Ashford Grange sponsors foot-stomping bluegrass concert

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Thu., Nov. 14, 2013
Perfect Partners - (l-r) Wendy Barrett, and Chuck and Noreen Morgan - were the opening bluegrass band at Knowlton Hall. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Perfect Partners - (l-r) Wendy Barrett, and Chuck and Noreen Morgan - were the opening bluegrass band at Knowlton Hall. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

The Grange organization and bluegrass music both have their origins in the country, so the historic Knowlton Hall was a perfect place for people to come together for an evening of music and socializing. The Grange was the center of rural community life during the late 19th through the middle 20th centuries, and bluegrass music has its roots in country and folk.

Perfect Partners was the opening band at the Nov. 10 concert. Wendy Barrett and Chuck and Noreen Morgan entertained folks with the songs of Hank Williams (“Mansion on a Hill”) and Chris Kristofferson (“Help Me Make it Through the Night”).

They were followed by the band Money Musk, with John Soltys on upright bass, Nelson Hiller on mandolin, George Jacobs on banjo and Mike Lesperance playing guitar. “I love this music,” Soltys said. “Bluegrass comes out of old-time music from the country music genre. It can range from ballads to food-stomping instrumentals. There are lots of old-time fiddle songs, from Irish to southern gospel,” he explained.

The band played for an hour, broke for supper - which the Grange provided for the audience and band - and resumed playing for another hour. Many of their numbers were traditional fiddle tunes. Among the more familiar songs were, “In the Pines,” “Bury Me Beneath” and “Red Wing.”

“We do this for enjoyment and often play at Granges. They are a great audience. They sing and are responsive. That makes the show worth doing,” Soltys said.

There were few seats left in the audience. Many parents brought their children, among them the Meades. “I used to work on radio program in New York called ‘Bound for Glory.’ It was well-known among folk aficionados. We came today because we wanted the kids to experience traditional folk music,” said Andrew Meade.

For people confused about the difference between country and bluegrass, Soltys gives this explanation: “In country music you sing about your girl/guy leaving, your dog dying and your truck not running. In bluegrass, we tell you how it happened.”

The Ashford Grange welcomes new members. Joan Perry, the membership director of the Connecticut State Grange, likes to say, “Our feet are firmly planted in agriculture.”

As farming waned in Connecticut, the Grange became more of a community outreach organization, but the Ashford Grange has continued with some of its country traditions: Square and barn dances, and country and bluegrass concerts. They are fun events for all ages.

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