Birchmere hosts tribute concert to musicians we lost in 2020

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Birchmere tribute concert (Part 1)

This past year, countless voices were silenced, but their iconic music lives on.

This Friday, Daryl Davis salutes those musicians that we’ve lost with his sixth annual tribute concert “Thanks for the Memories” at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia.

“I just keep a running tally until Dec. 31, then we scramble in January to write out the charts and put together the set,” Davis told WTOP. “It covers every genre and everybody, so there’s something there for everybody: young people, older people, generations, music you grew up with, current music, anybody who passed away.”

How exactly does he structure the set list?

“If they are a household name … they might get two, three songs,” Davis said. “If they’re lesser-known musicians, they might get one song. If they’re not known at all but still a musician, they get an honorable mention that I read out from a long list. There are probably about 102 musicians that passed away in 2020.”

Audiences will enjoy beloved songs from an array of late greats.

“We have Charley Pride, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Bill Withers, Helen Reddy, all kinds of people,” Davis said. “Of course, Eddie Van Halen, there’s a whole slew of them. … Pop music, hard rock, Jamaican music, country music.”

His goal is to expose fans to different genres and eras.

“People come up and say: ‘I didn’t know that person died! Oh my God, I used to dance to his music at my prom,’ or, ‘I’ve never heard of so and so before … I’m gonna check it out when I get home,'” Davis said. “Let’s say somebody is a big Helen Reddy fan, but then they get exposed to Bill Withers, so they go home and check that out.”

There are even some movie tributes from Ennio Morricone to Sean Connery.

“We’re doing ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,'” Davis said. “When Roger Moore passed away, even though he wasn’t a musician, that theme for James Bond, we did that theme. We’re going to do it again in honor of Sean Connery who passed away.”

The house band includes includes Davis (band leader, keys), Dan Hovey (guitar), Russ Rodgers (bass), Dan Quinn (synth), Andy Hamburger (drums), Keith Arneson (banjo) and Myron Prosser (fiddle). The singers include Angela Hill, Deletta Gillespie, Jeff Jones, Bruce Thomas, Patty Reese, Patsy Stephens and John Jamison.

“I bring together some of the best musicians in D.C., Maryland, Virginia,” Davis said. “We only have one four-hour rehearsal to do all these genres. A lot of musicians are niche players … so you might not find a bluegrass musician playing funk, but the musicians that I choose can play any genre, so I have to select the right people.”

Overall, he appreciates playing at a historic venue like The Birchmere.

“I am very grateful to The Birchmere,” Davis said. “The Birchmere is about the only [venue] left that was here when I first started playing. … That is a hallowed stage. When you think of the musicians that have played there … it has magical power.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Birchmere tribute concert (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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