2024-05-28 12:14 AM

Memorial Day 2024 Issue!

Natural talents blended with natural delights at the shady Lubber Run amphitheater July 30. Two of Arlington’s most cosmopolitan musicians offered a one-of-a-kind opportunity for a baby-boomer audience sing-along.

The five-member Veronneau and Friends, featuring Quebecois chanteuse Lynn Veronneau and British guitarist-scholar Ken Avis (her husband), departed from their usual world music and jazz fare to present “Blue Tapestry,” fresh interpretations of 1971 masterpieces by Joni Mitchell (“Blue”) and Carole King (“Tapestry”).

The performers enjoyed it as much as the full-house, multi-generational crowd, who echoed familiar lyrics to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?,” “It’s Too Late,” “Carey” and “All I Want.”

“Lubber Run has excellent acoustics,” Veronneau told me in a later interview. “The upgrades they made are fabulous” and engineer Chris Cooley “does an amazing job on sound. It’s a wonderful opportunity for artists to be out in a beautiful setting.”

The singer satisfied my curiosity in reporting that backstage, the performers enjoy a dressing room with air conditioning, a mirror, cold water and a bathroom.

“There’s a great sound on stage, you’re surrounded by everyone singing, and we could hear them all,” added Avis, noting that attendees he knew came from as far as Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. “We felt like we were playing at Wolf Trap.”

Having performed four times at Lubber Run, Avis appreciates the work of the county arts program and the Lubber Run Foundation, who keep the free summer shows alive (unless that venue in the forest is rained upon).

The key ingredients of Veronneau, whose albums rise on world music and jazz charts, perform at Georgetown clubs, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and festivals. But they need not travel far to set up the instruments at Lubber Run. Veronneau and Avis live near Jamestown Elementary School. They also host a radio show on Arlington’s community station WERA-FM called “The Antidote.”

The couple met in Geneva as World Bank and nuclear research employees. Both were moonlighting as musicians when a producer pulled them away from existing band-mates and paired them. As both would earn “second chances” at marriage, Ken settled in Arlington in 1996 because “you typically have two days to find somewhere to live, so you rely on other ex-patriots at the Bank. There’s a couple of ghettos — Bethesda and Arlington, which is close to the airport and has good schools,” he says.

Ken gives music history lectures. (I heard him this April at the Washington history conference on DC’s days in the 1940s and ‘50s as the “Capital of Country Music.”

That predated the rise of Nashville and included the Arlington-centric careers of producer Connie B. Gay and singer Jimmy Dean.)

Lynn grew up in Montreal, where she studied art history and opera in Italian. But after spending eight years in France and studying voice, she said, she adjusted her Quebecois twang. Though she doesn’t speak fluent Portuguese, she is careful to understand lyrics to the songs she performs in Brazilian samba sets. (Her unusual claim to “fame” is that she appeared in the first photograph ever published on the World Wide Web, back in 1992, posing with a doo-wop parody group in Geneva, Les Horribles Cernettes.)

“We like adventuring, discovering new places and people,” the couple said by phone while vacationing in Quebec. “At the same time, we feel so much at home in Arlington.”

A taste of Arlington in the days of bootlegging was served up Aug. 12 by park historian John McNair.
Seventeen of us assembled in Clarendon at the convergence of three boulevards (Wilson, Clarendon and Washington), site of the old trolley car line. That’s how determined 1920s drinkers and illicit distributors (many from DC) made their quick escapes, McNair explained as he unfurled the dozens of pages of the Volstead Act that governed Prohibition under the 18th amendment.

After walking to the Courthouse to be near sites of the old courtrooms and jail (now a parking lot), the group hoisted a glass at a legal bar, the Board Room.





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