Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Concerts in the Park

Ocho de Bastos performs on Thursday, July 21. (Courtesy Photo)
Ocho de Bastos performs on Thursday, July 21. (Courtesy Photo)

by Grace Hodgman

The 24th annual Summer Concerts in the Park series, produced by the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, is a series of performances with bands and musicians somehow affiliated to Falls Church. The concerts occur each Thursday until August 4 in Cherry Hill Park at 312 Park Avenue.

Mama Tried is led by Randy Barrett, who will be performing on July 28. The band plays bluegrass and progressive bluegrass genre music. Progressive bluegrass is bluegrass which is not traditional material but includes more modern songs played in the bluegrass context. Barrett plays banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Barrett is accompanied by vocalist Dede Wyland, Ira Gitlim on bass, and Tom McLaughlin who plays guitar and mandolin.

Together the members of Mama Tried have been playing for around 15 years. “The best part of my job is basically being able to share something artistically with other people and have them be a party of it,” said Barrett, “it’s a great connection to have.”

The name Mama Tried comes from the title of a famous American country song by Merle Haggard. Influences for the band are Doc Watson, Tom O’Brien, and the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. The band is performing for the Summer Concerts in the Park series because of Barrett’s previous 17 year Falls Church City residency, and his current housing still in Falls Church, but outside of the city.

Other than performing, Barrett is the president of a non-profit called the DC Bluegrass Union. The organization promotes bluegrass music in Washington and puts on an annual DC Bluegrass Festival in Tysons Corner. The upcoming 2017 festival will take place on March 10 and 11.

The final performance for the series is with Tom Principato on August 4. Tom Principato is the lead guitarist of his American roots music style band. He is accompanied by Josh Howell on percussion, vocals and harmonica, Steve Wolf on bass, and Joe Wells on drums. Musicians that influence Principato are B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Jimi Hendrix.

Principato has led his own band for years. It was formed in the early ‘80s. Principato started playing guitar in high school, and “when I graduated I decided that I wanted to become a professional, so I moved to Boston and looked into a full time music job with a band,” said Principato.

Falls Church is Principato’s hometown. Principato said “Gordon [Theisz] who books the show has been in touch with me now for close to 10 years so I just keep playing him.”

Over the years of his musical career, Principato has won several WAMMIEs. A WAMMIE is an award from the Washington Area Music Association, voted on by the members of the music community for the winners in different categories. Principato usually wins in categories such as Best Blues Group, Best Male Singer Blues Category, Best Instrumentalist Blues Category, and other similar awards.

All of the artists throughout the series had varied styles. On June 23 the Falls Church Concert Band performed concert style music. Bad Hair Day, a variety musical group, played in June 30. The Andrew Acosta Band performed roots music on July 7. Irish Breakfast Band presented their Irish Celtic music on July 14. Ocho de Bastos, a Latin Pop group, performs on July 21, followed by Mama Tried on July 28 and Tom Principato on August 4.

• For more information about the Concerts in the Park series, visit