2009 Harborfest Song A Hoot And A Holler

OSWEGO, NY – Well-known local musician Ron Richards has been named winner of the 2009 Harborfest song contest.

A veteran of the Oswego County music scene, Richards has performed with a number of local bands as well as performing as a solo artist.

The talented guitarist / vocalist is no stranger to the Harborfest song competition having won the challenge in 2000.

Ron Richards and musicians from the band John Valch & The Predators take a break during the recording of the official 2009 Harborfest song. From left are: Tim Stone (bass guitar), Richards (vocals and guitar), and John Bletch (drums).
Ron Richards and musicians from the band John Valch & The Predators take a break during the recording of the official 2009 Harborfest song. From left are: Tim Stone (bass guitar), Richards (vocals and guitar), and John Bletch (drums).

He will receive a $500 award for his original composition, A Hoot And A Holler, and will perform the song on the NRG Lakeview Stage in Breitbeck Park during the festival’s opening ceremonies July 23.

A recording of the song will also be incorporated into the music track of the Entergy Nuclear Fireworks Spectacular on July 25 as well as radio and television advertising spots used for marketing Harborfest 2009.

“Utilizing the Harborfest song in our marketing campaign has become a tradition,” said Tom Van Schaack, executive director of Harborfest.  “This year is no different as we had to choose from several quality entries and found the one that we felt really fit the mood and theme of Harborfest.”

Stan Gosek, a member of the Harborfest entertainment committee said that the uniqueness of Richards’ song made it stand out from the rest and easily met the group’s criteria.

“Over the years, we have developed an approach to selecting the Harborfest song that works very well. We critically examine the lyrics to make sure that they address the identity of the festival, which is family, friends, music, the fireworks and the beauty of our area. We also listen for a catchy, memorable melody with a hook that will grab the listener and leave them with a positive, upbeat impression of Harborfest,” explained Gosek.

He also said that song selection is done using a ‘blind judging’ process, where the committee reviews the lyrics and listens to the song without knowing who the performer is.

Richards said his goal with this year’s song was to come up with something totally unique and different from past Harborfest songs.

“I wanted to include the geography of Oswego and incorporate themes in the lyrics that would capture the summer season and express the feelings of the people that live along the river and near the water and look forward to Harborfest each year. I wanted to give it a festive feel without using the same clichés of sunsets, waves, and shorelines,” said Richards.

According to Gosek, Richards accomplished that goal with his composition, A Hoot And A Holler.

“Ron’s lyrics are strong, and very different from any of the other entries. The lyrics are fun right from the start and the chorus, which is very clever, made us all smile. Ron also incorporated a number of different musical styles that added to the fun and excitement of the song.”

Richards said that the music for the song flowed naturally as he combined elements of blues, rock, Latin, and even gospel music to convey the emotion of the song.

“It originally started out with a bluesy feel that transitioned to a Latin influenced sound to capture the summer feel and then a straight ahead rock sound to bring it to a finish and give it a big ending. The night before we recorded the song, I thought it would be a nice touch to start the song with a slow, easy feel, so I added a gospel style, four-part harmony intro. It’s my favorite part, as it really sets up the song. I thought it might be a little risky to combine so many musical elements but the musicians did a great job with the transitions and the song came together nicely,” he said.

Richards and the other musicians rehearsed the song at drummer John Bletch’s home studio.

Bletch, who has played on several of the past Harborfest songs, echoed Richards’ sentiments about the song and enjoyed being a part of it.

“It’s a good tune and it’s fun to play. The gospel intro is great and I really like the Latin part where we all play percussion,” he said.

The demo track was recorded at Larry Green’s recording studio in Pulaski with the final version recorded at SUNY Oswego.

Richards, along with the musicians he recorded the song with, will be performing his winning song live on the NRG Lakeview Stage during the opening ceremonies of Harborfest 2009.

Joining Richards (guitar and vocals) will be John Bletch (drums) and Tim Stone (bass) from the band John Valch & the Predators; Ron Castaldo (percussion), Mike Shiel (guitar), as well as several guest background vocalists.

Harborfest is slated for July 23 – 26.

Visit www.oswegoharborfest.com for the latest information regarding transportation options and performance schedules.