The Hall Was Alive with the Sound of Music

Ever wonder what it would be like to crash a reunion of the family von Trapp?

OK, probably not.

Daniel Dye and his niece Carrie Miller, nephews Thomas and Andrew Miller and sister Sarah Kelly help bring the first Madden Road MusicFest to a close.

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.

The Dye Family Singers, with Daniel and sisters Jenny, Amy and Kelly, brother Steve and father David continue a tradition of singing together.

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 Muleskinner Band opened the festival. Other performers included The Kurtz Trio, Dr. Chris Bingman, Like A Child and Andolino.

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.

Guitarist Johnny O of Urbana, far right foreground, was joined by several other musicians for an impressive jam session outside the town hall.

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.

Madden Road: a New Crossroads for Music

I was looking forward to hearing my favorite living musical legend over the Labor Day weekend, at the Detroit Jazz Festival. But then I read online that Dave Brubeck’s “medical team” (mere mortals have doctors) advised him to cancel. Although still a virtuoso of the keyboard, he is, after all, a few months shy of 91.

While concerned for him, I’ve overcome my disappointment. Now I’m looking forward to my new Labor Day weekend destination: Mutual, Ohio (population 129).

More specifically, I’m looking forward to a brand new music festival, the Madden Road MusicFest, which will debut in Mutual’s old town hall (5854 E. St. Rt. 29, at the corner of S. Mutual-Union Road), Saturday, September 3, noon to 9 p.m.

Mutual, situated at the intersection of State Routes 29 and 161 and surrounded by farmland, is a mere six and a half miles from my house in Urbana and 170 miles or so separated from the distractions of the Motor City (though just 40 miles from Columbus or 45 from Dayton).

Old town hall, Mutual, Ohio

For the old town hall of Mutual, Ohio, the writing's on the floor, marked in dust: The building will debut in its new role, music hall, September 3 at the Madden Road MusicFest. Daniel Dye, at right, with his wife, Yasmin, and brother-in-law Scott Blanton take a break from getting the building ready for showtime.

The Madden Road MusicFest is all about the music—a mix of folk, bluegrass, rock, gospel and Americana, performed by talented central Ohio musicians, including the coordinator and headliner of the whole affair, local singer/songwriter Daniel Dye. Dye, who recently completed a solo European tour, wants to restore the building to become a regular, intimate concert venue.

Tickets for the Madden Road MusicFest (at a reasonable $10 for the day or $6 for a half day) will support the restoration.

Performances will be on the second floor, above the Town Hall Emporium, an antique shop that Dye’s mother, Janet Dye, has run for the last several years. The building also served as a school with a scaled-down basketball court (a slate scoreboard, marked “Mutual” and “Visitors,” still hangs on a wall on the second floor).

On September 3, the lineup will be The Muleskinner Band, Andolino, Rockin’ Chairs, Like A Child, the Kurtz Trio, and Daniel Dye’s own band featuring two nephews and a niece, Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band.  Also featured is jazz guitarist Johnny O, who will be holding court outside the old town hall, inviting guests to bring instruments and join him in some pickin’ and grinnin’.

If you like your music up close and personal and want to have a part in preserving history, the Madden Road MusicFest is the place to be. See you there!

One more thing: food will be available for purchase – also to help support the cause – along with coffee from Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, the subject of a previous Champaign Uncorked! post.

For more, visit the Madden Road MusicFest website and Facebook page (and “like” it).

And here’s a little bonus: a bit of Mutual history that parallels my abbreviated Labor Day journey, more or less….

Mutual, incorporated as a village in 1869, traces its roots back to William Lafferty, a Union Township farmer.  In 1840, he told his neighbors he was leaving for Texas. A few miles into his journey, at Old Post Road, now State Route 161, one of his wagon wheels snapped. Near that spot he built a cabin. Others settled around him. They named their new haven Little Texas, a name that was ultimately rejected, apparently by mutual agreement. (Never fear, citizens of Mutual. I will never refer to your home as Little Detroit.)

The Beat Goes on in Champaign County, Ohio

I’ll keep the words to a minimum in this post and let some music video clips do the talking. This fall in Champaign County, Ohio, we’ve been fortunate to have a good share of good outdoor musical entertainment–a good portion of it homegrown. Last weekend there was the Hylo Brown Bluegrass Festival in Mechanicsburg and the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms, north of Urbana.

And this Saturday (September 25), I enjoyed hearing one of my favorite local bands, the Muleskinners, at Urbana University’s Johnny Appleseed birthday celebration. Here they are performing “Hello, Mary Lou.”

Saturday night, band parents that we are, my wife, Kay, and I rode one of the buses with the Urbana High School marching band to the 39th annual Graham High School Band Festival. One of our first dates was to the Graham Band Festival, when I covered it as a reporter for the Urbana Daily Citizen. In the clip below that’s our snare drumming son Alex.

And I’ll leave you with this clip from Fat City Blues, a new local band that performed last weekend at the Music4Meals food pantry benefit concert at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival. I missed it since I was on the road again with the UHS marching band.