SVMF-NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND

Members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are pictured in a promotional photo provided by the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, which booked the band for Sept. 4.

The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival begins its 58th summer concert series on Friday with the Four Tops and special guest Meisha Herron performing at 8 p.m.

On Saturday, Classic Albums Live will perform the music of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" at 8 p.m.

This year’s schedule has been a work in progress following more than a year of restrictions on mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this summer, restrictions were largely lifted in Virginia, but festival staff were still working hard to fill gaps in the festival’s series of weekend performances that continue through Sept. 5.

“It feels terrific to have things back to ... I guess we’re calling it the new normal,” said Festival President Executive Director Dennis Lynch.

Following the social distancing, plastic screens and pods they set up for concert-goers on the lawn last year, he said, “We get to think outside the pod this year”

“Things are back to normal,” Lynch said. “We’re selling our pavilion at 100% capacity.”

What’s more, he said the eight-concert series is now fully booked as of a few days ago.

Performing Aug. 14 are Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste of Black Violin, two classically trained musicians who met in high school orchestra class in Florida and now merge string arrangements with modern beats and vocals for a style all their own.

“They kind of defy comparison,” Lynch said.

With four albums so far, including a Christmas album released last fall, the two have said they also defy expectations. People don't expect two young black men to step out on stage with a violin and a viola performing symphonic music, they’ve said.

Their first two albums are titled “Classically Trained” (2012) and “Stereotypes” (2015), and through his work Baptiste said he’s learned it’s “important not to run from that stereotype.”

Their Grammy-nominated album, “Take the Stairs,” released in 2019, features the upbeat and optimistic song “Impossible is Possible,” which Baptiste said offers a strong message of hope.

“We’ve always kind of kept that narrative of, you know, think outside the box, be hopeful,” he said by phone on Monday.

“There’s a moment when you realize / All the things they said were lies,” the song starts, accompanied by a string orchestra and backup vocals.

“We can do anything … we can go anywhere … cause we got the fire,” it affirms, challenging listeners to “show the world the impossible is possible.”

Baptiste said the song’s spirit clicked with the duo’s message of “Take the Stairs,” which was nominated for Best Contemporary Orchestral Album.

Lynch said that people might arrive at Orkney Springs next month never having heard Black Violin, but they’ll leave wanting to hear everything the duo has ever done.

“You’re going to be there for five minutes and you’re going to say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is one of the best acts I’ve seen,” he said. “They are just phenomenal.”

Black Violin is scheduled to perform 7 p.m. Aug. 14. Lawn tickets are $60 for adults and $18 for people 18 and younger. Pavilion tickets are $67.

“It’s gonna be a high-energy show,” Baptiste said.

Also in the summer lineup are Aoife O’Donovan with special guest Carsie Blanton at 8 p.m. July 30, Kansas at 8 p.m. July 31, Phil Vassar at 8 p.m. Aug. 13, Madeleine Peyroux at 7 p.m. Sept. 3, and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with special guest Daniel Donato at 7 p.m. Sept. 4.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 5, Hot Strings & Cool Breezes Minifest will feature Steep Canyon Rangers, The Gibson Brothers and Chatham Rabbits.

Lynch said they’re asking guests who aren’t vaccinated to wear masks.

The festival also will not be selling food this year, but he said people can call ahead to reserve dinner from the dining room at Shrine Mont.

“Otherwise, it’s picnic time,” Lynch said.

“Come see us,” he said. “The weather’s going to be great this weekend.”

The concert venue is at 221 Shrine Mont Circle in Orkney Springs, 13 miles west of Mount Jackson. For more information, visit musicfest.org or call 540-459-3396.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com