Teachers pluck and play a musical menagerie


Alex Holland, Guest Reporter

CMYKKKKKKsdfsdfGHSDKLFJHSKJDIf you hear the sounds of banjos and mandolins in the distance, or that classic, southern, bluegrass music, from our very own history teacher Liz Monseur, librarian Rebecca Isaac, and transportation secretary Patty Embrey. These echoes form the sound that is The Virginia Bluebelles, their bluegrass and folk band.
Three years ago, The Virginia Bluebelles split from a larger group called Chesham Creek, a large band with many members and many different talents. It was mostly formed to promote Donny Nuckles Jr.’s songs. They still perform sometimes with some or part of the band.
“We just wanted to do old songs that we liked and to have fun playing in small venues,” said Monseur, who plays guitar.
Isaac agreed with Monseur about the ‘fun in small venues.’
“Ms. Monseur and I liked to play more folk-type tunes that the band did not play,” Isaac said. “So we worked up a few songs on our own, and that’s how it started.”
As in most folk bands, the whole group plays, and is learning how to play, many different instruments. Isaac sings and is learning the mandolin; Monseur sings, plays acoustic guitar, some mandolin, and is learning how to play the claw hammer banjo. Finally, Embrey is the main acoustic bass player.
Their sound is inspired by artists like Emmy Lou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Gillian Welch, The Wailin’ Jennys, Patty Lovelace, and Crosby Stills, and Nash. The Bluebelles also find great inspiration in bluegrass music.
“Bluegrass music is so intriguing because it is steeped in history. Its roots go back to songs from the middle ages, brought over by immigrants,” Monseur said. “The words have changed to fit into the landscape of America, and over generations, lyrics from one song have found their way into other songs. Bluegrass is also a fusion of other genres – gospel, blues, old time, and country music. It’s great storytelling, too. Instrumentally, it is just beautiful.”
Even though they are serious about their music, they also see their gigs (and practices) as a “girls’ night out.” Isaac has fond memories of shows they’ve played at, but most of the fun results from their practices.
“It’s a time to tell stories, joke around, and eat food, – oh, and practice, too,” Isaac said. “[Ms. Monseur can imitate] the lead singer from a band we really like and it always makes us laugh.”
Although their main goal with the band is fun, Monseur explains that they all have their own personal goals.
“I am certain that we all want to improve as performers in terms of confidence and ability,” Monseur said. “Exapanding our repertoire is an ongoing goal. Are we going to quit our day jobs and go on the road? Highly unlikely!”