Traditional music in North Carolina has been evolving for nearly three centuries. Since the earliest days of exploration, and even earlier, the people of our state have told their stories through various forms of folk music. Here in Sampson County we are blessed with a wide range of talented musicians and singers, spanning every genre and age group. In January of 2017, the Sampson County History Museum began hosting a monthly Traditional Music Gathering to help pass on these music traditions to the people of our county.
This program was inspired by the monthly bluegrass sessions held at the old Clear Run Store, near Harrells, as well as old-time fiddler conventions and similar programs throughout North Carolina. The gatherings at Clear Run have become well-known throughout the state, and attract visitors and musicians from all over. The addition of the Traditional Music Program at the Sampson County History Museum offers yet another vehicle for area musicians to share their talents, and expose the public to this part of our folk heritage.
Although musicologists will tell you there are specific types of folk music that vary from region to region (and even town to town), there is quite a bit of “cross-pollination” between old-time music, bluegrass, gospel music, and the blues. Sampson County is particularly known for its Southern Gospel music tradition. In 1915, W.F. Sessoms organized a gospel music “sing” to host choirs and singers from all over the area. This event became a popular annual attraction that still lives on today in the form of the Annual Sampson County Gospel Sing. Plaques awarded for this event are on display in the Exhibit Hall of the Sampson County History Museum, honoring past participants.
The various styles of music performed at these museum sessions include bluegrass, old-time country music, and gospel, and feature musicians from all over Sampson County. A wide array of instruments can be seen and heard as well. Guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins and more – played with enthusiasm by both beginners and seasoned veterans – blend together to create this unique music. In the days before radio and TV, music was a very personal experience, performed in parlors, country stores, and on front porches. This museum program offers the visitor a journey into that musical past, an opportunity to experience traditional music the way it was enjoyed by our grandparents and great-grandparents.
The Traditional Music Program is held on the third Saturday night of each month, from 7– 9 p.m…or until the music stops! Currently we are meeting in the Law Enforcement Building just outside the back door of the main museum building, but – weather permitting – we will be moving outdoors during the warmer months. Spectators are welcome to this family-friendly program, as are musicians of all ages and experience levels! For more information, call the museum at 910-590-0007 or follow us on Facebook.
Chris Woodson is the director of the History Museum.