Carpenter Ants, Rick Whitehead Trio highlight Berkeley Springs summer concert series
The Morgan Arts Council’s Concerts in the Park series for this year is in full swing in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., with two fan favorites returning the next two weekends.
Morgan County Arts Council Concert and School Coordinator Jill Klein Rone said the free concert series located at Berkeley Springs State Park has been going on for more than 30 years.
“We love to be able to share great music and a good time with the local community and visitors to Berkeley Springs. It’s just another reason it’s a great place to visit and live,” Klein Rone said.
The Carpenter Ants will bring blues, country and gospel music to the state park, on Saturday, July 20.
Klein Rone said the rhythm and blues band based out of Charleston, W.Va., performs regularly on the famed Mountain Stage. They have performed in the concert series before as well as at the annual Apple Butter Festival, which she said the band will return to on Oct. 12.
“They are a wonderful, high energy band. They are a lot of fun and people just love them,” Klein Rone said. “Anyone who doesn’t know them will fall in love with them.”
The band has been together for 34 years and in that time has made more than 3,000 performances. Through it all, the group still consists of the four original members, Charlie Tee (vox), Michael Lipton (guitar/vox), Ted Harrison (bass, vox) and Jupie Little (drums, vox).
Members of the Ants have toured in the U.S. and Europe, backing English rock legend Kevin Coyne, and played with original NRBQ guitarist Steve Ferguson for 15 years.
Lipton said the band has been playing at events in Berkeley Springs for about 25 years. Last year he said they were without Charlie Tee.
“He has been on dialysis for 10 years and just got a kidney transplant. He’s feeling great and doing great and we are happy he will be with us this year,” Lipton said.
Lipton calls the band’s sound “chicken fried gospel soul.”
“We play roots music which is a mix of blues, R&B and traditional with a country flair so I think it covers a big swath of roots music,” Lipton said.
As director of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and a member of the Mountain Stage House Band for about 33 years, Lipton said those experiences have impacted him and the band’s music.
“My tastes have been influenced by playing on the show and who I’ve played with on the show,” he said.
The band will be joined on stage this weekend by a couple of guest artists local to Berkeley Springs in Billy Thompson, who Lipton described as a nationally known guitarist, and singer Mary Hott.
“We just backed her on a record and she will be singing a couple of those songs,” Lipton said.
Rick Whitehead Trio to bring jazz on July 27
“They are a world class jazz band. They are just incredible musicians. People who like jazz are going to love them and people who aren’t familiar with jazz are going to appreciate their musicianship,” Klein Rone said.
The trio is in its 25th year of playing together. Guitarist Rick Whitehead, a Miami native who now resides in Gainesville, Va., started playing the guitar at age 11. When he was 18, he was performing on Shows on the Beach and worked with Connie Francis, Sandler and Young, Jayne Morgan, Glen Campbell and others. He is the recipient of the 2006 Washington Area Musician’s Association award (WAMMIE) as Best Jazz Instrumentalist.
Bass player John Previti, of Sliver Spring, Md., began his professional career in 1976 with Danny Gatton, and played with him over a span of 18 years. His passion for music is evident in his long list of collaborations, including Charlie Byrd, Doc Cheatham, Paul Simon and Buddy Emmons.
Barry Hart, of Fort Washington, Md., has played drums professionally since he was 16. A technical master, he is as much fun to watch as he is to listen to. Hart has performed with The Tommy Dorsey Big Band, The Ink Spots, Bob Hope, Cab Calloway, Lou Rawls and The Drifters.
“They are extraordinary players! It’s fun just to be playing with them all these years,” Whitehead said of this bandmates.
Their first CD, “Live in Captivity,” won the Washington Area Music Association WAMMIE Award in 1998 for best Contemporary Album. Their second CD, “Live in Captivity, Again” was released in 2001. In 2004, 2006 and 2007 they were nominated by WAMA as Best Jazz Ensemble. The trio’s third recording, “So There We Were …” was released in July 2006. Whitehead said the band will have CDs available at the concert for those wanting to purchase.
“We like to do a lot of standards, classic jazz tunes,” Whitehead said. “We may change things up on some tunes and do our own versions of tunes, like ‘The Girl From Ipanema,’ we may play as a samba.”
He said they do a lot of soloing and their sets are very free flowing.
“Sometimes I might not even get on the mic in between songs, we will just move right on to the next,” Whitehead said.
Other concerts in the series include: Deni Bonet on Aug. 3, The Nighthawks on Aug. 10, April Verch Band on Aug. 17 and The Flashbacks on Aug. 31.
All concerts begin at 5:30 p.m. Klein Rone said attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs to sit on and enjoy the other amenities of the park while listening to the music.
The Morgan County Arts Council’s Ice House, located at the corner of Independence and Mercer Streets, two blocks north of the park, serves as the rain location. Klein Rone said the decision to move the concerts due to weather will be made by noon on the days of the concerts and will be posted on the Morgan County Arts Council’s Facebook page and other social media.
Sponsors for the series are River Bend Family Medicine, SureStay Plus Berkeley Springs Inn, Heath Studio Gallery, Lot 12 Public House and The Naked Olive, with additional funding from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, and local hotel/motel taxes.
For detailed information on the concert series and participating performers, visit macicehouse.org or call 304-258-2300.
Top photo: The Carpenter Ants (top) and the Rick Whitehead Trio will perform at the Morgan Arts Council’s Concerts in the Park at Berkeley Springs State Park.