Folk music for the soul: The Note-able brains on stage

by Lenise Willis

The Note-able brains on stage

As if a play that can stir your soul wasn’t enough, imagine hearing and seeing live folk music performed on stage, too. Music just has a way of finishing a picture. That’s why two notable brains behind some touching musical notes are working on creating an art that fuses a musical concert with the visual advantages of a play.

Riley Baugus is a North Carolinian and an American old-time guitarist, banjo player, fiddler, singer and even instrument builder. Although he’s played the fiddle since the age of 10, he spent 18 years as a welder and blacksmith before becoming a professional musician.

Besides his local background and regional sound, he also frequently performs and tours with the duo show Appalachian Roots. His bio was perfect for Triad Stage’s revival of Brother Wolf, an Appalachian adventure.

And so was Laurelyn Dossett’s. The play’s composer and musical director is an acclaimed singer/songwriter who lives in the Piedmont. Her song, “Leaving Eden,” was the title track on a Grammy-winning album and is what attracted Triad Stage artistic director Preston Lane. Since 2006, Lane and Dossett have collaborated on five music-laced plays together, gifting the Triad with lively, regional works.

Together, the two musicians, Baugus and Dossett, are bringing their audible creativity to the Winston-Salem stage.

Q&A with musicians Riley Baugus and Laurelyn Dossett: YW! Music alone can be a great storyteller, but how does it feel to be able to take your music a step further and couple it with a visual story?

Baugus: One of the most interesting things I get to do as a musician is combine music and visual performance, whether in film or on the stage. It’s exciting to see the scene and hear the music you’re playing.

When there is a visual story being combined with music, it gives the listener/viewer a different mental picture than they might normally see when listening to music alone.

YW! What do you think the music adds to Brother Wolf; how does it help the visual story?

Baugus: The music can help bring out the emotions in a scene differently than just seeing the scene without music. Strong scenes are often made stronger by the addition of music. It gives the person watching a different texture to grasp, sometimes making the visual story seem bigger.

Dossett: (Music) is a way to deepen the story. You can say something in a song that may illuminate ideas and feelings without the characters having to admit anything.

YW! How would you describe your sound in Brother Wolf?

Baugus: The sound I am trying to achieve in Brother Wolf is multifaceted. At times the banjo or fiddle is lonesome and sorrowful, other times they are happy and maybe a bit whimsical.

YW! Is your creative process any different when collaborating on a musical, rather than an album?

Baugus: First let me say, Brother Wolf is not a musical. It is a play with music, and yes the process is much different. You are setting music to a scene to evoke a specific set of emotional responses.

You do that when collaborating on an album as well, but the visual in the play is set. You want the music and visual to feel a certain way when combined.

I do feel that I gather a great deal of musical inspiration from the scenes in the play. Many of the tunes that I perform in the play are tunes that I play normally, but I get to play them a bit differently in order to make them fit the scenes.

Dossett: In some ways (writing for a play) feels like a restraint, but the restraints are also really helpful in the creative process. The songs have already been assigned a direction or a goal, so it makes the writing easier. So many questions are already answered. !


Triad Stage’s Brother Wolf performs at Hanesbrands Theater in Winston- Salem, 209 Spruce St., May 6-25. Tickets are $10-$48. For tickets and more information call 272-0160 or visit