The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Michael Johnathon’s folk opera Woody: For the People will be featured on the Feb. 22 (Note, this is a date change from the original posting of this story) broadcast of The Story, a show produced by American Public Media and North Carolina Public Radio that is heard locally at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday on WEKU (88.9 FM).
The opera was written by Johnathon, the host of Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, and focuses on the friendship between Woody Guthrie and fellow folk-singer Pete Seeger and the writing of Guthrie’s signature song, The Land is Your Land. The Story broadcast will fall the day before the 72nd anniversary of the day Guthrie wrote the song as a retort to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America.
Woody: For the People is a work in progress aimed for an eventual premiere in Lexington. A CD of five arias from the opera was recorded last February conducted by Jo Nardolillo with a 37-piece orchestra and Nick Provenzale as Guthrie, Gregory Turay as Seeger, and Reginald Smith Jr. as Paul Robeson.
Aug22Filed under: Music, radio, slide shows; Tagged as: ArtsPlace, Brad Becker, Charles Farmer, Dale Ann Bradley, Ed Commons, Grand Ole Opry, Grascals, Howard’s Creek, International Bluegrass Music Association, J.D. Crowe, James Still, LexArts, Mary Farmer, Red Barn Radio, Rusties and Riddles and Gee-Haw Whimmy-Diddles, Sam Bush, WEKU, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, WUKY
There is no actual Red Barn, just like there’s no Grand Ole Opry.
“You create the vision in your mind,” says Ed Commons, producer and director of Red Barn Radio, the Bluegrass radio showcase heard each week at 9 p.m. Saturdays on WEKU-FM 88.9 and 11 p.m. Saturdays on WUKY-FM 91.3. “You can imagine about the music. You hear the interviews and the people. It’s a place people would like to have grown up, a place they would like to go in their hectic lives today where we’re just a little kick back, and you can hear music of another time.”
And its a place that is recreated most Wednesday nights at ArtsPlace in Downtown Lexington.
There, in the theater behind the gallery and offices of LexArts, Commons, host Brad Becker and the rest of the Red Barn crew gather to put on a radio show that brings in Bluegrass musicians from emerging artists to established stars such as this week’s guest, Dale Ann Bradley, three-time International Bluegrass Music Association female vocalist of the year.
Early Wednesday evening a banner hangs over the Church Street side door of ArtsPlace directing guests up a short flight of stairs into the theater where the show is recorded.
A pair of folding tables is set up with CDs from some of the show’s artists, swag from the radio stations, pizza from show sponsor Dominos and coffee.
Within a whiff of the pizza, Becker chats with Charles and Mary Farmer, a couple that drives up from Stanton four or five times a year for Red Barn tapings.
“It’s a fun evening’s entertainment,” Charles says. “And for $5, what more can you ask for.”
Unlike its rootsy-radio sibling, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, which tapes Monday nights at the Kentucky Theatre, Red Barn doesn’t try to record a show in real time. The artists play several sections of four-to-six songs, and they take a couple breaks for Becker to conduct interviews. Commons will later splice the parts together to form a 59-minute show.
“We call the live show ‘gathering our assets,’” Commons says. “We try to gather a minimum of 40 minutes of music recorded, Brad does a couple interviews, and we also do a live give-away each week for our audience.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich