Collegian Reporter

Try not to bounce your leg in time to the music at a Cherryholmes concert.

The bluegrass band, made up of Jere and Sandy Cherryholmes and four of their children, Cia, B.J., Skip and Molly, performed to a packed Camp Concert Hall Sunday night.

From the moment they began their opener, "Don't Believe," the title song from their coming album release on Sept. 30, there was a clear burst of energy in the hall. The bluegrass music, with fiddle, banjo, guitar and the patriarch, Jere, on the upright bass, was uplifting. Looking down the row of seats, nearly everyone had a foot tapping or a leg jiggling.

The next morning at a workshop with the Richmond Bluegrass Ensemble, Sandy said visual component was important to the band's shows, and the family definitely lived up to that with its animation Sunday night.

Sandy, who plays the mandolin and the fiddle, bounced back and forth with her full energy, and the rest of the band members showed equal passion while playing their instruments with incredibly quick hands. One exception was the oldest daughter, Cia. The banjo player, who is an accomplished songwriter and was self-taught, said Jere, kept a calm and collected demeanor while strumming away. Her hands on the banjo strings were a blur but her eyes maintained a look of intensity different from everyone else's upbeat body language.

Cia demonstrated a different kind of zeal through her lead vocals during "Black and White," one of the band's slower and more haunting songs. With the stage lights dimmed from the purple of the previous upbeat songs into blue, her love for the music was as clear as her voice.

The outfits were another visual experience. The band's costumes were sparkling and the men were dressed as if they'd come from the Grand Ole Opry. Jere, B.J., a fiddler, and Skip, a guitarist, all had on large cowboy hats with sparkles on their suits - Jere's jacket was black with big red shimmering swirls.

His long beard completed his look and was the subject of one of his funny and entertaining monologues.

"Yes, this is my family. Yes, my beard is real. No, you may not pull on it," he said, answering what he said were the three most-asked questions.

He also told a joke about a nun and a taxi cab driver while his family was setting up for the next song that gave the audience a good laugh and kept up their energy.

Even the songs without vocals were upbeat and entertaining. The younger daughter, Molly, performed an amazing piece on the fiddle with her two brothers that was awe-inspiring. On another instrumental song, the family whipped out another talent. Their Irish step dance, performed by everyone except Jere, had the audience clapping in time and applauding enthusiastically.

My neighbor seat was just as amazed by the performance as I was.

"I'd be happy if I could do anything as well as they can play their instruments," junior Dawn Hackett leaned over and said to me.

Hackett said she had seen the band on TV about a year and a half ago and its name had been the only one she had recognized on the list of coming shows at the Modlin Center. She said her husband, who was with her, was a bluegrass fan.

Ann Oppenhimer, a former Richmond art history professor, hadn't heard of the band before but came because she was a bluegrass fan.

Cherryholmes came out for an encore after a standing ovation. A far cry from the upbeat openers and even the slower songs with their haunting melodies, the family gathered in groups of three around two microphones to sing their final song, the a cappella "No One to Sing for Me."

The lyrics, "But there is none to me so precious/ As the songs my mother sings" seemed especially meaningful for this family, whose passion for the music shined just as brightly as the sequins on their clothes.

Contact Writer Elizabeth Hyman at elizabeth.hyman@richmond.edu