Story Telling and Ballad Singing to be Featured at the Chapel of Rest in Happy Valley

HAPPY VALLEY, NC (May 22, 2024) ⇒ Sheila Kay Adams and Donna Ray Norton will share the stage at the Chapel of Rest on Sunday, June 9 at 4pm for a show of ballads, stories, and songs. Both women are from Madison County, NC which is known for its rich treasure trove of ballads and ballad singers. They travel across the U.S. together to share the songs that have been passed down in their family for over 200 years.

When English folk song collector Cecil Sharp visited Madison County in 1916, he said he had found “a nest of singing birds.” The ballad tradition in Madison County goes back at least nine generations and is one of the oldest oral traditions in the country. Few people embody such a depth of family and regional tradition or represent it to the rest of the world with so much authority and affection as Madison County’s Sheila Kay Adams. Sheila Kay is the seventh-generation bearer of her family’s ballad-singing tradition and is the mother and teacher of the eighth generation. Her own teachers were her kinfolks in Sodom, NC.

Sheila has received the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. She was also honored with the prestigious North Carolina Heritage Award by the North Carolin Arts Council. One of the students she has mentored for over twenty years is her second cousin Donna Ray Norton. Donna Ray is an eighth-generation ballad singer, granddaughter of legendary fiddler Byard Ray and Morris Norton, who played the banjo and mouth bow, and daughter of singer Lena Jean Ray.

Donna Ray grew up hearing her family’s music and stories at her home in Sodom. When she was seventeen, a senior project in high school piqued her interest. Researching the tradition of ballads led to learning them from her mother and from Sheila Ray, and then to performing. Donna Ray won the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Youth Award for Balladry in 2005 and received the Key to the City of Hickory in 2007 for her contributions to the musical heritage of the region.

We hope you will join us for this special concert at the historic Chapel of Rest. The show will last about two hours, and there will be an intermission. Admission is $20 / person and $5 for children 12 and younger. Reservations can be made by emailing, and your reservation will be confirmed. Tickets are available at the door, and cash is appreciated, as all proceeds will go directly to the artists.

Feel free to bring a snack and a drink of your choice, or a snack to share if you’d like. Complimentary water and lemonade will be available. The Chapel of Rest is located nine miles north of Lenoir at #1964 Highway 268, adjacent to the campus of the historic Patterson School, and the Western NC Sculpture Center.