Local Commentary

Delegate Scott’s Richmond Report

Weekend before last, Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, celebrated its 75th birthday. Nancy and I traveled the 357 miles from Fairfax in approximately seven hours and enjoyed the evening celebrating with several hundred attendees, including Delegates Joe Johnson, Brian Moran, Frank Hall and Terry Kilgore. Delegate Johnson received a well-deserved award for his long and outstanding service to southwest Virginia, to Barter Theater and to Abingdon.

A Diamond Anniversary

Weekend before last, Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, celebrated its 75th birthday. Nancy and I traveled the 357 miles from Fairfax in approximately seven hours and enjoyed the evening celebrating with several hundred attendees, including Delegates Joe Johnson, Brian Moran, Frank Hall and Terry Kilgore. Delegate Johnson received a well-deserved award for his long and outstanding service to southwest Virginia, to Barter Theater and to Abingdon.

Originally constructed as a Presbyterian Church, the building became Barter Theater in 1933 when Robert Porterfield, a native of southwest Virginia, brought some furnishing from a failed New York City theatre to Abingdon.

Since the Depression limited money available to area residents, Porterfield suggested that people could bring food and other items as admission, thus “bartering” to see the plays.

Since its founding, the theater has been the source of great pride to Southwest Virginia, and was a venue for performances by the famous Carter family, led by patriarch, A.P. Carter. A.P., his wife, Sara, and Maybelle sang, collected and performed mountain music for decades. Largely because of their efforts, songs like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, “Wildwood Flower”, “Worried Man Blues” and many others were collected and performed by the Carters. A.P.’s niece, June, married Johnny Cash, who brought even greater fame to their “Clinch Mountain Home.”

After the marrige

Thanks in large measure to Delegate Johnson, Barter Theater continues to celebrate the heritage of the area and serve as a home for high quality drama and music. It is a treasure in its own right, and it brings many visitors to see local and national artists.

As a native of Southwest Virginia (born in Galax) I was especially delighted to have been invited to the celebration on April 26. I had not visited Barter Theater since I was a child.

The evening featured a delightful dinner in the historic Martha Washington Inn and the performance of “Keep on the Sunny Side,” a play by Douglas Pote about A.P. Carter and his family, and their efforts to perform, record and preserve mountain music.

Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the famous Carter Family Fold in Mace Springs. Conceived by A.P. as an outdoor summer concert stage, and finally created by Maybelle, it remains as a refurbished venue. for mountain music by many famous performers. Originally built on a hillside with wooden seats without backs, it was a weekend refuge for Johnny and June, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and numerous others.

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