Bluegrass on the Mountain: A Traditional Southern Concert

Rebecca Cole
Executive Staff

On Thursday, September 16, Bluegrass on the Mountain was held in the Guerry auditorium to the delight of many community members and parents who were on campus for the weekend.

Sophie and the Breakfield Boys opened for the Monroe Mandolin Camp and gave a joyful performance of tunes such as “Atlantic City” that had the crowd clapping, tapping their feet, and swaying along.

Before the show, Sophie Harnew-Spradley (C ’22) said, “The guys and I are really excited about opening for the Bill Monroe Mandolin Camp instructor concert. Our music ranges from bluegrass and folk to rock and blues, but our sound is rooted in traditional music like the type that the camp teaches.”

When asked about what opening for the Monroe Mandolin Camp means for the band, Harnew-Spradley said that, “It’s going to be a really big honor to be up on stage with people like Mike Compton who represent where traditional bluegrass stands today. We are excited to stick around and hear some music after we open–there are going to be a lot of talented players up there.”

Harnew-Spradley has a connection to the Monroe Mandolin Camp as she attended years prior as a student. The instructors proudly cheered her and the Breakfield Boys on from the audience before their performance.

The Monroe Mandolin Camp’s aim is to preserve the original bluegrass of Bill Monroe and teach the younger generations about the genre. The show consisted of multiple instructors from the camp alternating on the lead microphones with banjos, guitars, mandolins (of course), and a bass.

The instructors laughed and joked with each other throughout the concert, making the atmosphere warm and inviting for the whole audience. It was a truly engaging experience with cheers and claps from the audience and the stage. Songs such as “Kentucky Waltz” and “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake” were played with just as much enthusiasm and drawl as when they were first recorded.

Mark Hembree, a member of the Monroe Mandolin Camp, was a Bluegrass Boy from 1979 to 1986 traveling and performing with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. He shared stories from his experience and even highlighted his new book “On the Bus with Bill Monroe: My Five Year Ride with the Father of Bluegrass” that is soon to be published in 2022.

Professor of Music Hilary Dow Ward described the sentiments of the music department as, “delighted to have the opportunity to not only offer but experience live music and performances again on this campus.” Dow asserts that, “live music and arts based performances provide a pulse and connection to our campus environment unlike many others.” The lack of these gatherings in recent months have made all of us more aware of just how important the arts are to our community.

During this upcoming semester, with many live performances and concerts on the docket for the Sewanee community, Dow reiterates that it is imperative we all, “take advantage of what is right here” and “soak them up and never take them for granted again.”