D&E Students Explore Similaries Between Appalachian and Romanian Folk Music

October 8, 2014 |

In a public performance on Wednesday, Romanian artists joined the Appalachian Ensemble, a Davis & Elkins College student string band and dance group.

The Romanian students are participating in a year-long project exploring the connections between Appalachian and Romanian folk music. Teacher Emanuela Tulpam says there are geographical similarities between Romania and West Virginia too. “We come from Targu Jiu, which is in the Gorj district, southwest Romania, by the mountains. We have a gorge valley, as I hear you have here.”

Tulpam started getting to know her West Virginia counterparts at an opening reception for the Common Notes project, at the Clay Center last week. To help with the translation of language and music, the project brought in Liviu Debrota. He plays violin with the West Virginia symphony, and he was also born and raised in Romania before he moved to the United States.

Liviu helped me understand what one of the Romanian students, Alina Gorun, thinks of West Virginia’s music. “She thinks they are very similar. She thinks they have common points, especially on rhythm. It’s very fast paced. And so there’s a lot of common ground on that, and so obviously the main structure, the core, is there to begin with.”

The musicians played folk music from Romania and West Virginia during a jam session at the Clay Center last week. The visiting Romanians played alongside their West Virginia colleagues, including Robin Kessinger.

It definitely resembles our music. I’m surprised how much it does. That particular tune, “Hora” is the name of the tune, they said it’s a dance, and it reminds me of a square dance tune. To be more specific, it reminded my brother and me both of a tune that we call “Leather Britches”. It’s very similar.”

The multi-national group played that West Virginia tune as well.

Since last week, the professional musicians from both countries have been teaching these tunes to each other. They’ve also been teaching Romanian students and students from Wahama High School in Mason County about both types of folk music.

The four Romanian high school students will be here for another week. When they go home, however, the exchange will continue, and 25 high school students from each country will be checking in with each other online, exchanging folk music and oral histories.

In the spring, four Wahama High School students, Cadence Weaver, Aubrey Lewis, Jacob Petry and Garrett Greene, along with their teachers and Clay Center representatives, will travel to Romania. The students will study the culture and heritage of their counterparts and share West Virginia traditions with other students in the program.


All photos courtesy of The Clay Center.




Category: Art & Music

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