GREENSBURG – Tuesday evening’s Chautauqua program at Greensburg Community High School promised an appropriately eclectic show – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
An enormous crowd gathered in the GCHS auditorium to take in the spectacle of seven performers as different as their musical genres. The varied productions ran the sonic gamut from bluegrass to rock, and the audience clearly loved every minute of it.
The show appeared to be everything to everyone, as audience members clapped, sang along with the performers and moved in their seats to the music. Perhaps more importantly, they all stayed – from the opening number to the final curtain some two hours later, spilling out into the aisles afterward for autographs and an opportunity to meet some very familiar faces.
One of the headliners of the evening, Rodney Dillard, a Grammy-nominated bluegrass musician known for his appearances on The Andy Griffith Show, complimented his audience and positively compared the citizens in attendance to those of the fabled Mayberry.
Dillard and his wife played “Dooley,” then performed a skit where a harmonica was shoved into Rodney’s mouth. A consummate performer, Dillard played an entire song on the harmonica with the instrument firmly lodged between his cheeks. The performance earned a loud ovation.
The musician also recounted a meeting with Francis Bavier, the late actress who portrayed Aunt Bea on the classic sitcom. Dillard’s malamute wound up “marking his territory” on the actress’ dress in the encounter, he said. Despite that embarrassing incident, the musician described Bavier as “very, very nice” to work with noting she often baked brownies for those on the set of the legendary TV show.
The Dillard’s performance was preceded by a well-received set by rising country music star Katie Armiger. The singer, who has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and had her debut album reach the Top Ten of the Billboard charts, led off the show and left the stage to thunderous applause.
Showing a wealth of talent on display, Broadway veteran Liz Callaway, a Tony-nominated actress who starred in “Cats” for several years, sang “Memory” from that legendary musical against a PowerPoint backdrop of Civil War photos and paintings. Callaway also sang a number from Anastasia, an animated film in which she was the singing voice of the title character. Both songs were well received by the audience.
In keeping with the Civil War theme students in Chautauqua coordinator John Pratt’s classes have been studying recently, pianist Jacqueline Schwab gave audiences a brief preview of her skills prior to her 90-minute concert at the school Wednesday morning. Schwab’s work played in the background of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ famous “The Civil War.”
Fans of ‘70s rock may have felt a tinge of disappointment when Orleans bass player Lance Hoppen declined to sing “Dance with Me” or “Still the One,” but the artist’s optimistic original works appeared to catch on with his audience. Hoppen complimented his fellow Chautauqua members on the uniqueness they were each bringing to the stage.
That individuality was perhaps displayed best in Nancy Nevins’ show-stealing performance. The former member of Sweetwater, the first band to play at Woodstock in 1969, led her audience in an autobiographical song that contained the tongue-in-cheek refrain, “Woodstock wasn’t that much fun.”
Nevins was joined on stage by fellow Chautauqua performers Callaway, Brian O’Neal and Jann Klose for the song, which took a humorous look at some of the less-than-glamorous events Nevins and her band faced at the legendary concert.
The ‘60s rocker also complimented John Pratt saying, “If we had more teachers like this, we might be doing better,” a statement met with applause from the many adults and students in the crowd. Nevins praised her fellow guests as well adding, “These are the best singers I will ever get to work with in my life.”
Nevins’ memorable performance led into a trio of well-received songs performed by Klose, a young musician who has appeared in productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Tommy. Klose performed a song called “Four-Leaf Clover” that invited the audience to hum along.
Klose closed his performance by saying, “Thank you to all my new friends in Greensburg.”
O’Neal, a former member of the Bus Boys, played a raucous piano set that included his group’s biggest hit, “The Boys are Back in Town,” to end the show. O’Neal was more than kind in his description of the Tree City, and he exhibited a great deal of exuberance in being part of the musical Chautauqua program.
“This is one of the coolest experiences of my concert life,” O’Neal told the crowd, describing the people of Greensburg as generous and kind.
O’Neal’s set drew loud cheers and he promised to make himself available should future opportunities to come to Greensburg arise.
“I will be here anytime you call,” O’Neal said. “Just let me know where I’m supposed to be and I’ll show up.” He then blew kisses to the crowd.
After the show had ended, the many who had shown up for the unique concert waited in lines to meet O’Neal, Klose and several other Chautauqua participants.
The program served as the lead-in for the school’s Decatur County history presentations at various locations throughout Greensburg Wednesday.
More photos from both events are in this edition of the Daily News.
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056