Composed of three of EMU’s own, bluegrass band Willow Run played at the opening evening of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Relief Sale on Friday, Sept. 29. This blusy in-home trio is made up of senior Perry Blosser on mandolin, sophomore Joseph Harder on drums, and Jonny Bishop ‘17 on guitar. The band isn’t simply instrumental, though, as both Bishop and Blosser sing duets for the majority of the repertoire with Harder occasionally joining in to add complexity to the sound.
Their selection consisted of various bluegrass songs, arrangements of traditional hymns — some of which the group has arranged themselves — and original compositions by the members, notably one song written at 3 a.m. “It’s always fun to take something … meaningful like a hymn and bring what we bring to it,” said Blosser.
“We do at least one or two [original songs] at each gig,” Harder said, “but we need to write some more before we can really fill up time with them.” Building up a setlist full of original songs is hard and slow going. Compositions for anything take effort and long hours before they can be performed in public, so it might be a while before their collection consists of more original songs than traditional bluegrass or hymns.
“My mandolin playing came from playing bluegrass and gospel and old hymns,” said Blosser, “so I have that background and so do [Harder and Bishop]. So we always pick from [hymns] to reflavor because they have profound words and are familiar.”
Willow Run came together in August of this year when Bishop was asked to travel up to Pennsylvania to do a performance. He found Blosser and Harder and asked if they wanted to come along to play. After spending a bit of time scrambling together a selection of songs, and a bit of practice only six hours before their performance, the trio was off to Pennsylvania, and Willow Run was born.
First-year Kayley Scottlind, despite never having much experience with bluegrass, enjoyed the performance. “I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of variation within their songs … [and] it was interesting to try and guess what they would perform next.”
Since the birth of Willow Run, the trio has had several gigs between their premier and the Relief Sale, and they already have others planned. However, their next one is at a wedding, so fans are out of luck for the next performance.
Willow Run will also be performing at the EMU Homecoming Centennial Celebration, which will take place the weekend of Oct. 13-15.