Sing it proudly

August 19, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Songwriters shine at the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival at the historic Claymont Court estate near Charles Town.

The third annual festival will take place at Claymont Court from Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22, before moving to Shepherd University's Frank Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., on Sunday evening for the Mountain Stage NewSong Show.

The dual-stage fest at Claymont Court will continuously showcase performing songwriters and groups in a variety of genres - including folk, country, rock, pop, blues and roots music. The performance lineup includes Tom Prasada-Rao, Kenny White, Steppin' In It, Susan Werner, Devon Sproule, Peter Mulvey, Mad Agnes, Darrell Scott, The Hunger Mountain Boys, Possum Holler and Pops Walker.


The essence of the event, however, is the song-writing contest - the winner of which will share the stage with entertainers Lisa Loeb, Ellis Paul, Junior Brown and Darol Anger's String Ensemble during the Mountain Stage NewSong Show.

This year's judges whittled down the field of more than 1,200 new tunes - many in MP3 format - sent in prior to the festival to select 20 semifinalists, NewSong publicist Mary Sue Twohy said. Festival judges will choose 20 more semifinalists during live competition on two stages Friday and Saturday. The contest's final round is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.

The contest's grand-prize winner will perform the winning song during Sunday's separately ticketed Mountain Stage NewSong Show at nearby Shepherd University. The show will be recorded and broadcast internationally this winter on more than 100 radio stations.

Massachusetts-based songwriter Ted Weber's 2003 NewSong win for "Nashville, Don't Touch My Country" gave his band, The Hunger Mountain Boys, a great deal of exposure, he said.

"I was honored and thrilled of course, particularly because there were so many other incredible songwriters," Weber said.

Traditional country duet Weber and Kip Beacco - at www.hunger on the Web - play country music reminiscent of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Weber - who sings and plays guitar and dobro - and Beacco - on fiddle, mandolin, guitar and vocals - even dress the part, taking the stage in fedoras and other period garb to help transport listeners to another musical time while bringing their modern-day interpretations to the traditional sounds. The Hunger Mountain Boys' CD is titled "Fashioned In The Old Way."

They will perform at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and team with entertainers Kate McDonnell, Peter Mulvey and Robbin Thompson at 6 p.m. Friday for one of the festival's multiperformer jam sessions.

Headlining musicians also will lead workshops about songcraft, performing and promotion throughout the weekend, including such seminars as Prasada-Rao's "How I Sold 20,000 CDs without a Record Deal" and Mulvey's "Which Comes First, the Words or the Music?"

Weber offered a simple piece of advice for budding songwriters: "If the song doesn't happen within a few weeks, can it and start another. I've wasted too much time trying to turn a 2-year-old idea into something. But I write simple country songs, so, if it takes too long, I know I'm doing something wrong."

NewSong also features music sessions for kids, arts and crafts, food, and late-night jams around campfires and at the Blue Cardinal Caf. On-site campers are welcome for $10 per night.

For a complete schedule, costs and other information, go to on the Web.

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