Ever wonder what it would be like to crash a reunion of the family von Trapp?
OK, probably not.
But if you’d had the pleasure, as I did, to attend the Madden Road MusicFest Saturday, September 3, the thought may have at least fleetingly entered your mind as Mutual, Ohio’s one-time town hall and schoolhouse was brought back from decades of suspended animation, alive with the sound of music—thanks in large measure to a very talented family.
Local singer-songwriter Daniel Dye orchestrated the festival with a chorus of family members. His mother, Janet Dye, owns the Town Hall Emporium on the building’s first floor. He credits his sister Sarah Kelly, visiting from Massachusetts (check out her blog about her happy reacquaintance with Urbana), as the driving force behind the festival. She had the vision of a music festival as a way to begin raising money to restore the building and turn it into the Madden Road Music Hall, a permanent music venue.
Between bands at the MusicFest, Daniel, Sarah and other members of the Dye Family Singers – father David, sisters Amy Blanton and Jenny Miller, and brother Steve – harmonized gospel arrangements.
The next generation of the Dye clan got in on the act, too, as Andrew, Carrie and Thomas Miller (children of Jenny) joined their Uncle Daniel, backing up his vocals, guitar and harmonica with fiddle, cello, banjo, mandolin and accordion as the Miller Road Band*. Here’s a video of them performing “I’m Gonna Let You Go” as the final act of the Madden Road MusicFest.
The second floor of the old Mutual town hall—used in recent years to hold an overflow of antiques from the downstairs emporium—formed the perfect backdrop for the day’s celebration of roots music—from folk and Americana, to bluegrass and gospel, and even some acoustic indie rock.
The scene could have been lifted from the brittle, curled page of an album found in a trunk in the attic: bare, sepia-toned plaster walls, sunlight streaming through tall arched windows, four ceiling fans churning through the hot, damp late summer air.
In restoring the building, the Dyes hope to preserve much of its frozen-in-time charm – maybe even down to this scrawled notation they found when cleaning years of grime from a wall: “Lewis Rodman … Mutual Ohio … Jan. 5, 1901 at the Show.”
Fast forward a century and decade later … from babies to grandpas and grandmas, people filled the hall again on wooden chairs and benches, feet tapping the worn floorboards.
And the feeling of a bygone era before the age of social media, a traditional family reunion, a church gathering, spilled outside the old brick hall to a tent where people conversed over food and musicians gathered, one calling out a song title and all joining beautifully, in community.
* You have two chances to see Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band live this weekend at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms of Ohio, north of Urbana – at 6 p.m. Friday, September 16 and 2:15 p.m. Saturday, September 17.