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Celebrate the River Concert

Celebrate the River

Old Town Center for the Arts

Wendy Harford Gallery


Arvel Bird & Kimberly Kelley

William Eaton

William Eaton

Mary Redhouse

Mary Redhouse

Wendy Harford

Wendy Harford


5th Annual
Celebrate the River Concert

Saturday, September 22, 2018  7:00 pm

$25 Priority, $20 Advance, $22 Door

Arvel Bird and Kimberly Kelley
William Eaton, Claudia Tulip and Bart Applewhite
Mary Redhouse
Wendy Harford
and Candace Gallagher
Cathy Ransom

Gary Every

A Concert dedicated to the
Memory of River Activist Katie Lee

Celebrate the River Concert Honors the River & River Groups

The 5th Annual Celebrate the River Concert will begin the Old Town Center for the Arts 11th Season and kick-off the Verde River Day Festival weekend. Musicians, artists and river advocates, will gather for an evening of music, art, and new “river” songs all dedicated to bringing attention to our most important natural resource – water, that flows from the Verde River & Oak Creek Water Basins.

This year’s concert coincides with the Fall Equinox and is dedicated to the memory of Activist, Singer, Writer and ‘Desert Goddess’ Katie Lee, who died last November.

2015 Celebrate the River Concert video by David Lavoie 

The concert will feature internationally acclaimed Native American artist Arvel Bird and Kimberly Kelley, William Eaton, Claudia Tulip, Bart Applewhite, and special guest Mary Redhouse.

Also featured in the concert will be artist-musician Wendy Harford, Cathy Ransom, Candace Gallagher, and poet Gary Every.

Celebrate the River Concert

“This will be our most diverse river concert yet,” OTCA Co-Director William Eaton commented. “Arvel and Mary will share their Native perspective and traditions, along with original songs from the group, poetry, spoken word, and well known covers from artists such as Billy Joel (River of Dreams), J.J. Cale, Eric Clapton (Ride the River), and others.”

Arvel and Kimberly Kelley will be sharing music from Arvel’s three best selling Animal Totems albums which honor the many ways Mother Earth supports us all with water, food, and air. Animals and all wild life are the most sensitive and most affected by local rainfall and river conditions. Arvel expressed that “the Verde Valley is a unique eco-system, and my ancestors have long understood the importance of preserving the very elements that give us life. I share these concepts in a fun way, through my stories, and with violin and Native American flute.  In addition, I’ll be performing my Mother Earth song, asking us all to Leave No Trace.”

Grammy nominated Native American Artist Mary Redhouse will offer several traditional songs including a Taos Round Dance, an intertribal arrangement of Amazing Grace and a Navajo rainmaker chant.

Wendy Harford and Candace Gallagher will be singing a medley from the repertoire of Katie Lee, the famous river and environmental advocate who was once called the Grand Dame of Dam Busting.

William Eaton, Claudia Tulip and Bart Applewhite from the eco-music group Earth Speak will present several original song-stories written about the Verde River, the luminary Rainmakers, and the Promises of a Desert City that chronicles our dependence on “dammed water.”

Cathy Ransom will present a brand new river song that she co-wrote with local musician favorite Bill Bassett. Bill and Cathy are both previous winners of the Celebrate the River Song Contest.

The always surprising and engaging local poet Gary Every will share a story/poem.

The event is organized by William Eaton and Wendy Harford and is sponsored by the Old Town Center for the Arts, whose mission includes presenting and supporting events that promote local sustainable initiatives.

Celebrate the River Musicians

Arvel Bird, named by the prestigious Cowboy and Indian Magazine, as one of the top 4 favorite Native American Musicians, is a violinist, flutist and composer who brings to life the dramatic connection between Native American and Celtic traditions, stirring up scenes that echo from North American memory.

Arvel has won the coveted title of Artist of the Year at the Native American Music Awards (Nammys), among other awards and has toured with such top country stars as Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, and Louise Mandrell.

For the past 13 years Arvel and his wife and musical partner Kimberly Kelley have toured across the U.S. and internationally, and recently they’ve made Cottonwood their home with the founding of the Center of Universal Light. Kimberly brings harmony vocals, keyboards and bodhran to this evening of music.

Bassist Mary Redhouse brings her exquisite five octave vocal range, which she mixes with Native American chants, bird sounds and Native American flute playing in the tradition of her Navajo heritage. Mary is a two time GRAMMY Nominee, NAMMY winner, and she has performed solo, and with the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, William Eaton Ensemble and Redhouse Family Jazz Band, hmong others.

Visionary Guitarist William Eaton is acknowledged as one of the world’s great designers and builders of unique guitars and stringed instruments. He is a four-time GRAMMY nominee, NAMMY (Native American Music Awards) winner, and long time recording artist for Canyon Records. William is a founder and Director of the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, in Phoenix, AZ.  In 2015 he received the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award in the ‘artist’ category.  William is also a founder and co-director of Old Town Center for the Arts.

Classically trained, jazz influenced and world music inspired, Claudia Tulip performs on silver and ethnic flutes, and panpipes.  One reviewer commented, “Claudia’s sound is a beautiful blend of imagination, deft technique and soulful expression.” Claudia has enjoyed a successful solo career and has also been a member of the William Eaton Ensemble since 1988.

Bart Applewhite toured nationally with the band Kongo Shock. He is a graduate, and now administrator, of the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, in Phoenix, Arizona, where he designs and builds one-of-a-kind bass harp guitars and is perhaps the only builder and player of these hybrid instruments in the world.

Wendy Harford began expressing music through writing, singing and songwriting as a pre-teen in Southern California during the barefoot, beat and hip generation of the late 60's. She used her talents to put herself through college and in programs of therapeutic recreation for age 2 to 102 years of age. Most of her written words and performance themes are related to the importance of a healthy for environment, respecting wildlife and habitat, from whales and oceans, rain and rivers, to conservation messages. 

The concert will be a lot of fun, entertaining and a vehicle to spread awareness about the river and how each of us can become better stewards of this beautiful valley, individually and collectively.

The show begins at 7:00pm, doors open at 6:00pm. Attendees are invited to arrive early to see an arts exhibit, that includes paintings and sculpture dedicated to a river, harvest, equinox theme.


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