Queen City Balladeers 40th Anniversary Reunion and Hootenanny

Michael Sylvester with the River City String Band

The folk music get together was held at the Old St. George Center next to campus. A converted church, it serves multiple community purposes now. It’s a pretty fantastic building, and the evening light coming through the stained glass lent a warm glow to the evening.

This was the reunion, after 40 years of successfully bringing together folk artists to extend the music throughout the community. It felt like a family reunion, complete with potluck dinner and groups of all ages milling about. There was fried chicken. And little kids tugging on parents hands. And camera flashes mixed in with excited hellos. Handshakes. Hugs.

Then the music began. One of the founders, Jacque Morgan started off the evening after everyone was fed. With only an acoustic guitar, she strummed and delivered amusing and reflective original tunes. She hadn’t been onstage in a while, and it would’ve been hard to guess. My foot started tappin’ as she whirled through her short set.

She was followed by another founder, Michael Sylvester with the River City String Band. Their sound was naturally fuller with instrumentation and there was a moment of sing-along. I didn’t know the words, but felt the audience’s voice. It felt familiar. Time seemed to creep backwards to a simpler, hopeful day and age. Maybe this is what church could be like, if I would attend.

Wild Carrot, a husband and wife duo stood out as a band I’d like to learn more about. Their simple arrangements and her vocals were shining.

The highlight was Jean Ritchie. Her traditional folk songs were almost eerie. Sometimes a cappella, or with her lone string accompaniment of mountain dulcimer. She seemed a patron saint and the crowd listened attentively. Her voice at 83 I believe I overheard, sounded like a young woman. She proved hard to photograph which made her seem all the more surreal.

Wendy Tom and I left after her set, exhausted from the day. We came to see the impetus behind our first t-shirt, which turned out pretty awesome, aside from some registration issues. So successful, we even made a baby sized version.

It was a bright slice of life.