Founding and Purpose of the Traditional Voices Group
The Traditional Voices Group was founded in 2007. Originally, the group’s purpose was to collect stories and information from descendants of the Toe River valley area of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. TVG worked with the Yancey County Cultural Resource Commission to obtain grants to purchase the cameras and video editing equipment for the project. The organization is housed in the Yancey County Mountain Heritage Center. Through this project we discovered Lesley Riddle, a native son who greatly influenced early country music through his association with the Carter Family of Virginia. In 2008, we began a regular series of annual concerts to honor Riddle’s legacy.
For generations, the people of the Appalachian Mountains lived outside the written American historical narrative, yet they transmitted their cultural values to succeeding generations through stories, tales, and songs that demonstrated community standards, morals, and beliefs in memorable ways. The art of storytelling in this region is our birthright. We collect and recount stories that help us know who we are, remember where we come from, and gain hope for where we are going. The stories that TVG collects through its oral history program are edited and described as “Memory Minutes” that are broadcast daily on the local radio stations WKYK and WTOE at regular times.
TVG also produces RiddleFest as an annual educational event often supported by the North Carolina Humanities Council. Each RiddleFest is focused on a different musical topic associated with the region. An afternoon seminar conducted by musicians who specialize in the topic area is followed by an evening concert given by the same musicians. Past topics have included Piedmont Blues, ballads, gospel music and spirituals and, most recently, railroad and work songs. Through the generosity of the North Carolina Humanities Council, TVG publishes annual booklets that summarize the lessons of the RiddleFest Seminars.
TVG board members, many of whom are descendants of native families, organize the oral history collecting and produce the annual RiddleFest Seminars and Concerts.