Storytelling Festival of Carolina: Tall Tales & Good Times


13StoryOct. 20-22 the Arts Council of Scotland County presents a roster of award-winning storytellers and soulful musicians. The 12th annual Storytelling Festival of Carolina has a variety of local tales, timeless stories and fantastic music. “It is a small festival, but it draws people who perform all over the world,” said Erin Rembert, storytelling and arts center representative.

The storytellers for this year’s festival are Bil Lepp, Michael Reno Harrel and Priscilla Best.

Lepp is a five-time winner of the West Virginia Liars Contest, an award-winning author, and has received many other national and international accolades.

Harrell has performed at the National Storytelling Festival and was the Teller-inResidence at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He is also a talented musician and often incorporates music into his storytelling.

Best tells contemporary stories, folktales and chants from her African-American heritage and other cultures. Rembert described her as a “local girl with stories that make you feel good.”

Rembert said the storytellers are talented professionals who “engage the audience, feel the story and know where they are going, all (while) remaining flexible.” She added, “They are performers, and they tell it like they lived it.”

Due to the success of last year’s festival, the council will once again welcome musicians. Momma Molasses blends alt-country, blues and other musical styles into the sweet, slow-moving style of music that earned her name. Further performances will come from Clay Brown and The Legends Band as well as 2015 Native American Music Awards nominee Lakota John.

For the first time, the festival will take place in downtown Laurinburg. This means there will be a greater variety of food and entertainment options for attendees. Proceeds from ticket sales will be channeled back into the Arts Council and help fund next year’s festivals as well as other projects. The council’s goal is to bring in more opportunities and programs that Laurinburg wouldn’t have otherwise.

The festival begins Friday, Oct. 20, with a student’s day from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and a sample of events to come at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday morning the venue opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. with a variety of performances, workshops and autograph sessions. Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. there will be gala where attendees can meet the storytellers and enjoy a sweet and savory dessert buffet. The final day of the festival is Sunday, Oct. 22, and features performances from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Call (910) 277-3599 or visit for tickets and more information.


PHOTO: Bil Lepp


Cumberland Oratorio Singers Prepare for New Season


11Jason Britt DirectorAs the Cumberland Oratorio Singers look to open the 2017-18 season, there is a new director at the helm. Jason Britt accepted the position after devoting his youth to music and spending 23 years teaching and performing choral music.

Growing up in Fayetteville, Britt played the cello at Eastover Elementary School. He was a member of the Cumberland County Youth Orchestra in seventh and eighth grades; he also played first chair cello. In high school, he continued singing and playing in school music programs. Britt graduated from Methodist College in 1993 with a degree in music and a concentration in music education. In 2013, he received his Masters of Music Education degree from East Carolina University. He’s taught in the Cumberland County Schools system and served as the director of music at First Baptist Church.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the Cumberland Oratorio Singers’ season opens with “We Sing to Relate” at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

“One of the things candidates were asked to do as part of the interview process is to plan a season,” Britt said. “The current season is what I submitted as part of my interview.”

The first concert showcases the works of American composers. At this concert, Britt hopes to bring the community together in a spirit of unity. “We have just been through an election cycle, and we are pretty divided as a nation,” he said. “But we cannot deny that we are all Americans. We will perform works many people will recognize … pieces by Copeland, Whitaker and Randall Thompson.”

The second concert is Saturday, Dec. 16, at First Baptist Church. It is titled “We Sing to Remember.”

“We sing to remember and for nostalgia,” Britt said. “One of the things about Christmas is we think about times gone by. The performance is dedicated to that. This is also when we do Handel’s ‘Messiah Sing.’ That has been a mainstay for 25 years. Even I remember singing in COS production when I was fresh out of college.”

The third concerts takes place Friday, April 27, at Haymount United Methodist Church at 7:30 p.m. It is titled “We Sing to Experience.” Britt said, “This concert is dedicated to choir works every choral group should be doing — things like Mozart and Mendelssohn, things like that, which are very familiar.”

While he does hope to continue reaching out to the community, Britt said he plans to “continue the excellent work the COS did for the last 25 years. Last year they were inducted into Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame. This is an established group here in the community. It is my job to continue their efforts. That is the goal right now — to continue that standard of excellence.”

To find out more about the Cumberland Oratorio Singers, or to purchase tickets to a concert, visit


PHOTO: Jason Britt is the new director of the Cumberland Oratorio Singers.


Chasing the Light: Photographs by Wick Smith

01coverWick Smith, like all artists, is confronted with questions: Why is he practicing this particular art form, why has he continued to practice being an artist over the years, and why did he choose this particular medium and subject matter? The answer to these questions can readily be summed up by those who visit Smith’s exhibit or attend the opening of “Chasing the Light” at Gallery 208 Oct. 10, when the word “beautiful” will be repeated over and over by visitors.

For this editorial, it was important to share some of the details of his lengthy journey to get to the “beautiful,” but more important to share insight about the work in ways that might influence visitors to see more than they would with a glance — to go beyond the idea of beauty. In attempting to articulate what I was seeing in this body of work, I interviewed Smith, researched his influences and even asked my photographer colleague, Shane Booth, to talk about what it means to be a landscape photographer.

My question to Booth was direct and overly simplified: “Why would a photographer want to take photographs of the landscape?” Booth’s acute response was a perfect description of the essence of Wick Smith’s landscapes: “They look at the landscape as an art form, and they can see it in a way that tells a story. Composition and capturing a moment is everything — you have to be at the right place at the right time. That moment tells a story of wherever they are.

Location is everything, and the artist shares a sense of place we would have missed if not captured.”

And that is how it began for Smith about 12 years ago. He simply wanted to take pictures of the landscape he enjoyed while he and his wife, Jane, were camping. “One day I had one of the digital photos blown up to a 16-by-20-inch print,” he said. “And it was stunning — the detail, composition and quality of the print. From that day, I began a serious approach to understanding photography; I continued to take photos, but I also began researching the manuals and attended workshops with nationally-known photographers.”

A photograph may capture the likeness of a place, but Smith’s images take us beyond the physicality of a place by evoking something intangible. We may call it beauty, but his intangible can reveal a deeper understanding of many things — timelessness, the spiritual or perfection, something that soothes us and heals us, or maybe it’s just something ineffable.

Smith gives credit to Richard Bernabe, who hosted Smith’s first workshop with an internationally known landscape photographer, for showing him where to “start looking to see composition in the field. I really didn’t have an idea of what I was looking at, and he patiently taught me how to understand composition,” Smith said. “As a result, I was able, over time, to develop the sensibility to see — all the photographers in the various workshops have taught me how to see — in a different way.”

For me, seeing Smith’s works over the years, I assumed he was a paid professional photographer, only to find out he is a businessman and the president of Biz Tools, a firm that develops websites for businesses. An avid and dedicated photographer, we cannot look at his work without sensing the art of photography is his personal passion. That dedication is how he lives up to Bernabe’s philosophy: “I can teach the mechanics of the camera, exposure and compositions … I can share my insights … but there are things I cannot teach. Curiosity is one of those things … Those who ultimately will be successful and keep moving on their own have passion and curiosity.”

Light is 75 percent of what Smith is interested in capturing, but he shared his process: “I have to be on-site before dawn and as the sun sets, using a tripod for long exposures to steady the camera.The post process of developing the print in the same light I witnessed it is very important. Even though I have to know what to do when I arrive, I have to take many, many pictures to get it right.”

It seems simple, but as Bill Fortney, one of his instructors, told Smith, “I have been at a site 25 times before the light was right.”
Photographs titled “Magical Reeds,” “Badlands at Dawn” and “The Old and the New” are examples of Smith moving away from the landscape as a vista to the landscape as an abstraction. Linear and atmospheric perspective are sacrificed for a flattened space, an open composition of surface, pattern, rhythm and color.

In these photographs Smith has shown us a new way of looking at something we may take for granted. The ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In “Chasing the Light,” visitors to Gallery 208 will also see some of Smith’s cityscapes. Influenced by photographer Ian Plant, in his cityscapes Smith focuses on shapes and lines to lead us through the composition. Familiar places around Fayetteville being viewed as shape, color and line are a pleasing contrast to the textured surfaces of the American landscape.

“Chasing the Light” opens at Up & Coming Weekly’s Gallery 208 at 208 Rowan St. on Oct. 10 from 5:30-7 p.m. A short gallery talk by the artist will begin at 6 p.m.

The public is invited to the opening, and for those who are not able to attend the opening, the gallery is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 10.
Call (910) 484-6200 for information, or visit

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