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Sunday, September 16, 2001 at 3 PM the Hampshire County Arts Council offered a free concert "In Homage to Israel Welch", patriarch of Hampshire, Grant, Hardy and Mineral County music. The event took place at the gazebo at Taggart Hall Visitor Center at 91 S. High St. in Romney, WV.

Israel Welch is a true treasure of our community, who has been recognized by the world-famous Augusta Heritage Center and was recorded for their outstanding collection of mountain music-makers. He has been profiled in Goldenseal, Welch, now 88, has inspired much of the fine music now played around our area. Numerous local musicians have learned their craft directly from Israel. Countless others have learned from them or while playing music with him at Saturday night square dances, where he was a standard, and in informal jams over the past many decades.

Professional musician, Bill Wellington, who spent nine years learning fiddle and banjo from old-timers around West Virginia, profiled Israel and his musical brothers in the summer of 1984 in a feature article in Goldenseal magazine. Wellington also participated in Sunday's concert .

This concert brought together many of those who have learned through Israel's instruction and his example to celebrate the seeds he has planted. An array of local fiddlers, from Steve Dawson, Joe Herrmann, Carroll Hagey and Don Kesner to Billie Whitson and Angel Whitacre, play the music Israel has passed on to them. A number of them play fiddles that Israel gave them over the years. Israel was able to join Susan and Tom Bailey on stage during Hampshire Heritage Days 2001 and treated us to a bit of his touch at this concert as well.

Several musicians who play other instruments, such as Betty Mattingly and Tom Bailey, also joined in this showcase of fine oldtime music, much of which is passed on only from player to player.

Cassettes of the Augusta Heritage Center recordings of Israel Welch and the videotape "Fiddles, Snakes and Dog Days," on which Israel is featured extensively, were available at the performance.

In the interests of perpetuating the fine tradition of fiddle-playing in our community, the musicians who performed at the Homage to Israel Welch Concert in September 2001 gave permission to be recorded with the proceeds from the recordings going to fund a scholarship for a Hampshire County Fiddler to attend either the Augusta Heritage Workshops or Common Ground on the Hill Workshops or a similar workshop offered at other music camps.

Local musicians Joe Herrmann, Steve Dawson, and Paul Roomsburg have served on a committee to award this scholarship. At our Annual Meeting in March, 2003 they presented the award to Dakota Hobbie. She attended the Augusta Heritage Festival in Summer 2003.


Hampshire County Arts Council, P.O. Box 624, Romney, WV 26757    webmaster e-mail address

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