Slideshow: Blue Highway sells out Shelter Island School to benefit Sylvester Manor

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTOS | Sellout crowd on Shelter Island for nationally acclaimed bluegrass band Blue Highway Saturday night.

Award-winning bluegrass band Blue Highway played to a sellout crowd at the Shelter Island School on Saturday night. The group has been wowing crowds since 1994 and features some of America’s most talented pickers and singers.

The original concert was to have been at Sylvester Manor last summer but Hurricane Irene postponed the show. Proceeds from the concert benefit Sylvester Manor Educational Farm on Shelter Island. The  farm encompasses the remaining acreage of the original 17th century Sylvester Manor plantation, which once included all of Shelter Island; it is being operated as a non-profit educational institution intended to celebrate and preserve organic farming and locally produced foods.

Blue Highway’s new album, “Sounds of Home,” is number five on the national bluegrass charts and two songs from the album are in the top 20.

Sylvester Manor’s Bennett Konesni and friends — Jeff and David Lewis — playing under the moniker of the Free Seedlings opened Saturday night’s concert.

Bennett, Sylvester Manor’s steward, fronted for the Route 7 Ramblers when he was a student at Middlebury College and toured the Northeast with Circus Smirkus. After college, he collected farmers’ work songs in rural Africa, Asia and Europe during a post-graduate year of field research as a T.J. Watson Fellow.

Hailing from North Carolina, David Lewis played pedal steel and bass in rock, country and jazz bands before returning to acoustic music in the early 1990s. His son, mandolinist Jeff Lewis, was learning guitar chords from his father when he was 10 and soon the father/son duo was playing at bluegrass festivals across Maine, where Jeff is currently in school.

The event was sold out. Shelter Island’s resident acoustic artists Tom and Lisa Hashagen joined in before the rest of  Blue Highway took the stage for a special song (“Two Soldiers”) that was  dedicated to Shelter Island’s Joey Theinert and Jordan Haerter of  Sag Harbor, who both died in combat.

A standing ovation brought Blue Highway back for a parting song at the end, CD’s were selling fast in the lobby  and feedback was 100-percent positive.

Photos by Beverlea Walz.

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