William Ritter & Sarah Ogletree

Gospel, Old Time

Husband-and-wife duo William Ritter and Sarah Ogletree have been playing music together for more than ten years. Their repertoire highlights the old-time music of the western North Carolina mountains where they both grew up, including instrumental tunes, ballads, and gospel music.

“Sarah has been playing and singing since she was five,” said William during a panel discussion about gospel traditions that PineCone hosted online. “But me not so much, I was kind of a late bloomer.” He says he found the music and religion at the same time. “I went to this little, tiny Baptist church and it was a really powerful experience. They had so much emotion, and so much feeling… They really took it seriously to make a joyful noise.”

William and Sarah play in church and secular venues alike but he says the the tunes they pick are pretty consistent regardless of the setting. “In the tradition that I came up in, outside of church, we sing tons of religious hymns, gospel songs and camp meeting songs. We love that music, it’s not just reserved for church.”

Sarah, who has a Masters of Divinity from Wake Forest University, directs the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina, a network of people of faith dedicated to environmental protection and sustainability. William is the founding director of Song to Seed, an organization that marries his passions for traditional Appalachian agriculture and music.