The last time folk and blues singer Tom Rush visited Wilkes-Barre, snow covered the downtown region.
“What I remember is that it was winter, there had just been a huge snowstorm that hadn’t been cleared yet and there was no parking for miles,” he recalled in a recent interview. “The show went up quite late, and about half the folks who bought tickets couldn’t get there. But those that did seemed to have a really good time.”
This time, Rush returns as the headlining musical act for the 62nd annual Fine Arts Fiesta on Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre, and there’s no sign of snow stopping fans from enjoying the show.
“I’m very blessed to have been able to make a good living doing something I love to do — and would probably do for free, but don’t let that get around,” Rush joked. “I love performing, I love writing songs and discovering little-known songs that others have written. I love recording. The hard part, and getting harder, is the travel, but it’s worth it.”
The 76-year-old musician began performing in the early 1960s while studying English literature at Harvard University, and released two albums while a student. After graduating, Rush’s impact on the American folk music revival exploded, melding his knack for finding wonderful songs to perform along with writing his own.
Many of his folk hits have been reworked into country, heavy metal and rap: a testimony to the widespread appeal of his music and its themes.
“You have to be inventive these days to connect with your audience — there is so much noise out there, so many people yammering for your attention that it’s hard to get anyone to focus,” Rush said.
In order to combat the noise, Rush recently recorded a new album in Nashville, which he said is slated to be released by the fall. To subsidize the project, he set up a crowdfunding platform through PledgeMusic, where people may choose from rewards like the album, old and out-of-print recordings, a Naked Lady guitar like the one Rush plays and even a private concert. Fans interested in participating can find it one his website, tomrush.com.
Although Rush said he experienced too many memories over the years to pinpoint one as a highlight, he agreed that his performance at the Fine Arts Fiesta would be one for the books.
“I’ll be trying out some new songs and doing some of my old favorites, sprinkled with a liberal helping of stories that are all absolutely true, to one extent or another,” he said.
— charlotte l. jacobson
Fine Arts Fiesta Main Stage Performance Schedule
Thursday, May 18
10 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Chorus
11 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Orchestra
noon — Fine Arts Fiesta opening ceremonies
12:30 p.m. — Wyoming Valley West Middle School Jazz Band
1:30 p.m. — Coughlin High School Jazz and Concert Band
2:30 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre Orchestra
3 p.m. — Holy Redeemer Royal Singers
4 p.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Jazz Band
5 p.m. — Scott Edmunds Jazz Quintet
6:30 p.m. — Fine Arts Fiesta awards ceremony
7:15 p.m. — Perfect Harmony Center for the Arts
Friday, May 19
10 a.m. — Wyoming Valley Middle School Orchestra
11 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West Middle School Chorus
noon — Dallas Middle School Select Chorus
1 p.m. — The Treble Makers
2 p.m. — Anthony Natiello
4 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre Academy Glee Club
5:15 p.m. — Nitya Rhythm Dance Academy
6:30 p.m. — Flaxy Morgan
Saturday, May 20
11 a.m. — Joan Harris Dance Center
noon — YOUniversal Suzuki Strings
1 p.m. — The Mozart Club
2 p.m. — Dance Theater of Wilkes-Barre
3 p.m. — Rising Stars Performing Arts
4 p.m. — Little Theater of Wilkes-Barre
5 p.m. — Conservatory of Dance
7 p.m. — Tom Rush
Sunday, May 21
11 a.m. — The Poetry Society
noon — NEPA Academy of Dancing
1:30 p.m. — Tri-Cities Opera (in memory of Jane Groh)
3:15 p.m. — Keystone Kids
4:15 p.m. — The I-tations — A Tribute to George Wesley