A highlight of the Frostburg State University Appalachian Festival Sept. 18 and 19 will be the capstone concert by folk music legend Jean Ritchie and Sons featuring the rich, meaningful music of the Kentucky mountains, performing on stage at the Palace Theatre in Frostburg, Saturday, Sept. 19, beginning at 8 p.m.
Touring with Ritchie are her two talented sons, Peter and Jonathan Pickow. A family affair, the Ritchie/Pickow family performs ballads from Ritchie’s Scottish, Irish and English ancestry; the songs and hymns of her childhood; and original works she has penned from her years as a performer and social activist.
Jean Ritchie was born into a large and musical family in the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky in 1922. The youngest of 14 children, she grew up in a farm home where singing was a natural as breathing. It wasn’t until the 1940s, when the Ritchie family purchased a radio, that she learned she was singing hillbilly music. In the mid-thirties Alan Lomax recorded “Archive of Folk Songs” in Kentucky for the Library of Congress, and the Singing Ritchies were among the people he recorded.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1946, Ritchie moved to New York City and accepted a position at the Henry Street Settlement. She soon found her family’s songs useful in reaching out to the children in her care. Her voice was perfect for the old ballads, especially with the accompaniment of her lap dulcimer. She soon found herself in demand in the New York coffee houses and her singing career began. In 1948 she shared the stage with the Weavers, Woody Guthrie and Betty Sanders at the Spring Fever Hootenanny, and Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival on WNYC Radio adopted her as a regular by October 1949.
Since then, Ritchie has never stopped. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to trace the links between American ballads and the songs of the British Isles. As a song collector, she began by setting down the 300 songs she learned growing up. In 1955 Ritchie wrote a book about her family called “Singing Family of the Cumberlands.”
Ritchie became known as the “Mother of Folk Music.” Her songs have been recorded by such artists as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Judy Collins and Emmylou Harris. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall. Her album, “None But One,” was awarded the Rolling Stone Critics Award in 1977.
Tickets for Jean Ritchie and Sons are $17 for adults and $12 for young people under 17. Group rate tickets are also available. Tickets may be ordered by calling 301-687-3137 or 1-866-849-9237, or by visiting ces.frostburg.edu.
The Cultural Events Series is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business and Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.