Leslie Middleton

Leslie Middleton writes about water quality, public access, and the special places of the Chesapeake Bay region from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

From troubadours to Tchaikovsky

Sounds of summer drift over the Bay's waterfronts

Both water and music soothe the soul, so combining the two is sure to make summer memories.

Opportunities to connect to the Bay through music during the long Chesapeake summer are abundant — and often in historic waterfront venues.

Janie Meneely has spent a lifetime of creating, performing and promoting the musical traditions of the Chesapeake Bay. She and her husband, Paul DiBlasi, form the duo, Calico Jack.

"There's so much to sing about the Chesapeake Bay," Meneely said. "We're trying to preserve the traditions and stories of the watermen and their communities. So many people have moved to the Chesapeake region from faraway places, and they have no idea what a skipjack is."

Meneely is part of a rich tradition of Chesapeake troubadours such as The Eastport Oyster Boys, Bob Zentz of Norfolk, and Tom Wisner, now deceased. They have served as Chesapeake ambassadors through music and song for decades.

Many Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network sites, including the maritime museums in Havre de Grace, St. Michaels and Annapolis, offer summer music series that include performances by these Chesapeake-based musicians as well as those from other ports.

Outdoor summer band concerts also abound. For example, every Tuesday summer evening at the City Dock in Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy Band performs in front of a backdrop of boats and the bridge that spans the Bay's Eastern and Western shores.

For the classically inclined, the River Concert Series at St. Mary's College offers a wide spectrum of musical styles at an outdoor venue alongside historic St. Mary's City, the first capital of Maryland and the fourth oldest English settlement in the New World.

If the weather's right, David and Betsy Poist sail from Kinsale, VA, across the Potomac and up the St. Mary's River to listen to an evening of Tchaikovsky or Copeland performed by the series' resident ensemble, the Chesapeake Orchestra.

"It's the whole experience," said Betsy, noting that there are few opportunities to listen to world-class music on the Northern Neck, where her family has a summer cottage. "Anchoring up, coming ashore with the picnic, chairs and wine…and then spending the night on our boat. We could drive there possibly just as quickly, but where would be the fun in that?"

Indeed. Whether arriving by land or by water, anchoring summer memories in the music of the Bay can ensure they hold fast for years to come.

Summer Sampler of Bay music

  • York River Floating Folk Jam: 5:30–9 p.m. July 10 & Aug. 14 at the The Yorktown Watermen's Museum's Carriage House in Yorktown, VA. The Jam features the sea shanties, Irish and Scottish tunes, and tavern music that arrived by boat centuries ago and have been molded into the culture of the Chesapeake. Bring your voice, your instrument or just enjoy the camaraderie. Bring a dish to pass; BYOB. Call 757-887-2641 or visit www.watermens.org/.
  • Clean Water Concert Series / The Eastport Oyster Boys: 7 p.m. June 29, Harrison Street, Easton, MD. Free. Call 410-822-7299 or visit www.theavalonfoundation.com/outdoorconcerts.html.
  • St. Mary's College of Maryland River Concert Series: 7 p.m. Fridays, June 21–July 26 at Townhouse Green in St. Mary's City, MD. The grounds open at 5 p.m. Bring a picnic or purchase food from vendors. Free. Call 240-895-2000 or visit www.smcm.edu/riverconcert/.
  • Music by the Bay at Fort Monroe Summer Concert Series: 7–8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 30 at Fort Monroe's Continental Park in Hampton Roads, VA. The series features regional military bands. Free. Call 757-251-2754 or visit www.virginia.org/Listings/Events/FortMonroeMusicBytheBaySummerConcertSeries/.
  • Pirates & Wenches Fantasy Weekend: Aug. 9–11 in Rock Hall, MD. From the Legend of Graybeard to the Mutiny on Main Street, join in a variety of pirate and traditional musical and nautical offerings. Visit www.rockhallpirates.com/.
  • Music on the Lawn: 5–8 p.m. Aug. 18 at Captain Avery Museum in Shady Side, MD. Program, musicians will be announced. Free. Call 410-867-4486, visit www.captainaverymuseum.org or e-mail museum@captainaverymuseum.org.
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Leslie Middleton

Leslie Middleton writes about water quality, public access, and the special places of the Chesapeake Bay region from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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