Cumberland Trail Suite: a mixture of mountain music to fill Tivoli on Friday night

Cumberland Trail Suite: a mixture of mountain music to fill Tivoli on Friday night

March 21st, 2013 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Chattanoogans have a rare opportunity to see two Grammy winners performing on the Tivoli Theatre stage with regional master musicians this Friday night, March 22.

"Our slate has the young and the old, but the old won't be doing this again, and seeing them perform is an experience that will never be duplicated," advises Bob Fulcher, organizer of the Cumberland Trail Suite, a benefit concert of Appalachian music.

This concert is sponsored by Friends of the Cumberland Trail to help further development of that scenic, 283-mile-long footpath that runs from Cumberland Gap to Signal Point on Signal Mountain.

While Fulcher's vocation is park manager of Cumberland Trail State Park, his avocation is studying and documenting the music and visual arts of the Cumberland Mountains. He has spent almost 40 years recording this music and presenting musicians in concerts to raise awareness and appreciation for Appalachian music.

"Music is a great way to appreciate and understand the history of the Cumberland Mountain region," says Fulcher. "Musicians in a region are historians, and their versions of history are often some of the most enduring."

Fulcher said history of the Cumberland Mountains can be heard through toe-tapping fiddle licks and storytelling ballads to a cappella spirituals and gospel.

Although smaller concerts of Appalachian music have been held to benefit the Cumberland Trail, Fulcher says this is the largest in that more than 12 acts will be performing on one stage with two Grammy-winning hosts who have worldwide fan bases.

Hosts Rhiannon Giddens from the Carolina Chocolate Drops and bluegrass musician Tim O'Brien will perform individually as well as with regional musicians.

Fulcher said Giddens will sing an operatic piece in memory of Grace Moore, noted Metropolitan Opera singer who was raised in Jellico, Tenn., and is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery.

O'Brien will perform "The Cumberland Land," a 1789 ballad written about settlers traveling through the Cumberland Mountains from Knoxville to Nashville. He will also play a couple of fiddle tunes with Fletcher Bright and Ed Cullis.

A highlight of the show is expected to be Clyde Davenport's performance. Fulcher said the 92-year-old Davenport - who has played for two presidential inaugurations and at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folk Life - performs only once or twice annually. He is one of the few solo Appalachian fiddlers still alive, a third-generation musician who learned the style from his father and grandfather.

"It's an early 19th-century style of frontier fiddling, in which the fiddle is tuned so that its strings will vibrate when you bow one so it makes this rich sound," says Fulcher.

Because the musician plays solo, tempo is at his discretion. He may speed up measures or hold a note when the mood strikes, which makes this unpredictable style difficult to accompany.

Also performing will be Ed Brown, Earl T. Bridgeman, Fletcher Bright and The Dismembered Tennesseans, Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song, Joseph Decosimo, Downer and Williams, Meredith Goins, Tom and Charlie McCarroll with Tammi McCarroll-Burroughs, Chris Ryan, Booker T. Scruggs Ensemble and Nancy Foreman Westmoreland.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.