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Jazz a 'vacation' for hundreds at Renfrew

August 23, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

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WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Some used the word jazz to describe the soothing tones wafting from Renfrew Park on Sunday.

"Bmmmp, baaah. Bmmmp, baaah. Bmmp skiddlie de-dah do wah. Bmmmp, baaah."

Not Miriam Dorsey of Marriottsville, Md. No, to her, the melody was more than a song.

"This is my therapy. My vacation. My solace," she said closing her eyes. "Oh yeah."

More than 800 people joined in Dorsey's sunny therapy session Sunday, also known as Renfrew Institute's 18th annual Jazz Festival.

In the event's history, never have so many people attended, Institute Executive Director Melodie Anderson-Smith said.

"This is a record turnout," she said. "The fact that it is free brings a big crowd, but I think Joey and Paul also came with quite a following."

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Topping the bill for 2009 was legendary jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco joined with guitarist Paul Bollenback, drummer Byron Landham and vocalist Chris McNulty on the stage.

"I just love Joey," Dorsey said. "I'd have killed myself if I had missed this concert."

Andrew Sussman, executive director of the Cumberland Valley School of Music, organizes the musicians.

While he attempts to book different artists each year, he said it took him a few years to get DeFrancesco on board.

"I am so pleased Joey was not touring this summer and could do this concert," he said. "We have put together a phenomenal ensemble this year."

DeFrancesco couldn't agree more.

"I am having a great time," he said. "We've played together a few times. Paul and I played steadily for 14 years."

The men might have collaborated before, but their sound Sunday was truly unique, DeFrancesco said.

"Our sound is better," he said. "You can hear the different influences we have incorporated since the last time. It's become more finessed."

The outdoor concert drew not only a large crowd but a diverse mix of people from across the mid-Atlantic region, Anderson-Smith said.

Many came from metropolitan areas, like Carmelita Wilson, who traveled from Baltimore.

Wilson and her sister, Dorsey, have been attending free concerts like this since they were children, but this was their first time at Renfrew.

"When we were growing up, this is what you did on a Sunday," Dorsey said. "What else could you afford?"

Renfrew Institute acknowledged the current financial strain on individuals and broadened its advertising to let more families know of the free event, Anderson-Smith said.

What resulted was a perfect day, Dorsey said.

"It's perfect ... the music, the atmosphere, the drive here," she said. "This is the perfect day."

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