The musical traditions of the Shenandoah Valley are deep and varied. Early European immigrants, with few forms of entertainment available, brought the fiddle and the “scheithooz,” a German forerunner of the dulcimer with them along the Wilderness Road.
In time, banjos and guitars could be obtained through mail order catalogs, or constructed by mountain artisans. Popular songs had roots in Ireland, England, and Scotland; they served as the core for what became identifiable as Appalachian music.
Although much of that same Appalachian vein is still evident in the Valley, the genre of music has expanded into country, bluegrass, folk, rock/pop and classical. Today, the music scene in the Valley is well-represented at several venues in Shenandoah County— particularly the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival at Orkney Springs.
Dennis Lynch, President of the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, told us about what’s coming up in July.
“Virginia’s longest running outdoor concert series is going back in time,” Lynch said. “July 21 and 22 in Orkney Springs is SVMF’s first Wayback Weekend! On Friday, Arlo Guthrie opens SVMF’s 54th season. Best known for great tunes like ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ and ‘City of New Orleans,’ Arlo is the son of America’s greatest folk singer, Woody Guthrie, and there’s talk that he’ll grace us with his dad’s most famous tune, ‘This Land is Your Land. ‘”
“There’s an old saying, “If you can remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there.” On Saturday, July 22nd, we’re celebrating the amazing musical year of 1967 with “Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love.” The Beatles released their groundbreaking record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967 – just about the time that young people all over the nation were heading to San Francisco “with flowers in their hair” looking for peace and love and creating a counter culture. The Piedmont Symphony Orchestra is bringing its rock band to help us celebrate and remember those times.
“For more information on the Wayback Weekend or the rest of the Festival’s 54th summer season, groove on over to musicfest.org, man. Peace out! See you there. We’ll be the ones with flowers in our hair!
“And to close out July, on the 28th, country rock icons, Pure Prairie League and Poco share the bill at Shenandoah Valley Music Festival. Who can forget iconic tunes like “Aimee” or “Heart of the Night?” Bring a picnic, snuggle with your favorite and enjoy an evening of great music under the stars!”
Two other venues in Shenandoah County where live music can be heard include The New Market Cross Roads Fest and Bryce Fest. The New Market event, now in its third year, is a summer music series held in Rebel Park on selected dates. The lineup this summer includes the following bands: Who Shot John on July 7; the Hackens Boys on August 11, and the Martin Brothers and Aspen Run on Sept. 8.
Bryce Fest, held at Bryce Resort in Basye, Virginia, is coming up fast on July 1st. Admission is free and includes live music by Foundry Street Project and the Robbie Limn Band. This festival is a full day of food, arts and crafts, local wines and beers, plus ziplining, cycling at the bike park, fireworks and more. Call 800-821-1444.
Shenandoah County is less than two hours from Washington, DC (about a normal commute for many District workers and a much prettier drive). The area offers a host of attractions over and above the thriving music scene. Plan a long weekend and visit:
Virginia Museum of the Civil War and New Market Battlefield
Small towns you must explore include Edinburg, Woodstock and New Market.
Find out more about beautiful Shenandoah County here.