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 www.hampshirearts.org