|The musicians of Chester River Runoff: from left, Marc Dykeman M’07,|
Ben Armiger, Sam Guthridge ’04 and Nate Grower. Photo courtesy of Loblolly Productions.
CHESTERTOWN, MD— The popular Washington College Riverfront Concert Series, hosted by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, returns for a third year of free Thursday evening performances on the Custom House lawn. This year’s lineup includes three beloved local ensembles — Chester River Runoff on June 21 and the Pam Ortiz Band along with the vocal trio Sombarkin on July 5.
Then, to cap off the series, the internationally acclaimed Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, with its roots in traditional American dance and music (from Southern Appalachian clogging to the African-American body percussion art of hamboning), will perform on July 19.
Each event will include a special happy birthday salute to American folk icon Woody Guthrie, who was born 100 years ago, on July 14, 1912.
“People have told me that this is their favorite Starr Center program and that they’ve begun to look forward to it every summer,” says Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the Starr Center. “So much of the ‘American experience’ resonates through our country’s great musical traditions. And there’s nothing like enjoying a great band and a picnic by the banks of the Chester River on a beautiful summer evening.”
Launched by the Starr Center in 2010, the Riverfront Concert Series builds on the Center’s longstanding interest in the musical traditions of the Chesapeake Bay and its rich heritage of storytelling. The series host is the Starr Center’s program manager, Michael Buckley, whose weekly radio program on Annapolis-based WRNR, 103.1 FM (Sundays, 7 to 10 a.m.) includes the acclaimed interview series “Voices of the Chesapeake Bay.” Special assistance for the Concert Series is provided by Yerkes Construction and Washington College’s Dance Program and Student Events Board (SEB), with additional support from the Maryland State Arts Council.
The opening concert on June 21 will feature the Eastern Shore’s own Chester River Runoff. Since 2004, the band has been wowing crowds at festivals and in clubs from Maine to Nashville with its honest, unaffected sound. Rooted in traditional bluegrass, their music is sometimes described as “newgrass,” or “a combination of bluegrass, alt-country and acoustic Hillbilly jazz.”
“For harmonies, runaway instrumentals and sheer delight, no one does bluegrass like Chester River Runoff,” the Chesapeake Maritime News says of the band, which features Ben Armiger (guitar, vocals), Marc Dykeman M’07 (bass, vocals), Nate Grower (fiddle, vocals) and Sam Guthridge ’04 (banjo, vocals). “Their repertoire goes well beyond the bluegrass standards to embrace homegrown material that reflects their Eastern Shore roots: call it eelgrass, call it bluecrabgrass, call it an incredible mix of fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and vocals.”
The free public concerts all begin at 6:30 p.m. behind the Custom House, corner of High and Water streets in downtown Chestertown. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own blankets, lawn chairs and picnic dinners. Lemonade and cookies will be provided free of charge. In case of inclement weather, the concerts will take place in The Egg, a performance space in Hodson Hall Commons on the main Washington College campus.
For more information about Chester River Runoff, visit their web site at chesterriverrunoff.com. For information about the concert series and other Starr Center programs, visit starrcenter.washcoll.edu or call 410-810-7161.
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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.