For the past two years, a bit of Nashville, a twang of Texas and a whole lot of wholesome family fun has taken the stage each month at the Historic Everett Theatre.
Hootenannyis an old-fashioned country music variety show in the style of the Grand Ole Opry.
“It’s a really important and necessary opportunity for music lovers and musicians at the same time,” said Rachel Mae, a Seattle-based country singer who has appeared three times with the Hootenanny.
But the show nearly didn’t go on. Tough economic times aren’t just the makings of a woeful country song, they’re a reality that almost brought down the curtain on the Hootenanny.
“It has been financially difficult,” said Beckye Randall, the show’s producer. Along with her son, Scott Randall, she is a driving force behind the Red Curtain Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit arts group that puts on the Hootenanny and community theater.
After a dismal turnout at the May Hootenanny, the organizers regrouped, Randall said. The June show was canceled.
“We couldn’t afford to take another big loss,” she said.
Members of the Hometown Band, the house band led by Marysville musician Mark Hibbert, brainstormed.
“We’ve had to put on our business hats,” Randall said.
The group applied for grants from the Everett Cultural Commission and the Snohomish County Hotel and Motel Tax Fund.
They were awarded $4,750, enough money to make it through this coming performing season. (Each show costs about $2,500 to produce. It takes about 200 tickets to pay operating expenses.)
Plus, they’re planning to move performances from Friday to Saturday nights and are working on a benefit 12-track CD that’s expected to be released next year, Randall said.
The monthly variety show is part of what’s helping the Historic Everett Theatre stay afloat, too.
“We’re glad the Hootenanny came back,” said Michael Olson, the artistic director at the Historic Everett Theatre.
It’s also an important outlet for regional country artists.
The Hootenanny provides one of the region’s few venues for classic country music, Rae said.
“It’s always been a whole lot of fun,” she said.
Each month, the Hootenanny’s directors pick a theme to focus the musical selections. The theme also gives some direction to the bands who are invited to perform. The idea of a theme traces back to a time-worn tradition started in Nashville’s famous Grand Ole Opry, the weekly radio show that’s come to define country music.
“(These shows are) kind of a lost art,” Rae said.
People enjoy hearing songs by Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and contemporary artists including Keith Urban.
After suffering the budget shortfalls, the Hootenanny put the variety show on hold until September.
Over the summer, the group looked to a more contemporary favorite, “American Idol,” as a model for the Singers’ Showdown, a show that organizers hope will become an annual showcase for Snohomish County singers and songwriters.
In July, more than 30 performers in three categories auditioned for 20 coveted slots, Randall said.
On Saturday, the finalists will compete for prizes and an opportunity to perform during the Hootenanny’s regular season performances.
“It’s going to be bigger and better this year,” Randall said. “Everyone’s pulling on the same oars.”
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; email@example.com.
“Singers’ Showcase,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Legends of the Opry,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9.
Performances are at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $5 for kids 12 and younger. Buy tickets at www.brownpapertickets.org, 425-258-6766, or at the theater box office.