concert will benefit the Janette Carter Memorial Endowment Fund and the Carter Music Center. Established in 2007 by the center's board of directors and attorney, the fund was set up to ensure that Janette Carter’s vision of preserving old-time mountain music will continue for generations to come.

For more information, call (276) 386-6054. The Fold is also on Facebook and Twitter.