(Apologies from the editor for the delay in publishing this post. The March 7 concert referred to in Dave’s blog has come and gone. The Chorale and Run Boy Run presented an outstanding concert to a packed house! Don’t miss today’s encore performance at Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley, AZ!)
by Dave Oman
It was 1978. I was living in the small town of Craig, Colorado when I went to a small Bluegrass festival in town to hear Vasser Clements and his bluegrass band. Vassar Carlton Clements (April 25, 1928 – August 16, 2005) was a Grammy Award-winning American jazz, swing, and bluegrass fiddler. He was dubbed the Father of Hillbilly Jazz, an improvisational style that blends and borrows from swing, hot jazz, and bluegrass along with roots also in country and other musical traditions. In other words, he could crank on that fiddle!
The venue was a makeshift stage in a field outside of town. It was a memorable evening and I’ve been a bluegrass music fan ever since.
When I joined the Sonoran Desert Chorale I was looking forward to quenching a thirst I had, to sing classical music that had for so many years been parched. That need has been more than sufficiently taken care of, to say the least! But, much to my surprise and delight, other types of music crept into the repertoire – music that has brought back fond memories of my Men’s Chorus group at the University of Minnesota. Wine, women and song stuff – and even soul! But, I never imagined that I’d be partaking in a concert like the one we will be performing on March 7th and 8th – with bluegrass music and with Run Boy Run to boot!
Garrison Keillor with Run Boy Run
I first heard Run Boy Run in January 2013 when Garrison Keillor brought his Prairie Home Companion from my home state of Minnesota to ASU’s Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. It was a wonderful musical experience along with some good old Minnesota Scandahoovian humor.
Run Boy Run
Run Boy Run was the featured musical group consisting of an eclectic blend of a brother (who, by the way is a fiddling champion) and sister combo combined with two other sisters, one married to the brother and an unrelated bass player! And then there was the magical instrumental blend; a fiddle, viola, mandolin, cello and string bass combined with drop dead fantastic vocal harmony from the three ladies. The cello is the unique instrument in this mix, not standard fair for a bluegrass band, and it brings wonderful depth to their sound. What a musical treat this was to a man who is both a seasoned Prairie Home Companion show and bluegrass music fan!
Since that wonderful experience, I have heard Run Boy Run with the Phoenix Chorale and at the Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival. So, it is an incredible treat for me to be looking forward to singing with them!
And then came rehearsal tonight. It is always magical when the instruments are joined with the chorale for dress rehearsal. The music takes on a whole new depth. But this evening, this rehearsal was unique and wonderful. In addition to the instruments played by Run Boy Run, there was also a guitar and banjo. The banjo especially adds a facet to the music that no other bluegrass instrument does. The Bluegrass Mass took on a whole new air and it was with a whole new level of joy that we sang.
The rest of the evening flew by – rehearsing the 2nd half of the concert material and then another run of several Bluegrass Mass sections. Voices and strings. Truly delightful!
So, this concert will feature Run Boy Run with added instruments along with the Chorale in performing “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” plus a selection of early American hymns and folk songs. An additional concert highlight will be Run Boy Run presenting a set of their own songs.
So get yourself on down to Mesa on Saturday evening or Paradise Valley on Sunday afternoon. This will be a landmark concert experience that you just won’t want to miss!