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Elizabeth LaPrelle ('09) featured on City's cable channel

  • Guest starSenior Elizabeth LaPrelle is no stranger to the folk music scene. She has performed with Virginia's Whitetop Mountain Band on the Crooked Road Tour, appeared on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion and will open May 11 for folk legend Ralph Stanley in Hampton Roads. LaPrelle is pictured here (center) singing with Whitetop's Martha Spencer (l) and Jackson Cunningham (r)during the William & Mary master class.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    Guest star
  • Family affairAs is often the case in folk and bluegrass groups, the Whitetop Mountain Band includes several family members (l to r) - dad, Thornton; mom, Emily and daughter, Martha Spencer. Also pictured (back) the group's bass player Debbie Bramer.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    Family affair
  • Master fiddlerThornton Spencer, a master fiddler, comes from the "learn by doing" school of music. His brother-in-law Albert Hash was a major influence.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    Master fiddler
  • Fast pickin'Band member Jackson Cunningham strums his mandolin. Don't blink. Cunningham also play guitar, banjo, harmonica and vocals.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    Fast pickin'
  • ClawhammerEmily Spencer plays a style of banjo known as clawhammer, named for the claw shape of the hand when picking the strings. In this style, the strings are stroked with the back of the fingernail. This is a down-stroke style verses the traditional up-picking style.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    Clawhammer
  • A duetMartha Spencer (l) and Jackson Cunningham sing a duet. The pair also performs and records as the duet, The Whitetop Mountaineers.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    A duet
  • Step in timeOne of Martha Spencer's many talents and passions is flat foot dancing. She treated the master class to a sample. Jackson Cunningham (l) accompanies on the guitar.

    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

    Step in time
  • World musicUniversity Professor for Teaching Excellence Anne Rasmussen (center) presented the Whitetop Mountain master class to students in her World of Music class.

    Photo by Suzanne Seurattan

    World music

The City of Williamsburg will be broadcasting a College of William & Mary Master Class in Music this weekend featuring senior Elizabeth LaPrelle. The show will air on the City’s cable channel 48 beginning Friday, May 8.

The master class was conducted by well-known Virginia folk group the Whitetop Mountain Band who came to William & Mary as part of the Ewell Concert Series in February. A family-based acoustic band originating in the 1940s from the mountains of Virginia, the Whitetop Mountain Band's repertoire features old-time fiddling and banjo picking, bluegrass, ballads, mountain gospel songs, and flatfoot dancing. Band members include Thornton Spencer (fiddle), Emily Spencer (vocals and banjo), Martha Spencer (guitar, vocals and dance); Jackson Cunningham (Mandolin) and Debbie Bramer (Bass and dance).

Virginia’s folk music is a time honored tradition, passed down from generation to generation. The music is an art form that, in many cases, is still a family affair.

“Music is part of life where we live,” said Emily Spencer.

The group’s master class presentation was part concert, theory class and history lesson. Decades old tunes were played with the vitality of a new release.

LaPrelle joined the group to perform the classic folk ballade, “The Storms are on the Ocean.” LaPrelle is no stranger to the band. Not only did she help organize the band’s appearance on campus for an independent study course, LaPrelle sang with the group as part of the Crooked Road Tour sponsored by the National Council for Traditional Arts.

The Whitetop Mountain Band, known for its charisma and energy, regularly performs at concerts, competitions, and festivals such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Carter Family Festival, the Virginia Arts Festival, and the World Music Institute in NYC.

LaPrelle, who created a sensation in the 2005 Chrysler Hall live broadcast of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, is an area favorite and will also be the opening act for the legendary Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys at the Virginia Arts Festival, Monday, May 11.  For information about this performance, contact the Virginia Arts Festival online or at 757.282.2800.

The master class will begin airing Friday, May 8 at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 9 at 2 & 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 10 at 2 & 8 p.m.; and will continue throughout the month.  For non-city residents, the program will stream live on the city’s website.  There is also an archived video of the master class on the city’s e-meetings page.

The City of Williamsburg broadcasts community content on Cox Cable Channel 48. The master class is one in a continuing series of programs resulting from a partnership between the City and William & Mary to broadcast events, lectures and programs of interest to residents of the City, James City County, and the college community.

 The program will also air on James City County's local cable channel in coming weeks. For the county’s programming schedule and online viewing, visit their web site.