On February 18, 2022 PineCone presented A Carolina Gospel Jubilee at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. It was a joyous night of music in a beautiful theater. The evening featured three distinct styles of this state’s gospel traditions. We heard spirituals from Jared Payton and the Voices, string band and shape note singing from William Ritter and Sarah Ogletree and family quartet style gospel from The Glorifying Vines Sisters.
The pandemic has been a hard time for everyone. Many turn to music to find peace in these difficult times. Alice Vines leads the Glorifying Vines Sisters from Farmville, NC and says it’s been tough. “You know the music means a lot to me, and the way I got through it was listening to different music, and just staying safe, and still try and sing and do what you have to do to keep yourself in check with singing.”
Old time musician William Ritter is from Bakersville, NC and told us he loves the old songs. “The music I play is very familiar which brought some comfort.” So much traditional music talks about home, he says playing these songs can give some a metaphorical solace and connect him to home. In the first part of the pandemic where many couldn’t go home, or see their loved ones he felt like “…music was the only way you could go home.” Gospel music in particular gave him connection to people that have passed away.
Jared Payton leads a choir in Cumberland County, NC and says they sang their way through the pandemic. “Gospel music is a safe zone for me, and most of my choir. When trouble arises we all have a safe zone and for us gospel music is that safe area.” This group specializes in acapella music and some in the community wanted the group to stop singing during the pandemic. But, he says “…we kept going, because I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t sing or do music.” His group’s members range from 13 to 70 years old. When he went to them about getting together, his older members said “…we’ll see you when everything calms down.” Meanwhile the younger folks decided to form a trusted circle and continue to sing. “It’s what we do,” says Payton.
Vines, Ritter, and Peyton all said they looked forward to playing at PineCone’s Carolina Gospel Jubilee on February 18, 2022. The pandemic forced most venues to cancel shows and shut down. “We played a few gigs, went to different places”, said Alice Vines. “Our booking agency (Music Makers Relief Foundation) is very big on getting vaccinated so if you weren’t vaccinated you couldn’t go to any gigs.”
Jared Payton says he had to get creative and at times did virtual shows. “We would go to a venue, bring a musician, and do a little mini concert for our viewers, quaint and socially distanced.”
Up in the mountains, William Ritter struggled with staying at home. “Traditional music is social music whether it be jams or performing.”
A Carolina Gospel Jubilee was made possible with support from the North Carolina Folklife Institute, PNC Bank, The City of Raleigh on recommendation from the Raleigh Arts Commission, the State Arts Council and the contributions of PineCone members.