Unfamiliar storyteller to become familiar after weekend

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

The name Aleta Davis may not be familiar to storytelling enthusiasts but, after Saturday, a lot of folks will know who she is.

Randy Ross has performed with Davis in the popular production “Conecuh People” at the Red Door Theater in Union Springs for several years and said she is a class act.

“I haven’t heard Altea as a storyteller but I know what kind of performer she is,” he said. “She is a remarkable actress and a wonderful singer. I can only image how she’ll be when she combines the two.”

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Davis will be the new voice at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival this weekend. She will appear on stage at the afternoon and night performances at the Trojan Center Theater on Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of such a great event,” Davis said. “And, I’m especially looking forward to hearing, what is one of the best lineups of storytellers that can be put together. This is a real honor for me, a real honor.”

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival will feature pre-show music by three outstanding traditional music groups, said Lawrence Bowden, president of the sponsoring Brundidge Historical Society.

“I tell everybody that the pre-show entertainment is worth the price of admission. This year we have The Lighthouse String Ensemble, The Rivertown Girls and the WPA Scratch Band,” Bowden said.

The pre-show begins about 30 minutes prior to the storytelling concerts so there’s not a whole lot of piddling around in getting to the show.

“Most people are in their seats when the music starts,” Bowden said. “The music sets the right tone for storytelling and I just don’t think that you could go anywhere and be better entertained than at the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival.”

The Lighthouse String Ensemble will open the Saturday morning concerts at 9:30 a.m. The ensemble is regarded as one of the best bluegrass gospel groups in this part of the country, Bowden said.

The Lighthouse Ensemble features Mike Benton and his daughter, Amanda Porter, vocals, Ray Rossell, banjo, Hugh Atkins, upright bass, and Calvin Bodiford, fiddle.

“We’ll be singing familiar favorites like the Carter family’s “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life,” an old bluegrass song, ‘Hold Fast to the Right,’ and several of our own songs including ‘Hand it Over,’ which is a bluesy song,” Porter said. “We’ll do a few fiddle and banjo instrumentals and we’ll just have a good time.”

Around 1:15 p.m. The Rivertown Girls from Blountstown, Fla. will take the stage and things will start hopping.

“It’s worth ten dollars to hear them play ‘The Orange Blossom Special,’” Bowden said.

There will be a bit of nostalgia associated with the performance.

“This will be the girls’ next to last performance as a group,” said their grandmother Sharlan Smith. “Their last performance will be in Dothan at the Peanut Farm Center then Mary Cathryn and Carolyne will be going off to college, so this will be a special performance.”

The Rivertown Girls performed at the 2008 Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival and loved being there.

“They loved the storytelling and wanted to come back this year,” Smith said. “They’re looking forward to performing and to hearing those wonderful storytellers.” The Rivertown Girls are Mary Cathryn Smith, Sharlyn Marie Smith and Carolyne Vanlierop. Their grandfather, Buddy Smith, Russell Renfroe and Russ Renfroe complete the band.

The night storytelling concert will get under way at 6 p.m. when the WPA Scratch Band takes the stage. The band will also play at the concert at the We Piddle Around Theater tonight. “The WPA Scratch Band is the house band at the We Piddle Around Theater and they are a popular bunch,” Bowden said. “They play the old-time music that everybody enjoys.” Dan Fraley and Lenny Trawick do most of the vocals but Pete Jordan, Jr. also sings. Pete Jordan plays the mandolin and Robert Withrow keeps rhythm on the washtub and Willie Moultie on the scrub board. Together they make music that gets toes tapping and hands clapping.”

The Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival will open at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge tonight and continue at the Trojan Center Theater on Saturday.