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2019 Appalachian Heritage Storytellers-in-Residence celebrate Appalachian heritage during Shepherdstown residency

By Staff | Apr 19, 2019

Michael Kline and Carrie Kline weave West Virginia stories and folklore with harmonies on voice and guitar, during the Speak Story Series event on April 9. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – Last week, the Speak Story Series celebrated Appalachian heritage with a week’s residency of the series’ 2019 Appalachian Heritage Storytellers-in-Residence, Michael Kline and Carrie Kline.

The husband-and-wife team hosted three events in town, during their residency. On April 7, they held a community workshop in Shepherd University Student Center’s Cumberland Room. On April 9, the Klines presented a concert in Reynolds Hall, “Granny Get Your Stick and Come and Walk with Me: Old Time Songs and the Stories They Tell.” On April 12, after a week of casting community members, the play “Revelations” was premiered in the Robert C. Byrd Center.

One reason the Klines were chosen to be this year’s honorees, was for their commitment to discovering and recording Appalachian history through songs and storytelling.

“A few years ago, I had an experience that awakened the writer in me,” Michael said, mentioning he has six essays printed in the anthology, “Written in Blood,” which also showcases one essay written by Carrie.

“In Appalachian culture, what we all love, is we really don’t get rid of the past. All of these songs are still being sung,” Carrie said, mentioning some of the songs they sang throughout the April 9 concert dated back to the Middle Ages, and were passed down by Appalachian families. “Marginalized people got away from those port cities to live free in the mountains, and you can hear that in these songs, if you listen.

“The people carried the songs of triumph, pockets full of dandelion seeds, to replant in the new world, and old world medicines. Songs sung to pass the time weathered, changed like the singers,” Carrie said about the colonial frontiersmen. “They sang to keep themselves alive in a world that needed them not.”

Michael agreed with Carrie, mentioning people often misunderstand the type of people that settled in the Appalachian Mountains.

“It took a very special people to settle that land. Some of the frontier was won by a diverse band of people – they weren’t all Daniel Boone,” Michael said. “They were fighters when they came here – men and women.”

According to Michael, the older songs sung during the evening may have been more complicated than the newer ones, for a couple of reasons.

“I think it may be the characteristic of people who didn’t have instruments to play, or their beliefs didn’t allow them to use instruments,” Michael said. “So they ornamented their songs vocally.”

In between songs, Michael and Carrie told short stories about their past and the history of West Virginia. The Klines have spent years interviewing West Virginians about their family history in West Virginia and turning the interview information into articles or podcast documentaries about topics ranging from coal mining conditions to the civil rights movement.

The couple’s social awareness of West Virginia’s diverse make-up prompted Carrie to write Friday’s play, “Revelations,” discussing Appalachian resiliency in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

For more information about the 2019 Appalachian Heritage Storytellers-in-Residence visit www.folktalk.org/.