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Series Melds History, Musical Americana in Basking Ridge

The official video from "Don't Want to Say Goodnight," off of Christian Lopez's latest record titled Red Arrow Credits: c. Blaster Records 2017
Christian Lopez will Rock the Barn at the Ross Farm's 4th Annual event on May 12

Score front-row seats to a concert at MetLife Stadium this summer, and it could be epic. Much easier, and more intimate: seats to the summer music series at The Ross Farm in Basking Ridge – and it will be historic.

The fourth season of the Ross Farm Music Series kicked off April 22, but the first of four more concerts will be Saturday, May 12. Others will be held in June and July at the Boudinot-Southard-Ross Estate on North Maple Avenue. The rolling, wooded property is the 18th-century home of Elias Boudinot, a patriotic mover and shaker in the Revolutionary War and the early days of the nation. Two hundred years ago, the estate’s guests included Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. This summer, a collection of American musicians visiting the farm will rock the world in a different way.

The popular Rock the Barn concert is next on Saturday, May 12, featuring rising singer/songwriter Christian Lopez. Other dates are: Caleb Caudle on Saturday, June 2 (after scheduled Military Appreciation and History Day activities); Stephen Kellogg on Friday, June 15; and New Jersey native Anthony D’Amato on Saturday, July 14.

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The artists, all songwriters, move easily among popular genres during the family-friendly concerts, including rock, country, folk and some music that is pleasingly hard to define. What they all have in common is a deep connection to musical Americana – and that’s by design.

“They’re American voices making music where history made America,” said Nola Hansen of Basking Ridge. With her colleagues in the Friends of the Boudinot-Southard-Ross Estate, Hansen has been arranging these concerts to bring together the area’s history and the energy of today’s developing music scene. Often, the acts she books will stop to play here on their way to New York, Washington, and other big venues.

“These are people who would love to be signed to a big label, but they also want to do things their way,” Hansen said. “They want to sing what they write with the people they want to play with, to the people they want to hear it. That audience connection is something they thrive on.”

Visiting artists agree.

“There’s something about a quality production that really sticks with us touring musicians,” said Christian Lopez, the West Virginia-based singer/songwriter who records in Los Angeles and Nashville and will headline the May 12 Rock the Barn event. “Nola not only puts on a good production; she attracts great people in the audiences. I’ve always said, it’s like family.”

And as exciting as a stadium show may be, it can’t compete with the intimacy of the farm, where local concertgoers of all ages typically bring lawn chairs and blankets to relax and picnic on the grassy areas surrounding the stage. The festival atmosphere is made for sharing.

“You can come together with your friends, your neighbors – perhaps make some new friends, and just listen to music and forget whatever cares you might have,” Hansen said.

And the music series has helped germinate interest in other programs at the Farm, including a large garden tended by volunteers for the benefit of Somerset County food banks and other anti-hunger organizations. Educational connections are a natural – 100 fourth-graders from Oak Street School visited the site on a recent April afternoon to round out their understanding of the region’s colonial history.

“Something always comes from the music,” Hansen is fond of saying. If the patriotic Boudinot knew what is happening at his home now, it’s likely the news would be music to his ears.

Details on all concerts can be found at up-to-the minute details will be posted on Facebook at The Ross Farm - Basking Ridge. A rain location is on standby for the Rock the Barn concert and will be announced by noon on Saturday, May 12 if necessary.


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