Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Songwriters Saturdays at the Waxahachie Chautauqua Theatre

Songwriting and performing is experiencing a renaissance in North Texas, with thriving songwriting associations, including the Dallas Songwriters Association, the Fort Worth Songwriters Association, and the Collin County Songwriters Association, which I happen to chair. Venues continue to pop up every day, as clubs and restaurants work hard to entice people out of their homes for dinner or drink, while fighting off the challenges of Texas’ August heat and high fuel prices.

On the south end of North Texas rises an exciting new development in our world of local and regional performing songwriters and their devoted fans:
Songwriters Saturdays at the Waxahachie Chautauqua Theatre in Getzendaner Park, Waxahachie, Texas, scheduled for one special Saturday each month.

First, let me make one thing clear: This is a big deal.

The program is sponsored and curated by North Texas song-hunter, Randy Tredway and partner Helen Kennedy. Randy and Helen have spent an incredible amount of time over recent years, working to elevate the visibility of local and regional performing songwriters, with monthly live showcases, and the online music and interview program,
In the Music Room. Their goal is to provide a consistent, important venue to showcase performances. In doing so, they hope to draw support from the rich musical talent and rooted support network of the area’s three songwriters associations, and similar organizations that spring up over time.

“The format that I am leaning toward is six songwriters per evening in half-hour sets,” says Randy. “We will probably open the doors at 5:30 with one hour of different singer/songwriters between 6-7. All our shows are, family oriented in the tradition of
The Chautauqua Society.

“We are putting the schedule together now for the next 18 months,” he adds. “Please spread the word to the best singer-songwriters and music lovers you know everywhere.”

The August 16th show leans a little bit country, and features Randy Tredway and Helen Kennedy, Daddy Rocks, Allen Hurt, Wade Kilgore, Micah Fedroff, Spider Menshew, Curtis Wayne, and Jimmie Grokett. Yours truly, Ryan Michael Galloway, will appear in the September 6th show, with others to be announced.

If it isn’t enough that all of this great talent is available for you to experience, the historic venue is worth the trip all by itself. Waxahachie’s Chautauqua Auditorium was part of a nationwide movement. Pulling from Wikipedia:

“Chautauqua is an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.

“Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying that Chautauqua is ‘the most American thing in America.’

“The first Chautauqua, the
New York Chautauqua Assembly, was organized in 1874 by Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller at a campsite on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State. Two years earlier, Vincent, editor of the Sunday School Journal, had begun to train Sunday school teachers in an outdoor summer school format. The gatherings grew in popularity. The organization founded by Vincent and Miller later became known as the Chautauqua Institution.

“The educational summer camp format proved to be a popular choice for families and was widely copied. Within a decade Chautauqua assemblies (or simply Chautauquas), named for the original location in New York State, sprang up in various locations across North America.”
I hesitate to ask people just to come out and support something, just for art’s sake. In this case people may get turned on enough to make the event part of their normal routine just to support the effort. But the fact is, these events will be a joy to watch. Come out for no other reason than to treat yourself to something unique, special and exciting. Things happen at these musical events that will never be replicated on a CD or a recording. With all the challenges of enjoying live music, you will be rewarded with a connection to the artists that you can experience no other way.