Aunt Zip


Zipporah Chandler Rice, Rice Cove, Madison County, NC 1976

The Liston B. Ramsey Center at Mars Hill University will be hosting a celebration of the 100 year Anniversary of Cecil Sharp’s visit to Madison County in conjunction with the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival on October 1, 2016. Sharp, along with his assistant Maud Karpeles, was a musicologist from Great Britain who collected more ballads in Madison County for his classic volume, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, than anywhere in the United States. While in the Sodom community, he famously said, “I discovered that I could get what I wanted from pretty nearly everyone I met, young and old. In fact I found myself for the first time in my life in a community in which singing was as common and almost as universal as speaking.”

One of Sharp’s informants was Zipporah Chandler Rice who was an aunt of Dellie Norton, the protagonist of my 2002 book Sodom Laurel Album. Aunt Zip, as most everyone called her, was 98 years old when I met and photographed her in 1976 and had sung for Sharp in 1916 when she was about 36. At that point in her life, she didn’t have much memory of the man from across the water although Dellie and her older sister, Berzilla Wallin, certainly remembered him. Aunt Zip had fallen and broken her hip shortly after I met her and I recall thinking she wouldn’t be around much longer. Remarkably, she lived another five years, dying in 1981 at age 103.

The photograph above, along with others of mine, John Cohen's and David Holt's, will be on display with memorabilia documenting the ballad tradition in Madison County at the Weizenblatt Gallery at Mars Hill University. A ballad swap will begin at 3 pm on October 1 with a reception following at 5.

Zipporah Rice's grave, Rice Cove Cemetery,                   Madison County, NC 2013.