- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

When the World Folk Music Association started its benefit concert 20 years ago, organizers weren’t so sure they’d make it to the next year.

Now there are so many fans that the concert has expanded into a two-day event that sells about 100 tickets before buyers even know who the performers will be.

“It’s quite an accomplishment. We’ve been able to get performers together at an event that might not otherwise be presented,” says Dick Cerri, a founder of the organization and one of the show’s organizers.

Over two decades, the organization that began as a way to keep fans of folk music informed about the scene has hosted concerts that have given many new performers their start and reunited legendary acts.

This year is certainly no exception. Two stars of the 1960s — the Chad Mitchell Trio and Hamilton Camp — are among a host of talented folk artists performing onstage at the Birchmere in Alexandria tomorrow and Saturday.

• • •

The Chad Mitchell Trio started in a college glee club and eventually became a major force in folk music in New York City before going their separate ways by the end of the 1960s.

“The music was kind of an outlet for us,” explains Mike Kobluk, one of the trio’s original members, from his home in Spokane, Wash.

The trio — Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Kobluk and Joe Frazier — auditioned for gigs and a record company in New York City and slowly found their career and reputations snowballing into something big as their political songwriting, humor and clear harmonies gained a fan base.

Eventually, Mr. Frazier became an Episcopal priest, Mr. Mitchell pursued a solo career and Mr. Kobluk went on to head the Spokane Opera House and Stadium. The singer who replaced Mr. Mitchell, a little known songwriter named John Denver, turned out to have an amazing career of his own.

The group has reunited a few times in the past, including a series of shows in 1987 when the original trio played with Mr. Denver.

Organizers with the World Folk Music Association helped convince the three to reunite again for the first time since the mid-1990s, Mr. Kobluk says. This could very well be their last show together, he says.

“Each of us has been given our own little responsibility to look over the parts. It takes a little while to get back into shape.”

While some of the group’s music is very much rooted in the political atmosphere of the ‘60s, some of the songs still have the ability to touch people today, especially at a time of war, he says.

“Some of these songs written 40 years ago are just as current today,” he says.

Mr. Kobluk has recently retired from the opera house and long ago put his music aside, but he stays in touch with the members of the trio, especially Mr. Mitchell, who lives in his neighborhood in Spokane.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the guys and our musicians,” he says. “I’m trying to relearn some songs. I think it’ll be fun. I hope we can be representative of what we did back then.”

• • •

The Chad Mitchell Trio is not the only act bringing the spirit of the ‘60s folk scene alive this weekend. Hamilton Camp, who made his name as part of a duo with Bob Gibson, will perform several new songs and old favorites.

Mr. Camp is the author of several classic folk songs, including “Pride of Man,” which was covered by both Gordon Lightfoot and Quicksilver Messenger Service, and probably best known for the popular album “Gibson and Camp at the Gate of Horn.”

Like Mr. Kobluk, Mr. Camp moved out of the music field, in his case to pursue acting, but he has always kept music as a part of his life.

“When I had a family, I realized that to be successful as a recording artist that I would have to be on the road for weeks at a time,” Mr. Camp says by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “After working with Bobby Gibson, I went into ‘Second City’ and never looked back.”

Acting with The Second City troupe was merely an extension of an acting career he had started at the age of 12 and continued even as he performed as a folk musician. Though acting on stage and in films and TV shows took a prominent place in his life, he never put away his music. He reunited several times over the years with Mr. Gibson and he continues to release music under his own name on occasion.

He is currently making a CD of new material with his son, recording it at home with the hope of releasing it in the new year. While he has few concrete plans for performances in 2005, Mr. Camp says the benefit show is a nice beginning.

“It’s a good way to start off the new year. I’m so happy I was asked to do this,” he says.

• • •

In addition to the Chad Mitchell Trio and Mr. Camp, the weekend will feature Oscar Brand, Buskin and Batteau, The Brothers Four, Bill Danoff, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, Carolyn Hester, The Highwaymen, Christine Lavin, The Limeliters, Tommy Makem, David Mallett, Modern Man, Schooner Fare, Side by Side and Noel Paul Stookey.

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