More than a fiddle club – the Huron River Revivalists

The Huron River Revivalists, playing for a Huron River Watershed Council event in September 2017
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They were almost “Grace and the Orphan Children.”

The founder of the Huron River Revivalists — high school senior Grace Reynolds — almost can’t stop laughing as she recalls how the group got its name.

“I put a call out to the group, asking for suggestions for a name,” she said. “And I kept getting all these names like Grace and the Orphan Children, and Grace and the First Fingers. Even when I said this is not about Grace — and no one is an orphan! So I thought, well, we are trying to revive traditional music and the Huron River is right here … and everyone agreed Huron River Revivalists was a better name.”

Reynolds has been playing traditional music since she was 6. As a Pinckney high school freshman, she approached orchestra instructor Jeff Campbell in 2014 about forming a fiddle club. The club started with Reynolds and three friends and has grown over the years through in-school recruitment and word-of-mouth, to include up to 11 players. Instruments range from flutes, fiddles, and mandolins, to an Irish bouzouki. One year there was a piano; for two years there was a cello. Traditional music has always been easy to adapt to instruments at hand, and the changing composition of the Huron River Revivalists is never a problem.

“I thought it would be cool bring traditional American, Canadian, Scottish and Irish music to Pinckney and figured a club would be the easiest way to do that,” said Reynolds, who has been helping at music festivals for years, despite her young age.

The music is appealing, she says, because musicians can be creative and put their own stamp on pieces that have been handed down for generations. The Revivalists don’t have one particular musical influence or artist, since the nature of traditional music is such that often no one knows the original source. Much of the learning of a tune is to sit down and be taught by someone else, and the same song can have many variations across time, culture and geographical distance.

Not everyone has to be in band or orchestra to participate in the Huron River Revivalists, and that is an important feature.

“One member stated that if not for this group, she would not be playing music, which was so touching that we could provide that for her,” Reynolds said. “You don’t have to be classically trained, or in the music programs, or even looking at music as a college major. You can have music as a hobby.”

In fact, most of the club members are not planning to pursue music as a major or career, and the scholarship funds raised by the club are not tied to the pursuit of music degrees. Managed through the school district, the funds are distributed to club members who have been in the club for two years and have participated in a certain number of performances.

Performances have been a bit of a surprise for the group. What started as an effort to raise some money for sheet music grew quickly beyond that, and thus the scholarship fund was created. While some gigs are standard high school fare — band concerts, school events and such — the Huron River Revivalists have also played at the Pinckney Community Library’s spring auction and have performed at the White Steeple Stage, a local seasonal venue housed in the Community Congregational Church. And they are for hire — whenever an engagement doesn’t conflict with studying for finals — for a contribution to the scholarship fund.

In fact, their next gig is a fundraiser for the scholarship fund. The Huron River Revivalists will be playing May 5, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the White Steeple Stage (Community Congregational Church, 125 E Unadilla St, Pinckney MI). Tickets are $10 (12 and under – and over 85! – are free) and additional donations are accepted (cash only).

Watch a video! For more information on the group, or to hire them for an event, contact Deb Reynolds at (989) 944-2626 or email dreynolds@pinckneypirates.org.

About Rebecca Foster 80 Articles
Rebecca Foster writes about food, politics, books and whatever has irritated her on any particular day, on her website Usual and Ordinary (www.usualandordinary.com). She is an occasional contributor to The Livingston Post and has remained active in local politics and the community after serving as Pinckney Village President from 2004-2012. She is enjoying empty-nesting in Pinckney with her husband, three cats and a few chickens.