The sky is the limit when Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Music Festival summer outdoor concert series shines next month with iconic musical stars and 50th anniversary salutes to the first moon landing and the original Woodstock festival.
The Beach Boys, The Oak Ridge Boys and Judy Collins are among performers during the 56th festival season from July 19 to Sept. 1.
The eight concerts are literally held under the stars on the grounds of Shrine Mont, a historic retreat and conference center in western Shenandoah County. You can purchase tickets to sit close the stage of the nearly 600-seat pavilion, or relax on a lawn chair or blanket on the expansive lawn — the latter is especially popular with families.
The longest-running music festival in Virginia, the event has grown in popularity since its beginnings in the 1960s, according to the festival’s Dennis Lynch. Attendees hail from the region, 24 states and Washington, D.C. Lynch attributes the growth both to the programming and the setting.
“People love us and we love them for coming out,” he said.
Originally a venue solely for classical music, the festival was rebranded years ago to offer diverse genres of music by well-known artists in addition to the symphony orchestras.
Shrine Mont dates to the 19th century and is composed of several buildings and cottages. The center is snuggled up against a mountain in the village of Orkney Springs, a two-hour drive from Washington.
Lynch said the outdoor setting entranced singer Kathy Mattea when a huge moon appeared as she performed at a past concert.
“This is like one of the most amazing things ever!” she enthused.
The festival’s format of Friday and Saturday concerts offers the chance for weekend getaways.
“You can leave all your cares away. Escape the concrete, the congestion, the high stress of whatever job you’re doing,” said Lynch. “The minute you hit Orkney Springs all that stuff just melts away.”
Rock to country
The season opens July 19 with The Drifters, The Platters and Cornell Gunter’s Coasters, who are known for such doo-wop and Motown hits as “Under the Boardwalk,” “Only You,” Yakety Yak,” “Up on the Roof” and “This Magic Moment.” Each group has individual 45-minute sets.
On July 20, the festival commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with a multimedia show called “One Giant Leap—‘The Planets’ and Beyond.” The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra will play tunes such as the themes from “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the seven-movement “The Planets” by Gustav Holst accompanied by NASA video footage and images of planets and space scenes projected on a big screen.
The ever-popular rock ’n’ roll band The Beach Boys will bring “Good Vibrations” to the festival on July 26, followed by PSO Rocks! “Still Stardust, Still Golden—Woodstock at 50” on July 27. A rock band backed by the Piedmont Symphony Orchestra will play only tunes performed at the original Woodstock music festival on a New York farm in 1969 by such artists as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The Oak Ridge Boys, a beloved country group known for such hits as “Elvira,” Bobbie Sue” and “Dream On,” will perform on Aug. 9. Home Free, an a cappella country music group, will appear on Aug. 10 with special guest Jeffrey East.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Judy Collins, known for her interpretations of folk songs such as “Both Sides Now” and “Send in the Clowns,” as well as her own compositions, will perform on Aug. 31. The artist for the final concert on Sept. 1 is still to be confirmed.
The festival is run by a nonprofit group that relies on donations, grants and volunteers in addition to ticket sales. Ticket information can be found on the festival’s website, musicfest.org.
Picnic-style food and beverages will be sold, or you may bring your own.
If you like a summer camp atmosphere, weekend package deals for lodging, dining and tickets are available at Shrine Mont, which is within walking distance of the concerts. Bryce Resort is nearby, and three hotels are 24 miles away in Woodstock — the Woodstock in Virginia, that is. There are also accommodations along the Interstate 81 corridor.
Shenandoah County has breweries, vineyards, caverns, museums and other attractions to explore.
“If you can’t find something great to do [in the county], you’re not trying hard enough,” said Lynch.
What: Shenandoah Valley Music Festival
When: July 19-Sept. 1
Where: Shrine Mont, 221 Shrine Mont Circle, Orkney Springs, Va.