"Byna" Captures Life of Southern Appalachian Women
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"Byna" Captures Life of Southern Appalachian Women

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“Listen…the silence is loud in the woods”

Join Byna on Friday, April 13 at 7:30 PM in Daniel Recital Hall as she reminisces about her life in the Southern Appalachian mountains, remembering her daddy’s fiddle playing, her mama’s quilting, her courtship and marriage, and her friendships with those around her. Byna: Life Songs of a Southern Appalachian Woman of Cherokee Descent is a song cycle for voice, oboe, cello, and piano by Rudy Davenport and Delilah Elsen that made its debut at Brevard Music Center and has been performed across the Southeast. Original Byna performer Dr. Kelly Vaneman is bringing the performance to the Converse College stage thanks to a Creative Collaboration Grant from the College. Admission is free and open to the public.

The event is part of “Okra to Opera: The Conference on Southern Culture” at Converse College, which takes place April 9 – 14, 2012.

Byna could have been my own grandmother, or your own grandmother. She lives a full, rich life in her home in the mountains, and the songs give us a window into her thoughts and feelings

“BYNA is a gorgeous piece of music—the vocal lyricism is deeply touching, and the communion amongst the instruments beautifully portrays Byna’s surroundings,” said Vaneman, who is associate professor of oboe and musicology in Converse College’s Petrie School of Music. “The work is much more than an auditory event, though. Byna could have been my own grandmother, or your own grandmother. She lives a full, rich life in her home in the mountains, and the songs give us a window into her thoughts and feelings. By hearing her story we learn more about possible directions for our own lives. After all, our vision of our future relies heavily on the understanding of our past.”

The lyrics for Byna come from a play of the same title, written by Elsen, who is also originally from Western North Carolina. A fictional character, Byna is representative of the many women of Cherokee descent of her era—from the early 1900s to the 1990s—who lived in the mountains their entire lives. The Byna we meet is deeply in tune with the beauty and the natural world around her; she is in her late 60s, has lived in a small cabin in the woods for most of her life and has recently lost her husband of more than 50 years.

Through her Life Songs, Byna tells us about her present life, but she often reminisces and entertains us with stories from her past. She tells us about the people she loves and events which have been important in her life—about her wedding day, the day Robert died, her Daddy’s fiddle, her Mother’s quilt, the day she sat under the hemlocks with her full-blood Cherokee Grandmother, who as a child hid out with her family in the mountains to keep from being driven off to Oklahoma during the Removal; and Byna turns back to one spring day, “when childhood seemed t’rise up from the fields.”

Byna performers include Rebecca Turner, soprano; Kelly Vaneman, oboe; Kenneth Law, cello; and Mildred Roche, piano. The concert will begin with a conversation between Converse student Megan Kusek ’12, who is majoring in creative and professional writing, and lyricist Delilah Elsen about Byna and the creative process. Quilts for the staging are provided by the Piedmont Piecers Quilt Guild.

Visit composer Rudy Davenport’s website for more information on the creation of Byna, including images and audio excerpts.

For more information, contact the Petrie School of Music at 864.596.9021.

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