Published January 11, 2021

We are thrilled to start our regular streaming series, Uncovered: From the Vault of the Virginia Folklife Program on Tuesday, January 26th at noon.

For the entire existence of the Virginia Folklife Program we’ve supported traditional artists and presented musical traditions, occupational cultures and craft standard-bearers at festivals and in public gatherings all over the Commonwealth. Through the decades we’ve made many recordings at homes, fiddlers conventions, festivals and shows for various video and film projects. While this footage is certainly captivating, most of it has lived on old tapes on shelves and in bankers boxes, unable to be viewed outside of visiting a special collections library or dusting off an old Betamax deck.

Since we launched our YouTube channel in 2007 we’ve uploaded mainly footage that was born digital, save for a few older digitized clips. These days, after a very quiet year of working from home and watching folk festivals from our living rooms, we have spent a lot of time and energy digitizing these old recordings and discovering hidden gems that have been sitting on the shelves here. We want to share these, so we’re starting a regular streaming show on our Facebook and YouTube.

The show, called Uncovered: From the Vault of the Virginia Folklife Program, will showcase one recording that we’ve digitized or uncovered and a discussion with the artist or tradition-bearers involved. Join us for our first lunchtime session on January 26th when we talk with Rev. Tarrence Paschall and Jon Lohman about a 2004 performance at the Prism Coffee House.

The Paschall Brothers stand firmly in the great tradition of unaccompanied religious singing in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Though scarcely a handful of African American a cappella quartets sing in Virginia today, black four-part harmony groups were singing in Virginia at least as early as the mid-1800s, and the Tidewater region alone produced more than 200 such groups in the century following the Civil War. The “modern” Quartets were in the late 1920s and early 1930s with the emergence of groups like the Heavenly Gospel Singers, the Blevins Quartet, and most notably, the Golden Gate Quartet of Norfolk. In fact, Norfolk quickly became known as the “home of the quartet.”

The Paschall Brothers are the current torch-bearers of this traditional singing style. It takes only a few opening notes for the artistry of the Paschalls to claim the listener’s ears. The late Reverend Frank Paschall Sr. originally formed the ensemble in 1981 with his five sons: Frank Jr., Reverend Tarrence, Wendell, Dwight, and William. Reverend Psachall Sr. passed away in 1999, but his sons carried on his legacy. The Paschalls performed frequently at local area churches and festival in the Tidewater region, and at several nationally known festivals, including the National Folk Festival, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Roots of American Music Festival at Lincoln Center. Sadly, Frank Paschall Jr. passed away in 2011, just before the Paschall Brothers received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 2012, the highest honor the United States bestows upon traditional artists.

Learning Experience

Virginia History in Song

What can songs teach us about history?