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Grammy Award winning American Roots artists Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer join with Chinese classical hammered dulcimer player Chao Tian during a Homegrown Concert Series presentation combining music from China to Appalachia and beyond, May 3, 2023. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Homegrown Plus: From China to Appalachia with Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Chao Tian

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Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We’re continuing the series with a concert and interview featuring Grammy Award winning American Roots artists Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer together with accomplished Chinese classical hammered dulcimer player Chao Tian. The trio’s repertoire includes traditional Chinese and Appalachian music as well as contemporary and traditional music from around the world. They use instruments that include yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer), gourd banjo, five-string banjo, ukulele, guitars, dumbek, cello-banjo and mandolin, employing them in unusual combinations to create exciting new arrangements of old music. Cathy and Marcy join Chao in singing Chinese songs, and Chao easily adds her love of American Old-Time music to fiddle tunes and songs. As usual with Homegrown Plus blogs, you’ll find the concert video, an interview video, and a wealth of links to related collections and concerts, all right here in this blog post.  Let’s get started with the concert, which is in the player immediately below!

 

In the interview we talked about the band members’ backgrounds and the genesis of “From China to Appalachia”: Cathy, Marcy, and Chao started out playing in jam sessions where Chao learned to love improvising, which wasn’t part of her training in classical Chinese music. In playing at jams and house concerts, she found out she could learn by ear and began to love the old-time tunes she was picking up. This inspired their whole musical project. Our interview also covered how they choose music for the trio, and some of their other projects, including “All Wigged Out,” a folk music comedy film about Marcy’s experience with cancer. Watch our wide-ranging discussion in the player below!

 

Collection Connections and Links

A woman plays banjo and sings into a microphone
Grammy Award winning American Roots artists Cathy Fink during a Homegrown Concert Series presentation featuring music from China to Appalachia and beyond, May 3, 2023. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

In addition to programming featuring this fabulous trio, we have many online resources related to their work together. Find some of them below!

Before putting together the program “From China to Appalachia,” the trio worked together for several years, both formally and informally. I’ve already mentioned their jam sessions, and we even have a recording made at one of the jams they played at together, AFC’s old-time summer music jam in 2018. Although we usually don’t record and post the jams (so people of all skill levels can feel comfortable playing together), at this jam we made a special recording of “Kumbaya,” which we featured in our podcast about that great spiritual. Find the podcast at this link!

Another of their activities together was to learn some material from the American Folklife Center archive for our Archive Challenge. They performed the resulting arrangement on February 4, 2023 at our showcase at the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City. See their archive challenge video below!

Links to More Videos and Resources

Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Chao Tian Videos

AFC’s concert and interview with Chao Tian

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer with Sam Gleaves in the 2017 Archive Challenge Concert and Interview

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer perform at the Library of Congress Young Readers’ Center in 2016

Selected Videos Featuring Chinese Music

Bing Xia: Traditional Chinese Guzheng Music

Ann Yao: Two Concerts and an Interview

Marjorie Bong Ray Liu: Kunqu, Multi-Art Theatrical Tradition

Nancy Yunhwa Rao: Chinese Opera Theater in North America

Selected Videos Featuring Appalachian Music

Carter Family Tribute

Eddie Bond & the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters

Gandydancer String Band

Sheila Kay Adams Concert and Oral History

Ola Belle Reed Tribute Concert and Oral History

A woman plays resonator guitar and sings into a microphone
Grammy Award winning American Roots artist Marcy Marxer during a Homegrown Concert Series presentation featuring music from China to Appalachia and beyond, May 3, 2023. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

Selected Field Collections

Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project

Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection

Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

Interviews at the Chinese School of San Antonio, 1982

Photos at the Chinese Music Club of Chicago, 1977

Essays and Guides

Find guides to AFC’s materials from states in the Appalachian region at AFC’s Research Guides Headquarters.

There are also specific guides to the following topics:

American Folklife Center Collections: China

Bluegrass Music: Resources in the American Folklife Center

A woman plays the hammered dulcimer
Chinese classical hammered dulcimer player Chao Tian during a Homegrown Concert May 3, 2023. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

Thanks!

As always, thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. The idea of the Homegrown Plus series is to gather concert videos, video interviews with the musicians, and connections to Library of Congress collections together in one place for our subscribers. (Find the whole Homegrown Plus series here!)

For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress.

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