Annual Music Fests Heat Up Summer

Jun 8, 2018

Summertime is the season of music festivals. WMRA’s Jessie Knadler rounds up some great local music events to check out during the hot months.

[fade up Bach]

For those who can’t get enough classical music, particularly that of Johann Sebastian Bach, the 26th Annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival is a weeklong Bach-analia…. It kicks off at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg this Sunday.

Artistic Director Kenneth Nafziger likes to keep the repertoire fresh by pairing Bach with music from other composers, eras and styles. In the past, he’s fused Bach with Cuban, Bach with Russian, Bach with bluegrass. Here’s Executive Director David McCormick:

DAVID McCORMICK:  This year, we’re pairing Bach with Bernstein in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of his birth. So this year we’re doing an entire concert of Bernstein works including West Side Story and Chichester Psalms.

That performance is Saturday, June 16. Two more centerpiece concerts take place Sunday, June 10 and Friday, June 15 on the EMU campus. During the week, festival musicians will perform free noon chamber music concerts at Asbury United Methodist Church downtown. They’re only an hour so it’s a good classical primer for newbies.

[fade up roots music]

Moving into mid-July, there’s the Red Wing Roots festival in Mt. Solon. Forty bands spread over four stages for three days of roots music—Americana, honky tonk, country, alt-country, bluegrass, blues. Towering limestone pillars serve as a backdrop to the two main stages. Headliners this year include Trampled by Turtles, The Steel Wheels, and Josh Ritter. Here’s Ritter’s song “Homecoming.”

[fade up “Homecoming” by Josh Ritter ]

The festival is billed as family friendly with tons of free activities for kids—and their parents. Organizer Michael Weaver.

MICHAEL WEAVER:    There’s a slack line course, giant Jenga, giant sandbox for toddlers.

Red Wing is also proudly green. Throwaway plastic beer cups and plastic water bottles are banned. Water is free on-site but concertgoers have to bring or purchase their own non-disposable containers.

WEAVER:        We just have hundreds of people each year who email comments, who stop and tell us how awesome it is we have that system.  One of the coolest things about it has been the willingness to see people embrace a positive change.

Red Wing has become so popular that on-site camping is already sold out. Late bookers can either come for the day or camp off-site.

Doah Fest – that’s short for Shenandoah Fest -- is similar to Red Wing but smaller in scope. It’s a three-day event that takes place in Luray late July on the banks of the Shenandoah River.

[fade up Doah music]

The music is an eclectic line-up of pop, country, hip-hop, world, reggae, electronica. Like Red Wing, there’s yoga in the morning. You can camp out. There’s a stage that faces the river so sunbathers and tubers literally splash in the water while a band performs in front of them. Don’t expect great cell phone reception. Organizer Ivan Car-pee-o:

IVAN CARPIO: We really push the idea of unplug and connect. It changes the way people interact. You get to know your neighbor and you make friends.

The loud music cuts off at midnight. That’s when the “silent disco” begins.  Everyone receives a pair of headphones.

CARPIO:          We have DJs come in and play through headsets. It’s an aesthetic that’s interesting because people are dancing but if you don’t have the headset on they’re just kind of moving to nothing. Just as soon as you put the headset on, you’re part of the party.

Finally, the Staunton Music Festival August 10 is a weeklong tour of traditional and experimental classical that draws musicians from all over the world.

There’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy some music in the Valley this summer.

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Editor's Note - The festivals mentioned in this story are not the only one's happening in our area this summer, here are a few others:

Shenandoah Valley Blues and Brews Festival June 16

Shenandoah Beach Music Festival July 7

Shenandoah Valley Music Festival July 20 - September 2

Floyd Fest July 25-29

Lockn' Fest August 23-26