Remember the popular folk music of the 1960s? Imagine hearing an 8-piece group of stellar musicians giving you all those memories today, delivered in a way that honors the original artists. A group that does not try to imitate the sounds that were signatures. A group with vocalists who make you feel they are singing their own songs, telling their own stories – even though those stories were created 60-some years ago by other artists. A group of artists whose flawless harmonies weave a smooth tapestry of voice and instruments.
I don’t have to imagine. I saw and heard Shenandoah Run perform at Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, Virginia on March 1, 2023. The arts center is in a 19th century dairy barn now situated in a massive community park.
The program was brief – just one delightful hour – part of a series that began during the height of the pandemic. The Arts Center team crafted a “Music for Dessert” show that was presented virtually for a small fee at a time when folks just needed to stay home, and when they craved the comfort and stimulation of music. The program continues now, both virtually and in-person at the magnificent yet intimate theater in the barn.
Shenandoah Run was created in homage to the New Christy Minstrels. They describe their work accurately:
“Shenandoah Run is an eight-member folk ensemble from the Washington, DC area. Formed in 2011, the band performs traditional and contemporary folk music in a manner that delights a diverse mix of music lovers of all ages.
SR showcases the spirited sounds of Americana, along with the occasional country or bluegrass tune, and delivers a rousing mix of music and styles. The members’ vocal and instrumental savvy, coupled with a strong desire to keep folk music alive and fresh, are key to the group’s success.”
And delight they did. The audience was invited to sing along if they were so moved. At times it was hard not to – “Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine, I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine. A million tomorrows shall all pass away, ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, Today….” That was a family favorite. I still have and cherish the New Christy Minstrels’ 45 record. The range of vintage material/artists was broad – Patsy Cline, Gordon Lightfoot, Simon & Garfunkel – among others. The pauses between songs included bits of levity and cleared the air for each upcoming tune.
The other thing that touched me was realizing that these wonderful artists have dedicated themselves not only to preserving an array of historic songs, but to sharing them with generations that did NOT grow up singing them. The practice of creating clean, clear arrangements, unhindered by the flourishes of previous artists lets a new audience hear what was composed and allows the messages of love, longing, peace and levity to shine on their own merits.
If you have an opportunity to hear (or engage) Shenandoah Run, do just that – RUN.
Bob Melissinos – Guitar and Vocals
John Werntz – Bass
Joe Dickey – Banjo
Renee Moyer, Vocals and Percussion
Jill Nelson – Vocals, Guitar and Percussion
Leslie Smile Hoyle – Fiddle and Vocals
Ben Hamblin – Guitar and Vocals
Jim Johnson – Guitar, Mandolin, and Vocals
Each of the artists has a masterful resume. You can find more detail on their website.