Today’s post is from Occasional Caroline
Last summer or perhaps it was the summer of 2016, my sister heard about and attended several Grand Oak Opry concerts. She loved it, raved about it, told everyone about it. I knew from her enthusiasm that I would enjoy it, but I didn’t make time to join her at a concert until August 11. I’m pretty sure I won’t miss another one, except due to circumstances beyond my control. It can’t be adequately described, you have to see it for yourself to “get it.”
The Grand Oak Opry is a unique concert series that takes place in the backyard of Sean Kershaw and Timothy Hawkins, in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood. They started by hosting two concerts in the summer of 2014, and have grown every year since. The 2018 schedule includes seven concerts, with two still to come; We Are the Willows on 9/1 and David Huckfelt & Erik Koskinen Band on 9/30.
The show I saw could not have been more fantastic. It was presented in partnership with the Schubert Club, and the performers were Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard! The Schubert Club delivered a Steinway grand piano to the backyard venue early in the day and picked it up when the event was over at about 9:30.
So, yes, the concert I attended will be hard to beat. Dan Chouinard played a rendition of Rhapsody in Blue that was absolutely amazing. Maria Jette displayed a remarkably diverse range of musical artistry; the whole night was magical. But, I think the Grand Oak Opry experience would be sensational if the entertainment was an elementary school band with a tone-deaf director. The setting is under a huge oak tree in the backyard of 273 W Goodhue St, St Paul. A crystal chandelier hangs in the branches of the tree, which is estimated to be about 200 years old and is still going and growing strong. The backyard décor also includes several brightly painted doors, each with a lantern hanging on a bracket. They are doors to nowhere, but provide a whimsical, colorful, touch to the setting. To put a cherry on top, as the sun began to set, fireflies came out to add to the magical ambiance.
There are no tickets or reservations. Shows start at 7:30 and gate opens at 6:30. Concert goers just show up with their chairs or blankets, bringing food and drink if they choose. A $10 donation is suggested from each guest; all the money collected goes directly to the evening’s performers. Children are welcome to attend the concert or to play in the front yard of the pre-Civil War era home, if the music isn’t quite to their taste. Pets are not allowed. Neighbors volunteer as greeters and information givers, helpfully pointing out the path to the restroom (in the house), a table with water and bug spray, and answering questions. It’s an amazingly friendly and welcoming atmosphere for both newbies and veterans. Attendance has varied from 40-45 at the first show in 2014 to about 500, including overflow into the neighboring yard, earlier this summer (I think it might have been Chastity Brown that night).
Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/grandoakopry/) is the primary source for schedule and other information about concerts. They do have a WordPress blog but a lot of the information there refers to past years and the Facebook page is more up to date.
OK, that’s it. I’m done. I liked it. A lot. Anyone for a Baboon field trip on 9/1 or 9/30?
Have you had an experience that was better than you could have hoped for or expected?