Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2011
By Lynn Rumley
For the Salisbury Post
COOLEEMEE — You won’t hear this sort of music streaming from an iPod or today’s radio stations. During their heyday, concert bands were experienced live, usually playing from a park’s bandstand or under the street lights at Christmas.
At noon on Sept. 24, a varied program of marches, waltzes, rags and hymns will be performed by the Greenville Textile Heritage Band which is traveling here for Cooleemee’s 20th Annual Textile Heritage Festival.
Formed in 2007 by Dr. Michael Moore of Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., the group includes some of that area’s finest musicians. Some will be performing on period instruments that are 75 to 100 years old. Their band uniforms are authentic and the overall effect of their performances transports listeners back in time.
“Our purpose is to keep up this proud musical tradition that was an integral part of so many textile communities across the South,” says Moore. At one time, hundreds of such bands traveled for competition honors at places like Greenville.
“I will never forget Cooleemee’s concert band playing on Park Hill,” says Hazel Miller Winfree, who grew up on Main Street next door to this gathering place. “They would play hymns for a vespers service. It didn’t matter what denomination you were, the whole family would go and sit on the wood benches.”
With a setting overlooking the South Yadkin River, Winfree even now recalls the words from one hymn: “Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening, fall across the sky.” Her father, George Locke Miller, was a member of the band, as was her sister, Mary Alice, later during World War II.
Dr. Charles Isley, former director of the music department at Appalachian State University, has been asked to introduce Cooleemee’s musical guests. In his 90s, Isley credits his time in the local textile band for setting him off on his career.
Now in its 20th year, the Textile Heritage Festival will again feature the Carolina Cornbread Contest, an intriguing look by developer Mac Jordan at how the old spinning mill at Saxapahaw is now a commercial success; a “Days Gone By” textiles exhibit; as well as food, more music, face painting and games for the kids and much more.
Gates open at 10 a.m. at the Historic Zachary House grounds at 131 Church St.