Gettysburg’s Music Scene

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From bluegrass to classic rock, Gettysburg is raising the bar for local music.

By Jennifer Esposito | Photography by Casey Martin

Ash Phipps, a musician in Phipps & Phriends and local music community organizer, runs a Facebook group called Our Open Mic Community. His goal—to encourage and connect musicians of all abilities within the Gettysburg scene. “There is a lot of talent in this area,” Phipps says. “That’s how I grew as a musician, by interacting with other players who were different.”

Phipps believes that Gettysburg is an unadvertised epicenter of culture, for live music especially. “There is a tourist-type vibe that brings people here from all over the world,” Phipps says. “But, there’s more than just the historic angle.” Gettysburg’s live music scene offers events that extend beyond the typical summer tourist season, inspiring locals and residents of surrounding towns to visit Gettysburg and participate in the local economy, even in the off-season.

“I often say Gettysburg punches well above its weight when it comes to things like music and the arts,” says Rich Winkelmann, owner of Granite Hill Camping Resort. “I attribute this to the college influence and, of course, the tourism industry, which supports local businesses.”

There are many venues within walking distance in downtown Gettysburg and even more options within a short drive. “You can catch a set with covers of your favorites, or listen to someone put out original music so good you can’t believe this is someone living down the street,” says Katie Martin, marketing manager of Adams County Winery. “Best of all, most of the local music is free so that everyone can enjoy. There is so much talent out there and so many local stars. We should, as a community, be supportive and embrace all this creativity.”

Music in the Vines

Reid’s Orchard & Winery began hosting live music events in the summer of 2012 at their Home Winery location. “We had a good deal of success with that, and when we moved our Gettysburg location to 400 Baltimore St. in the summer of 2013, we added music dates at that location as well,” says Suzanne Keating, events coordinator for Reid’s Orchard & Winery.

The atmosphere that live music provides at both of the Winery’s locations, in combination with the gorgeous scenery, fresh produce, and delicious wines and ciders, adds an extra boost to the wine experience. “Most of our music tends to be low-key singer-songwriters, so it is a relaxed atmosphere, and people can feel free to bring their children, pets, and friends and unwind,” says Keating.

Reid’s Orchard & Winery hosts live music from Memorial Day through September on weekend afternoons at their Home Winery in Buchanan Valley, and on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the year at their Cider House location on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg. “Most of our performers play folk and classic rock style, which seems to be popular because they appeal to everyone,” says Keating. “We typically try to keep things relaxing and low key, but it isn’t unusual to have people up and dancing depending on who is playing that evening!”

Live music has been a mainstay at Adams County Winery for many years, too. “There is nothing like music to bridge the generational gaps in families or foster good times for all,” says Martin. “It is great to see diverse groups hanging out with the sole purpose of relaxing, having fun, and making memories. So many of us spend our days rushing from one commitment to another that it is gratifying to offer an excuse for guests to slow down and enjoy.”

The Winery has hosted live music acts from a variety of different genres—blues, rock, progressive, acoustic, classical, rock, oldies, and bluegrass, to name a few. “We’ve had big shows and small, but fun has always been the theme regardless of the genre,” says Martin. Classic rock seems to be a fan favorite so the Winery tries to book some form of classic rock at every opportunity.

The 2016 Groovin’ on the Grounds Concert Series will consist of four afternoon/evening events, and a different style of music has been booked for each inexpensively ticketed concert. Concerts are held on Saturdays from 4-7 p.m. throughout July and August. The Winery will continue to host its Live on the Terrace events every other Sunday, which include free admission and live music provided by local musicians of many different genres. 

Fit for a Festival

Bluegrass fans and former owners of Granite Hill Camping Resort from 1972-2002, Joe and Lil Cornett thought that their property was perfect for a festival. The first Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival was held in early May of 1979. “From [1981] forward, we have promoted the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival semi-annually every year with the exception of 2000,” says Winkelmann, current owner of Granite Hill Camping Resort.

The festival was originally a two-and-a-half-day event, running from Friday evening through Sunday. As the festival established itself and attendance increased, the schedule was expanded—to the current four-day event. Over the years, a virtual ‘who’s who’ of bluegrass music has graced the stage at Granite Hill, including Bill Monroe on his 75th birthday, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Josh Graves, Charlie Waller, Ricky Skaggs, John Duffy, guitar legend Tony Rice, and Alison Krauss & Union Station.

“My wife, Cyndie, and I purchased Granite Hill in 2002 and continued to operate the festival in a family-friendly style while making improvements to the services and amenities,” says Winkelmann. August 2017 will mark the 75th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival including a variety of exciting events celebrating this big anniversary.

A “Go-Too” Bar for Live Music

After opening the Garryowen Irish Pub on Chambersburg Street in June of 2007, Kevin and Joanne McCready made it a priority to host live music events. Known for their collection of more than 50 Irish whiskeys and perfect Guinness pours, Garryowen’s guests can also enjoy fine dining, casual pub fare, and some of the best live music in the area.

“Talent makes its way to us half by word of mouth and half by our reputation for live music,” says Kevin. “Sometimes we are out and see a great live act, and ask them to play at Garryowen. People approach us asking to perform. Our staff also plays a big role in helping us to find talent.”

Garryowen’s location in downtown Gettysburg has helped the “GO,” as it’s affectionately known to regulars, become an anchor in the Gettysburg creative scene. “It’s great to see how big the scene is and how many different types of artists are in town—painters, writers, poets, musicians,” says Kevin. “We are ahead of the game as far as most small towns go.”

Garryowen hosts live music events weekly, with an updated schedule available on their Facebook page, website, and as advertised on flyers around downtown Gettysburg. GO Too, Garryowen’s upstairs addition, also hosts private parties, live music, and special events.

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