This year's Thomas Wolfe Lecture took on a unique form — a live concert from a Grammy Award-winning recording artist.
Each year, UNC’s Department of English and Comparative Literature awards the Thomas Wolfe Prize to honor the legacy and literary spirit of Wolfe, one of UNC’s most famous graduates. Along with receiving prize money and a medal, recipients of the award are invited to speak to students along with the general public as part of an annual lecture series.
Gillian Welch, this year’s award winner, performed Tuesday night to a sold-out crowd at Moeser Auditorium in Hill Hall. Welch and her partner, guitarist/singer David Rawlings, played songs from their 20-plus year career. They said many of their song choices were influenced by conversations that they had with students throughout the day. In between songs, they told stories about their origins in what they jokingly referred to as the “lecture” portion of the event.
The performance was followed by a question and answer session with audience members, many of whom had traveled significant distances to attend the event, showering Welch with praise and detailing how her music had profoundly impacted their lives.
Welch’s unique style, which incorporates country, folk and other forms of Americana music, and relies heavily on storytelling, is a large part of why she was the first-ever songwriter chosen to receive the prize. Many of the people who spoke at the event compared Welch’s ability to create characters and tell moving stories to Wolfe's.