Meadville Tribune

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April 21, 2013

Throngs of music lovers treated to unique music, events

MEADVILLE — What is a hurdy gurdy?

That was the question weighing on the minds of dozens of individuals as they made their way through the Music Mall at the third annual Riverside Music Festival on Saturday at Riverside Inn. More precisely the question was, “What the heck is that thing?” said Brian McCoy, a music tech student at Kent State University at Stark, who was donning the oddly shaped stringed instrument.

Hundreds of music-goers were in attendance for the second day of the music festival early Saturday afternoon taking in all sorts of entertainment from impromptu performances inside the lobby and foyer to scheduled performances by popular area band Salmon Frank and crowd-stopper Adam Ezra Group. Then there was McCoy.

“I talked to him (Friday night) and I hung out with him for a while,” said Erie resident Scott Stanton. “I didn’t have my camera with me and took pictures with my cell phone. I wanted better quality pictures so I could show my son.

“I’ve never seen one of these before.”

Neither have many others.

A hurdy gurdy from a distance looks quite similar to a guitar, but close up it is anything but. The cumbersome instrument is equipped with strings like a guitar, but the sound is produced by a crank-turned wheel rubbing against those strings, not by a pick. It also features a keybox with keys arranged in a similar fashion as a piano, but much smaller.

It sounds quite similiar to a violin and can also produce a sound mirroring that of a bagpipe with the use of its drone strings.

“This has been wonderful,” said McCoy, 25, of Canton, Ohio. “It has been a really warm experience. It always great when you do something you love and people really grasp it and they embrace it themselves.

“It’s just great. People are really into the hurdy gurdy. I’ve talked to so many people.”

McCoy said the hurdy gurdy isn’t very popular in the United States, particularly among young musicians. It’s events like the music festival, though, that he hopes will help bring “wurd to the gurd,” he said, prompting laughter from a small crowd that gathered around him.

McCoy also performed Friday and Saturday with his hurdy gurdy using a loop machine.

“I don’t think anyone else does it the way he does,” Stanton said.

McCoy was one of the new faces of the music festival, which organizer Justin Moyar said continues to grow. Moyar said attendance on Friday night doubled, if not tripled, last year’s total thanks in large part to the appearance of grammy award-winning and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bernie Worrell and the Bernie Worrell Orchestra.

“It was standing room only in here (Friday),” Moyar said. “Everybody was dancing and having a good time.”

Saturday’s crowd also appeared much larger than a year ago, though Moyar did not have any definitive numbers.

The festival continues today at Riverside Inn beginning at noon. Admission is free.

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