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News Article
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Annual Music Festival Hits All the Right Notes Across the Valley
Written by Sergei Blair Correspondent

A day of local artists celebrating music at nine locations

Make Music Upper Perk hosted a wide genre of music like the post progressive hard rock sound of the band WitchFist, which played at the Upper Perk Community Life Center early Sunday afternoon.

        Music of all genres resonated across the Upper Perkiomen Valley - from a church's porch, a local community park, and from several businesses along the Main Street. Around 200 local musicians from the area showcased their talents during the third annual Make Music Upper Perk festival, Sunday, June 21.

        With nine different venues throughout the valley serving as backdrop for live music, residents pulled up lawn chairs and spread out blankets to enjoy performers of all ages singing and playing musical instruments. On this day, the Upper Perk region joined more than 700 host locations worldwide for a free event marked to celebrate music on the official first day of summer.

        Each of the designated spots served as platform for artists who played selections from a music style of their choice ranging from folk, gospel, swing jazz and even post progressive hard rock. 

        Around 30 listeners sat on the grass at Red Hill Park listening to members of Zion Bluegrass, a group from Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton.  The day's light breeze carried the mellow tunes of their gospel bluegrass music.

        Chris High, the group's organizer and a banjo player, said he wanted to bring attention to music programs in schools, as one of most underfunded activities. High, whose daughter is a school music teacher, said that a music program is a powerful tool children can utilize. "It's a great and positive thing for kids. Most kids enjoy playing music given the chance and, to me, that's where it all starts," he said.

        In East Greenville, a group of young people huddled closely around the stage inside the Upper Perk Community Life Center as the lead singer, from a post progressive hard rock group Am()ora, screamed ambiguous lyrics to the beat of high-energy music. With sweat dripping of his forehead, he tightly gripped the microphone and leaned face-to-face with an audience member.

        By contrast, a few steps outside the venue, a group of worshippers from Community Bible Fellowship Church of Red Hill sat quietly in a circle on the lawn adjacent to St. Mark's Lutheran Church and sang traditional church hymns. 

        What started as a small event in France on June 21, 1982 known as the International Fete de la Musique, or the International Day of Music, the celebration has quickly developed into a worldwide phenomenon.  Three years ago it attracted the attention of Cathy Sweeney and her event co-coordinator Susan Royer, a local music teacher. The duo wanted to hold a free event in the community that shines a spotlight on less known local artists and helps promote the love of music in the valley.

        "I've read a lot about the event happening at other places and said to myself  'Why not save myself the drive?' I know a lot of cool musicians around here so let's just put something like that here," Sweeney said.

        Through the reach of social media and an online Kickstarter campaign, the two organizers raised a little over $800 since March to help cover the cost of promotion and general expenses.

        Participating host locations included Java Good Day Café and Art on Main in East Greenville and the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center and many others provided facilities for use at no charge. At each spot, a designated site host facilitated the program and made sure the event ran smoothly.

        State Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), who plays several musical instruments including clarinet and saxophone, took part in the day's event by lending a hand to the "Swing Shift" jazz group at St. Mark's gazebo. The seven-man band played for about 50 local residents before handing it over to the Red Hill Band set up across the field.

        "Music is kind of a universal language, you have to understand one another to understand the music," Mensch said. "There are a lot of different styles being played here today so there's something for everybody, and that's the beauty of music."






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