By Phyl Newbeck
The Bluegrass Gospel Project is coming to Williston April 12 to perform at the season finale of the Brick Church Music Series.
Friday marks the end of the fifth season of the series.
Town Manager Rick McGuire, one of the organizers of the Brick Church Music Series, said attendance ranges from 30 to 130 people and there are some concert-goers who, despite the wide range of musical acts, have yet to miss a concert in five years. He is expecting at least 100 people to come to the Bluegrass Gospel Project show because of the group’s popularity.
“They pack the house at First Night in Burlington,” he said. “They’re a really good group and they always get standing ovations. I’m really looking forward to seeing them here.”
Since 2001, the band has been playing at venues across the area, performing for audiences of all ages. The band has some original tunes but also covers a wide range of artists. Included in its repertoire are songs by Sam Cooke, U2 and Flatt and Scruggs.
Gene White, Jr., the founder and musical director of Bluegrass Gospel Project, describes the band’s music as a mix of traditional bluegrass and bluegrass gospel.
“One of the things we like about bluegrass gospel,” he said “is it has beautiful harmonies and sentiments. It’s not terribly gospel-y by church standards, but it’s spiritual in nature. People might be apprehensive about the word ‘gospel’ in our name but we’re not evangelistic. We just like that style of music.”
White said one of the attractions of playing in Williston is that it’s a local gig for three of the six members who live in Vermont. Although the band usually plays at larger venues, he said band members find intimate settings like the Brick Church more conducive to audience interaction, as well as their visual presentation.
The Brick Church music series focuses on acoustic groups, particularly folk, jazz and bluegrass, but it also hosts choral groups during the holidays. In March, it featured the Vermont Youth Orchestra. Each concert is run in conjunction with a non-profit organization that helps promote the show in return for a share of the proceeds. More than $18,000 has been raised for charity over the course of five years. Friday’s performance will benefit Huntington Valley Arts.
The series began as a celebration in the Brick Church in early 2008 to commemorate the reopening of the building after a fire in the tower the previous year. David Yandell performed at the dedication, and he and McGuire decided it would be nice to have concerts on a regular basis. Now, the series consists of seven annual concerts, starting in October and ending in April.
David Yandell said the Brick Church was chosen for the concerts because it is an ideal community gathering point and a great spot for acoustic music.
“Our goal for this series,” he said “was to try to have a community event. We wanted it to be accessible to the community; someplace close and not priced out of range.”
Yandell said many music series’ lose money over time, but the Brick Church series has not, despite the fact that they charge less than similar concerts at other venues. He cited the generosity of local business that support the series as one of the reasons it has been successful.
Tickets are available at Town Hall. They are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, $8/$10 for seniors and children 12 and under. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the music begins at 7 p.m. Call 802-764-1141 for more information.