Comments from “Cool of the Day: Singing in Sacred Places” Student

Notes from summer student Katherine Jameson, Music Director, Emmanuel Church

I just returned from a workshop called “Cool of the Day” in Elkins, West Virginia. I traveled with several members of Emmanuel’s choir to the Allegheny Highlands to learn and sing and play some of the legendary ballads of the West Virginia forests. We visited many sacred spaces and sang our songs there. We did a lot of unaccompanied singing celebrating the beauty of the human voice the original stringed instrument! We played a little guitar and listened to some fine banjo picking, fiddling and even a little clogging.

The leaders of the workshop were Michael and Carrie Kline, who have devoted themselves to documenting and performing ethnic stories and music of rural and small town America. At home in West Virginia, they feature Appalachian ballads, the impact of coal mining and oral history.

We so enjoyed the cool of the mountains, the gentle rains, the green forests and plentiful gardens. I was glad to have the time to visit and celebrate the beauty and peace of sacred spaces in song and story. As I drive through the countryside with new eyes this time – maybe not just rushing from one place to another, but thinking of the history here and the many stories and songs and faithful lives that have gone before, I think of this garden of ours.

Student voices resound in surrounding forest during afternoon outing at Cool of the Day class learning old West Virginia songs

“Now is the Cool of the Day” was written by Kentucky singer and folk songwriter, Jean Ritchie in the early 1970s. It draws its inspiration from Genesis 3:8… “Then the man and the woman heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” Ritchie expands the thought to imagine God returning to his garden now to see how we have been keeping it. God comes back to his garden in the cool of the day – a thoughtful and reflective time of day. We are called to love God and to care for each other and for our garden, the earth.                                                                                                                                       

Comments from “Listening for a Change: Oral History and Appalachian Heritage” Students

  • “This week with you has been priceless, truly, and has helped me center myself again. . . . Thanks you for helping me find the strength and love to be more of the person I aim to be.”
  • “Thank you for your encouragement, gentle guidance and extraordinary example that set me on my path of finding my voice. Little did I know when you handed me that yellow [course description] flyer that I would end up on such an emotional ride.”
  • “Thank you for opening up your home to us this week. You have been so gracious. Thank you for letting me sit at your feet and just listen, take in as you taught and shared your life’s work and passion. I am blessed to have shared in this week.”
  • “Thank you for allowing me to be in your home and life this week. What an amazing experience this has been for me, and I thank you for that. So much to think about and so much to do, paths to follow that I had not considered before this week. P.S. The food this week was an experience in itself, and such a treat.”
  • “Thank you for this week. I have a deep respect and appreciation for your work. Watching the week unfold has been powerful for me as I get to sample a taste of the process. Of all the work I have done in my life, I see these interviews as a pure art form. . . . Active listening is at a level beyond journalism, counseling or confessions.”
  • “Thank you for sharing your drive, your enthusiasm and your mastery of the technical side. Most of all, thank you for sharing your love of life, your love of the mountains, and your love of the music. And most especially, thank you for sharing your commitment to them.”
  • “Thank you so much for your generous spirit and hospitality. I enjoyed spending the week in your beautiful home learning with you. It’s plain to see that you love what you do, which inspires me to find my own niche where I can grow. I’ll miss hearing you two sing in the morning.”
  • “I love Carrie’s singing voice. I love the way you translate listening into caring. With an attitude like yours it seems there is no limit to what we can care about. Thank you for sharing your home and friendship.”
  • “You lured me in with Michael’s old songs and distinctive guitar style. It took me a while to understand that the real story lies within the old people and the old way. I think I’m finally starting to listen. Thanks for the help.”
  • “Thank you for your inspiring words about community organizers. Don’t think that I don’t owe some of my path to you. I am so grateful to have spent this week with you. . . . Who knew learning could be so much fun? Thank you for sharing your knowledge and life experiences with us. You’ve inspired me to get out and start a new Listening Project.”
  • “At fifty-five I believe I am ready to open my heart and give myself to love and begin my courtship with life. Thank you. I am so grateful. I did not know what this class would be about really. But it has been a beautiful learning experience. I can visualize using these skills in my path of life and that is exciting. I am willing to return to learn more next year.”
  • “I went down to the hills of West Virginia for a weekend of Appalachian music and lore at the Water Gap Retreat near Elkins. Had never even heard the place when a friend , who had heard Michael and Carrie Kline and rearranged his life to see them again, invited me. So the weather was perfection (a cloudless cobalt sky and sunlight the color of honey) and the landscape sublime and the cabin was cozy and the food delicious and host gracious. But it was the Klines -their warmth and love for each other and the people whose stories and songs they have dedicated their lives to recording and sharing -that was the ultimate gift. Michael Davis, founder and host of the Retreat writes on his beautifully designed website, that he hopes to offer “enriching and memorable workshops” in a beautiful setting. And that’s exactly what this workshop, Appalachian Singing, was -enriching and memorable.”
  • “This class was a life-changing experience! It was amazing. I learned so many things on so many levels.”
  • “Excellent class.”
  • “Good technique coverage, excellent immersion into events that can be chronicled. Would NOT have missed trip into flooded area. Excellent! I have many good ideas as to how to put Oral History techniques to use. Field trip to mountaintop removal was VERY important. Tell the college they should have Appalachian Studies Department. They would increase their enrollment and have something very valuable to offer the academic community.”
  • “Eye-opening, provoking, educational. Carrie and Michael have so much to share and are great teachers. They planned a wonderful week for us. I can’t say enough good things about my Oral History class and teachers. It was truly an eye-opening and thought-provoking class and the Klines are to be commended for planning such a complete week.”

Comments from Elder Hostel Students

  • “A simply great and enthusiastic presentation of the power of the oral tradition by two delightful and competent persons!”
  • “A very engaging couple. One loves both them and their music.”
  • “Both music and commentary proved the thesis.”
  • “Warm, talented, sensitive people”
  • “Especially good, with great sensitivity”
  • “What they are doing is most important.”
  • “Unique insights into special areas of life and culture lovingly presented”
  • “Carrie and Michael helped each of us to think and express our ideas and feelings on many things in our past that have reflected on the way we feel and act today.”
  • “The Klines were inspiring. The classes were always enjoyable and thought-provoking. Both were charming and friendly. I really was quite fond of them.”
  • “Unbelievable. Words can’t describe this program.”

Comments from Professionals

Alan Jabbour, former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, writes on July 27, 2013:
“I’m sure glad to hear that somebody is still listening to the Hammons songs and stories. Michael and Carrie Kline are excellent, and I’m happy to hear they use the Hammonses in their workshops.”

“The Patchwork is fabulous. Oh boy. What I love is the range of songs. Oh boy. The Buffalo Creek song is superb. And all the rest. Thank you so much. Love, doug” — Doug Yarrow

“Michael and Carrie Kline have introduced hundreds of students to the sounds and songs of their community. It is not the songs being heard on the radio, but the sounds of a hundred years ago. . . . There is no one we’ve encountered who can mesmerize fifty 5th graders at once with songs of love and tribulation. Michael and Carrie’s method of teaching kids to listen to songs and understand the joy and sorrow in their stories is not only valuable to the life of the song, but to the children’s listening ability. During Michael and Carrie’s music program, students share what they heard in the songs. They talk about the stories, what they mean, and where they come from.” — Nathan Hayes, Program Manager, The Mountain Institute, Circleville, WV

“In the summer of 2007 I had the great pleasure of hosting Michael and Carrie Kline for a performance at the Smith Creek Playhouse in Franklin, WV. . . . The Klines had been on my radar for some time before I decided to bring them to the playhouse as I had heard them play in live performances, radio shows and recordings. . . .

“Audience members were treated to a repertoire of traditional songs from West Virginia as well as more contemporary pieces. These focused mainly on the rural landscapes and communities from which they originated, and often emphasized the struggle between local cultures and modern outside interests that sometimes threatened their ways of life. They shared excerpts from their oral-history-based audio driving tour of Pendleton County, which won the Spirit of West Virginia Award from the WV Division of Tourism.

“Michael and Carrie Kline are not only exceptional musicians with a great knowledge of their music and its roots, but they have a wonderful ability to use their music to educate audiences about historical and cultural events as well. Very few musicians I’ve heard can transport listeners so fully to another time and place as they can. To see them play is not only to enjoy good music but to feel more connected to West Virginia and Appalachia in general.” — Elizabeth Altemus, Pendleton County Committee for the Arts, Franklin, WV