Chris Vallillo leads group in songs of Civil Rights
BALDWIN — Nearly 70 visitors came to enjoy and participate in a concert at the Lake County Historical Museum last Friday. The museum was filled with voices of people singing along with folk singer Chris Vallillo, performing songs from his album, “Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Vallillo is an award-winning artist from the rural Midwest who specializes in American roots music — performing historical pieces, as well as writing songs depicting history.
“Roots music is the soundtrack of the melting pot that is America,” he said. “Songs are wonderful windows into the past.”
During the concert, he performed songs which were an influence during the civil rights movement, and shared the history of the songs and the movement.
He opened the concert with the old slave song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” and performed other songs such as “Wade in the Water,” “We Shall Not be Moved,” and “Hallelujah, I’m a Traveling.”
Vallillo played a six-string guitar as well as a bottle neck slide guitar, which is played by sliding a sawed-off bottle top up and down the strings to change the pitch. The instrument evolved from a diddly stick, an instrument used by slaves.
He invited the audience to sing songs with him.
“These songs are meant for a community to sing together. We are looking for quantity, not quality,” he said.
Everyone stood and joined in the song, “We Shall Overcome,” in closing.
After the concert, visitors were encouraged to share their memories of the civil rights era. Clarence Vicent, of Baldwin, shared stories of his grandfather being a slave.