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Posted January 15, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Front Royal firefighters to host bluegrass jams

By Stacey Keenan -- Daily Correspondent

FRONT ROYAL -- For anyone who loves the clear sound of an acoustic guitar or who can jam on the mandolin with the best of them, get ready, because there's a new show in town.

The Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department kicks off its series of monthly bluegrass jam sessions Friday night at its station on Commerce Avenue.

"I'm trying to do two things," says organizer and volunteer firefighter Patrick "Roop" Harvey. "One is to get the senior citizens and the people in this town who love bluegrass music a place to go similar to Browntown. I'm also trying to help the fire department. With the economy the way it is, [the department's] in desperate need for money. So, we're using it as a fundraiser to help [the department] with their expenditures."

The new series is the follow-up from two bluegrass shows the department hosted last fall.

"We did one bluegrass show in October to help raise money for the fire [department], and one in December. We had good success with both of those events," says Harvey.

The show in October featured the Shenandoah Bluegrass Band and Bluegrass Drive, a band from West Virginia. The two bands played for about three hours, and more than 75 people attended the event, which raised about $1,000 for the fire company.

"We had a good turnout and managed to raise a pretty good sum of money," Harvey says.

The first event was so successful that a second was planned for December. Three bands participated -- the Naked Mountain Boys, Ann Murray and the Lost Indians and Frank Riley, Dae Scott and Friends -- and the show drew an audience of nearly 125 people.

Because of the success of those two shows, the idea was raised to host bluegrass jam sessions. Harvey worked with Riley and Scott to get the sessions going.

"We wanted to do them consistently every month at the same time, the same way Browntown does theirs the second Friday of every month," says Harvey.

Another organization in town had been hosting events on the third Friday of every month, but recently stopped, opening up a slot for the fire company, he adds.

Harvey encourages those who enjoy the sounds of bluegrass to attend, even if they don't play an instrument. If people want to participate, the bluegrass jam sessions are open to everyone, no matter the experience level. And, following old-time tradition, only acoustic instruments are allowed, so leave the electric guitar at home. Food and drinks will be sold, and all the proceeds from the sessions benefit the fire company.

"The only requirement is that you enjoy the music. You can come and eat, drink and enjoy yourself. It's a family atmosphere and a nonsmoking event," Harvey says. "There aren't any bands at this point. It's just individuals coming in, playing and having a good time."

While there won't be any bands playing this week, there will be some familiar faces contributing to the jam session. Riley and Scott will keep the station rocking, along with a newcomer, a musician from Wheeling, W.Va., named Frank Necessary.

"We want to get the younger generation involved with the older generation to keep the bluegrass music alive. We don't want to see the music die. We're trying to promote the music, and help the fire department and make sure everyone has a good time," Harvey says. "We want to get the community back involved with the firehouse and keep the firehouse involved with the community."

The Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department's Bluegrass Jam Sessions begin Friday, and will take place the third Friday of every month. There will be no event in May. The doors open at 6 p.m. Music begins at 7 p.m. and lasts until 10 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. The station is at 221 Commerce Ave. For more information, call 635-2540.

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