Saturday, September 03, 2011
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Live from Floyd

'The Floyd Radio Show: Views From Buffalo Mountain' features music, skits and the creativity of two talented young women.

Anna Roberts-Gevalt (left), 24, of Floyd County and Elizabeth LaPrelle, 23, of Cedar Springs will host

Rebecca Barnett | The Roanoke Times

Anna Roberts-Gevalt (left), 24, of Floyd County and Elizabeth LaPrelle, 23, of Cedar Springs will host "The Floyd Radio Show: Views from Buffalo Mountain." The women are wrapped in what they call a "cranky," a storyboard that they made to illustrate a folk ballad.

"The Floyd Radio Show: Views from Buffalo Mountain" will be performed before a live audience at The Floyd Country Store tonight, with Anna Roberts-Gevalt (left) and Elizabeth LaPrelle hosting.

Heather Krantz, events programmer at The Floyd Country Store.

Heather Krantz, events programmer at The Floyd Country Store.

FLOYD - It had been a quiet week on Buffalo Mountain. Then the ladies with the fiddles and banjos showed up.

Tonight, the Floyd Country Store debuts "The Floyd Radio Show: Views From Buffalo Mountain," a live monthly showcase of music and -sketches whose producers and performers hope will eventually find a home on radio airwaves.

The show - which the cast has shortened to "The Floyd Radio Show" in conversations - is sort of "A Prairie Home Companion" meets the "Grand Ole Opry." But instead of Lake Wobegone or Nashville's Ryman Auditorium as settings, you have the funky town of Floyd and its venerable country store, home of the famous Friday Night Jamboree - complete with fiddles, sound effects and old-timey, live-radio high jinks and drama.

The show is the brainchild of Floyd Country Store owner Woody Crenshaw, who said he's wanted to host a live radio show at the store for about three years. But it wasn't until the creative and musically gifted duo of Elizabeth La-Prelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt showed up with some ideas of their own that the show finally developed.

"I kept waiting for the right opportunity," said Crenshaw. "I had a vision of a 'Prairie Home Companion'-style program, with a lot of stories and characters, but all of them from Floyd County. Then, Anna and Elizabeth showed up back in March and I thought, 'Gosh, these are the right people.' "

Jack and the magic fiddle

LaPrelle, 23, and Roberts-Gevalt, 24, have teamed with the store's events director, Heather Krantz, to develop the hour-long show. The cast of performers includes local musical duo Mac and Jenny Traynham, singer Janet Turner, West Virginia banjo player and raconteur Jimmy Costa and several other folks. They will play some tunes, act out skits and play some more tunes - all before a live audience. An old-time dance follows the show.

The aim is to have the music and skits feature Floyd County locations and people. The dramatic centerpiece of the show sounds like it will be a fairy tale set at the Midway Grocery and Oil Co. near Willis, a place famous for its claims of selling hundreds of thousands of hot dogs since 1980.

The skit will be like an Appalachian "Jack Tale," in which the eponymous protagonist played by Costa wanders into the store in search of a hot dog but winds up with a magic fiddle instead. A fantastical journey begins, one that hopefully involves hippies and flatfooters - but that's probably asking too much.

"This is Floyd," said LaPrelle. "There's so much to tap into."

Cranky young women

LaPrelle and Roberts-Gevalt had been working on other types of performances before becoming involved with the radio show.

Their specialty was a show featuring a "cranky," a homemade, wooden box affixed with a hand crank and a scroll-like roll of fabric embossed with illustrations that tell the story of an old ballad. As the song is sung, the performer turns the crank, and the hand-stitched (or hand-drawn) scenes match the lyrics.

In fact, the women had approached the country store management with an idea for a crankies concert when the radio show idea was pitched to them.

"They said, 'Radio, we've always wanted to do radio!' " said Krantz, who books the shows at the store. "I was amazed by how beautiful and artistic their work was. You couldn't ask for two more creative people to do the radio show."

The Floyd Radio Show: Views from Buffalo Mountain

  • What: A live show featuring music, stories and sketches based on old-time radio programs will be performed monthly at the Floyd Country Store. Performers include Elizabeth LaPrelle, Anna Roberts-Gevalt, Mac and Jenny Traynham, Jimmy Costa and more. The snow will be streamed live at www.floydcountrystore.com
  • When: The show premieres tonight at 7. Future shows will be Oct. 1, Nov. 5 and Dec. 3.
  • Where: Floyd Country Store, 206 S. Locust St., Floyd
  • Cost: $5
  • Contact: 745-4563; www.floydcountrystore.com

LaPrelle and Roberts-Gevalt might seem like unlikely musical partners, considering that the Smyth County-raised LaPrelle sings old mountain ballads and Roberts-Gevalt is a Vermonter who started out playing classical violin.

But both decided at a young age to make Appalachian music and traditions a focal point of their lives.

The ballad singer

LaPrelle is a highly regarded singer who specializes in mountain ballads often sung a cappella. She has recorded albums and toured parts of the country with other musicians from Southwest Virginia.

She grew up hearing her mother singing songs by the Beatles, Joan Baez and even campfire songs. LaPrelle was "discovered" as a teenager by renowned folk singer Ginny Hawker while singing in a folk song competition at the Mount Airy (N.C.) Fiddlers Convention. Hawker recommended that she attend a workshop at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, W.Va., where she met and was influenced by the North Carolina singer, storyteller and author Sheila Kay Adams.

She pursued musical studies while at the College of William and Mary, where she graduated with a self-designed major in southern Appalachian traditional performance.

"I told my adviser I thought that name was too long," said LaPrelle. "But he said, 'No, it sounds really good. You've got to keep that.' "

The fiddler

Roberts-Gevalt switched to banjo and old-time fiddle after hearing a group of students playing clawhammer banjo while attending Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she soon became known as "the girl carrying the banjo to class," she said.

After college, Roberts-Gevalt traveled to eastern Kentucky to study at Berea College and Appalshop, the arts and culture center in Whitesburg, Ky., soaking up more Appalachian music while learning about female musicians of the mountains.

The banjo eventually brought her to Virginia. She bought a custom-built banjo from Giles County instrument maker Greg Galbreath, who lives in Eggleston with his fiddle-playing wife, Cindy Cook. When Roberts-Gevalt met the couple at their home high above the New River, she was smitten with the local culture and music and didn't want to leave.

"They told me, 'That house is for rent,' " she said, "so I decided to move there."

She played in an old-time string band called Old Sledge, which generated buzz in the New River Valley for a while, but she left the group and moved to Floyd County in February to work on new projects.

The show

Roberts-Gevalt and -LaPrelle met barely a year ago and bonded over old-time music, especially the music of mountain women. Now, the pair hope to add their own unique contribution to the form with the radio show.

Of course, the show isn't really on the radio - yet. Krantz has spoken with managers of some Southwest Virginia stations, but for now, the only way to hear the show is to either listen on the website, www.floydcountrystore.com, at 7 p.m. or buy a ticket.

"The variety show is such an exciting concept," said LaPrelle. "It's fast-paced. Five minutes and you're on to something else. This kind of show was such a part of people's lives. I think that when people see and hear what we're doing, they're going to come to us with all kinds of ideas and stories. That's going to be the exciting part."

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