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New music, no labels

NewSong Festival packed full of new music

NewSong Festival packed full of new music

August 25, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - They write the songs that are joyful, cathartic, inspiring and will make listeners think.

They are the performers at the fourth Mountain Stage NewSong Festival in Shepherdstown. Performers who write their own songs.

Among the more than 30 singer-songwriters expected to perform are Beth Nielsen Chapman, Steve Seskin, Tom Prasada-Rao and Charles Town, W.Va., resident Todd Coyle.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think it's a wonderful event," said Coyle, who will perform solo late Friday afternoon and with the Todd Coyle Trio on Saturday night. Percussionist Dave Hine and guitarist Steve Kemp, both of Shepherdstown, are the other members of the trio.

"I think it's pretty amazing that people are coming from, like, Arizona to West Virginia for this kind of thing," said Coyle, 44, a 1978 graduate of Jefferson High School.

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The festival, which was performed at Claymont Court outside Charles Town in previous years, will be at various venues around Shepherdstown this year. More people know where Shepherdstown is or have heard of it, said festival spokeswoman Mary Sue Twohy, who also will perform.

This year the NewSong Academy takes place from Wednesday to Friday, giving registered participants a chance to attend hands-on classes, Twohy said.

Performances will be at Shepherd University's Frank Center, Mecklenburg Inn, War Memorial Building, Entler Hotel, The Train Station, Rumsey Tavern at Clarion Hotel, Stonewall's Pub and NewSong campground at Morgan's Grove Park near downtown.

On Sunday there will be free admission to "Music at the Park," from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Morgan's Grove Park.

Sunday night from 6 to 8, "Mountain Stage with Larry Groce" will feature several artists and a winner from this year's NewSong Contest, presented by Performing Songwriter Magazine, performing at Shepherd University's Frank Center.

New this year, the song-writing contest will have five winners instead of one, Twohy said. With more than 1,000 entrants, this gives more credit where it is due, she said. People with festival passes can see the competition continue Saturday night at Shepherd University's Frank Center.

The "Mountain Stage with Larry Groce" show will be taped and broadcast internationally on more than 100 radio stations, XM Satellite Radio and Voice of America in a couple of months.

Coyle volunteered at last year's festival and competed in the song-writing competition. He said he got jazzed and inspired from the company of so many creative people.

"I sort of walked away, going just 'Yeah, I'm going to go home and write songs all day," he said.

Which he did in his living room with the television on.

"I'm not really sure why (I put the TV on)," he said. "Maybe because I've performed two or three thousand gigs in my life. I'm accustomed to playing in front of people. When I play in bars, there's always a bit of noise. Maybe the little bit of noise helps me think."

Coyle, who describes his music as "West Virginia Cajun folk rock from the Potomac bayou," will perform "Christian Fantasy (That's All I Want)" from last year's competition and, per the festival's theme, mostly new songs.

Kate McDonnell, the NewSong Contest winner from the first festival in 2002, returns to sing her winning song, "Gone Down Moses," material from her new album and, perhaps, some other new songs.

"I love it that it was brand new and there was a real nice spirit behind it," said McDonnell, who is from Baltimore but now lives in upstate New York.

McDonnell appreciated how the festival got away from labels like folk or country, and people just wanted to hear good new songs.

Asked to describe her own music, she said, "I would say contemporary singer-songwriter stuff. The word folk has such a bad connotation ..."

McDonnell, whose writing partner is Anne Lindley, said the competition didn't feel heavy duty. Instead it was an easy going, supportive camaraderie.

"It's fun. Now I've made a lot of friends there so it feels like returning as a family."




If you go ...


WHAT: Mountain Stage NewSong Festival

WHEN: Today through Sunday, Aug. 28

WHERE: Shepherd University's Frank Center, Mecklenburg Inn, War Memorial Building, Entler Hotel, The Train Station, Rumsey Tavern at Clarion Hotel, Stonewall's Pub and NewSong campground at Morgan's Grove Park near downtown.

COST: Tickets can be purchased at NewSong headquarters at the War Memorial Building, corner of German and King streets, Shepherdstown, W.Va. Ticket store opens at 9 a.m. Friday.

- A festival pass costs $50 at the door; free for ages 14 and younger. A festival pass with live-round contest registration costs $75.

- One-day pass for Friday or Saturday costs $25 at the door; free for ages 14 and younger.

- Mountain Stage NewSong Show on Sunday costs $25 at the door.

- Sunday's "Music at the Park" from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Morgan's Grove is free.

MORE: For a complete schedule go to www.newsongfestival.com.

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