MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. — A merciful evening breeze began to blow, driving away the Arkansas heat and giving wings to the melodies that came from two kiosks in a park.
At the largest, a dozen people played “Barbry Allen” on fiddles, mandolins, guitars, upright bass, dulcimers, banjos and even a sweet-banjo. In the smaller group, a violinist lowered his instrument and, with a clear bass, began singing “I’ve Been Everywhere,” a song made famous by Johnny Cash.
Mountain View was not electrified until the 1930s and did not receive much radio until after World War II. Even decades later, it still lacked certain basic services. Now, About 90,000 people come to Ozark Folk Center State Park each year, many of whom are visiting Mountain View for the first time. The center, which turned 50 this year, is a showcase for local artisans and musicians, and features a 1,000-seat theater that hosts shows, traveling acts, weekly square dances and “Ozark Highlands Radio,” a varieties that air on more than 100 stations in the US.
The center is not exactly on the way to somewhere. “You have to really want to come here,” said Keith Symanowitz, the park’s director of promotions.
Although Mountain View’s economy relies heavily on tourism, the place is authentic. The people there live their lives as they always have. And many of them make music together.
Three nights a week, the Mountain View Meeting Place becomes Club Possum, featuring local musicians and bands and streaming them live on YouTube and Facebook. Entrance is free. The public is a mix of local and “outside”, as they say there. While there’s no bar — the town is in a dry county, a fact many residents attribute to preserving its character — you can buy popcorn for $1.
Walk through town almost any night and you will see and hear musicians playing on the porches, in the garden, in the inns, and around the courthouse. But most often they play at a green space called Picking Park, nestled between an ice cream trailer and a pink Victorian bed and breakfast. Sometimes you find people playing there in the heat of the day, but as the afternoon falls many more come out to make music.
It is possible to see gatherings as small as two and as large as 15 people playing together. Tocan bluegrass, folk, classic country and gospel. But the music heard most often is that of old-time string bands: tunes and ballads that crossed the Atlantic on ships in the 18th and 19th centuries.These are people whose ancestors settled in the Ozarks, but also people from outside who come with their instruments precisely to do this. Some have known each other for decades, even their entire lives. Others had never met before.
They do not use sheet music or electric speakers and they never ask for tips.
“If you eliminated all the tourists, it would hurt us all economically, but people would still play music in the square, because it is for the love of music. It’s just what they do,” said Scott Pool, who with his wife owns a store called Mountain View Music.
By: Richard Rubin
BBC-NEWS-SRC: http://www.nytsyn.com/subscribed/stories/6963235, IMPORTING DATE: 2023-10-31 19:50:36
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