The Ashe County Arts Council will sponsor the Coffee House Live! Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hensley Hall of the West Jefferson Methodist Church in West Jefferson. The featured performers will include The Smart Ashes, Sylvia and Robert Zahner and Cane Mill Road with Arvil Scott as the emcee.
The Smart Ashes are the latest evolution of Barbershop style singing in Ashe County. In the 90s there was a chorus with as many as 12 men singing, the group soon dwindled to four. That was the Sons of Pitch, which survived until two members fell ill around 2015. Last year, the current group rose from the ashes to become the Smart Ashes. Tom Truxal sings tenor, Michael Malloy is the lead singer, Tom Fowler is the baritone and John Maddocks sings the bass part. The two Toms are long-time barbershoppers and former Sons, while Mike and John have long experience in more traditional singing. The group sings to ladies all over the area all day on Valentines Day. They are available for parties and gigs and will give you their contact information if you ask them to sing.
Sylvia and Robert Zahner made their home in Ashe County in 2017. Robert’s professional singing career started in tenth grade as a paid section leader in a Presbyterian church in Deerfield Beach, Fl. Most of his singing opportunities have been in the state of Florida, but he has also performed in Atlanta and Boston. During a 1983 singing tour of England and the surrounding areas, he performed at Canterbury Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and the Great Hall of Winchester Cathedral. During two other trips to England, Robert has performed the Bach Mass in b minor with the London Symphony under the direction of Sir Collin Davis and the Berlioz Requiem under the direction of Sir David Wilcox.
Robert Zahner’s premier performance with the Florida Philharmonic was tenor soloist in Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.” His premier performance with the Florida Orchestra of Tampa Bay was tenor soloist in Handel’s “Messiah.” He is now retired after 34 years of teaching music in the Florida Public School System and 38 years as a church soloist and choir conductor. He is currently conducting the Ashe Community Singers and a new ensemble called Ashe Vocal Ensemble.
Sylvia Zahner has been a church organist and accompanist in the Tampa, Fl. area since 1970. She has accompanied school musicals and community theater productions since high school. A Tampa native, Sylvia Zahner retired from Verizon, and is currently the organist at First Baptist Church in West Jefferson and the early service at Jefferson United Methodist. She has an Associate of Arts Degree in music from Florida College in Tampa.
Growing up just down the road from Doc Watson, Cane Mill Road rocks the traditional bluegrass standards they were raised on, yet boldly write original music with roots in the fertile grounds of bluegrass, with a little hint of old-time, blues, jazz and Americana music that influences the band members. The band members include Liam Purcell, Tray Wellington, Casey Lewis and Dylan Lawerence.
Rapidly rising in the bluegrass scene, the Billboard-charting artists are the youngest to garner an IBMA Momentum Band-of-the-Year nomination (2018) and are nominated again in 2019 for IBMA’s Momentum Band-of-the-Year Award. In addition, mandolin/fiddle player Liam Purcell and banjo player Tray Wellington are nominated for Momentum Instrumentalist-of-the-Year. Cane Mill Road landed a prestigious IBMA Ramble Band slot in 2017. Grey Fox selected them as an Emerging Artist in 2018 and Cane Mill Road will opened the main stage at Grey Fox in 2019. Signed by the Patuxent Music label, the band’s first two albums spent seven weeks on Billboard’s bluegrass albums chart, including two top 10 debuts.
Arvil Scott will be the master of ceremonies for the Coffee House Live! Arvil is an old-time musician and an old-time square dance caller. He grew up in Surry County surrounded by the region’s traditional music. He has played in many of the area’s old-time bands and started the Mountain Music Jamboree. He has been the master of ceremonies for many events in Ashe County including the main stage for the Christmas in July event.
The Coffee House has become a favorite tradition where old friends and new friends meet, sample delicious desserts and enjoy quality entertainment. Tickets are $16 adults and $5 students and are available at the door. For more information, please call (336) 846-2787.