Appalachian String Summit

The Henderson will partner with Marion Downtown to host The Appalachian Strings Summit on Saturday January 30, 2021. Guest host is Mark O’Connor.

The Summit’s “inaugural host” this year is musician Mark O’Connor. According to his official website:

Mark O’Connor began his creative journey at the feet of American fiddling legend Benny Thomasson, and the iconic French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Now, at age 55, he has melded these influences into a new American classical music, and is perpetuating his vision of an American School of String Playing. Mr. O’Connor has won three Grammys, seven CMA awards as well as several national fiddle, guitar and mandolin champion titles. His distinguished career includes representing the United States Information Agency in cultural diplomacy to six continents and performing in front of several U.S. presidents including being invited to the White House by President Ronald Reagan to perform as a teen.

Mr. O’Connor has authored a series of educational books called the O’Connor Method and is now the fastest growing violin method in the country and tens of thousands can credit the O’Connor books for learning how to play stringed instruments. The O’Connor Method features American music styles, creativity, cultural diversity and western classical technical training. Mr. O’Connor currently is artist-in-residence with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, touring nationally with the Mark O’Connor Band and resides in North Carolina with his wife, fellow bandmate and duo partner Maggie O’Connor. For more information, please see, and

Mark was asked to suggest 3 “theme tunes” to be the focus of this year’s event. These are tunes that have a significant meaning (perhaps to him personally, his music, his history, his teaching) or played a significant role in his professional career. It is exciting and interesting to note that two of the tunes chosen are the first tunes taught in our HendersonJAM (Junior Appalachian Musician) program, and consequently the first tunes most often taught when one first begins to learn old time or bluegrass music. Here are the first two tunes and some history behind them.

Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down
Wynton Marsalis introduces Mark O’Connor as “a movement unto himself” and continues in his introduction, “he is going to play one of the earliest Afro-American fiddle tunes, it’s the first tune he ever learned, it’s called Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down.” Click here and listen to this amazing performance.

Some history of this tune:
“Boil Them Cabbage Down” is a classic folk song played with a fiddle. Some historians say that the origins of this song can be traced back to those Africans who were brought to the southern states as slaves. According to this theory, some “Africans in Niger played primitive instruments that resembled the fiddle, guitar, and banjo, so when the Africans were brought to the United States, they found the fiddle to be a familiar instrument.”

Although the precise origins of this tune will likely always remain a mystery, it is deeply rooted in American folk history. Boil ’em Cabbage Down

Soldiers Joy

This link is Mark O’Connor playing “Soldier’s Joy”

Some history of this tune:
The earliest traces of the traditional fiddle tune Soldier’s Joy and its alternate titles: Love Somebody, The King’s Head, I am my mother’s darling boy, Payday in the Army and Rock the Cradle Lucy can be found in England, Scotland and Scandinavia. It was first published in 1756 with nearly the identical melody used today along with dance instructions in the third volume of Rutherford’s Compleat Collection of two hundred of the most Celebrated Country Dances, Both Old and New. In 18th Century England the term Soldier’s Joy referred to spruce beer that the British army drank and then in the mid-19th Century it became associated with morphine. During the American Civil War morphine was often called Soldier’s Joy because a concoction of gin and morphine was given to Soldiers to ease amputation.

Soldier’s Joy was first recorded on July 10, 1924 by Sid Harkreader and Uncle Dave Macon for the Vocalion label and has remained one of the most popular fiddle tunes. Soldier’s Joy

Beaumont Rag
Named after the town of Beaumont, Texas. “Beaumont Rag” was first recorded by Cleburne, Texas, fiddler Samuel Morgan Peacock in 1929, as a member of Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band (Wolfe, 1997). Peacock was a barber by trade who died after collapsing on the sidewalk in front of his barber shop in 1932. Sam ran a large, 12 seat, barbershop in Corsicana, Texas, from around the turn of the 20th century. For more on the history of this tune, check out “The O’Connor Method’s” page for more detailed information.