Harpeth Rising returns to Long Grove concert series for encore performance

Harpeth Rising, scheduled to perform on Sunday at downtown Long Grove's Fountain Square. | Submitted
Harpeth Rising, scheduled to perform on Sunday at downtown Long Grove's Fountain Square. | Submitted

They were not supposed to play in Long Grove in the first place. Now they’re coming back for a second time.

The three ladies of Harpeth Rising will be back in the Fountain Square on Sunday, playing their Appalachian, bluegrass and folk music during the Long Grove Arts & Music Council’s Summer Concert Series.

The trio met while studying classical music at the University of Indiana, and started playing together a bit.

“And what ended up coming out was a hybrid of bluegrass and soul,” said Rebecca Reed-Lunn, the collegiate viola player who now works the banjo and foot percussion for Harpeth Rising.

About a year ago, Reed-Lunn and her bandmates were recording their fourth album, “Tales from Jackson Bridge,” back in Bloomington, Ind., when their agent called.

Some town in northwest Chicagoland called Long Grove was having a festival that weekend, and a performer had gotten sick and had to back out, the agent said. Would they like to drive up there and play?

For professional musicians, the 260-mile trip was just another opportunity.

“My idea of what was a long drive has completely changed since we started touring,” Reed-Lunn said.

And the arts council’s summer series turned out to be a great time, she said. When the organizers called Harpeth Rising again, booking for the summer of 2014, the band put it on the tour plan.

Q: The group is based in Nashville. In the 21st Century, the limelight is not any bigger than it was before, but the Internet has opened more doorways into it. Does a country-sounding group still have to move to Music City to make it?

A: No, definitely not. With the Internet, there’s two different routes you can take. You can go the old way and try to be noticed by a label, and then the label controls everything for you. Or you can put your music out there yourself, with the help of the Internet. The down side is that you tend to be doing everything. We like the control aspect. If the right label offer came along, we might look into it.

Part of why Nashville became what it is is because it’s a central point for so many highways. (As) musicians, you have to travel a lot. Nashville’s a great starting point; I think that’s part of why it became Music City.

The “Big Machine,” that still does exist, but it isn’t quite as strong any more.

Q: Besides your stringed instruments, Harpeth Rising also plays “foot percussion.” Another style of music that uses foot percussion is flamenco … which has little connection to any style of American country music. What is foot percussion like in the Appalachian style?

A: Well, there’s other music styles that use your feet, as well. Clogging is a big part of Appalachian music. There’s a lot of variation of sounds that you can make with your feet that way. There’s the pounding, of course, of the big shoes on the wood stage, but then you can also drag your shoes to make a whole other kind of sound.

What we do is not quite traditional. I have a tambourine and a cowbell, both on foot pedals. So you’re singing, and playing with your fingers, and working your feet. It’s a fun way to challenge yourself.

Q: But you all have foot instruments. How do you keep the timing together, or is that a not a problem?

A: Whoever’s in charge of timing, it depends. What we learned studying classical music is that it depends on who has the fastest note value. That determines who is in charge of time, and we take our cue from here.

Q: This is your second trip up to Long Grove. What do you think of this place?

A: We had a lovely time last time. It was kind of a surprise performance for us. We were in Bloomington recording our album, our agent was booking us for this summer, and then someone in the schedule in Long Grove got sick.

It was kind of a whirlwind day for us, because we had to be up there and back in a few hours. But the people were so, so kind. It was a huge crowd, and a wonderful experience. We’re glad to come back.

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