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A Brief History of AWT

Once upon a time Johnny* set out to be a rockstar. He traveled the heartland with a crack band inspiring dances, romances and other tale-worthy adventures. He made a record (when nobody make a vinyl record, I have one) and it looked like “it” was going to happen.

It did; but maybe not quite the way he thought.

Johnny worked real hard being a musician; and like all hard-working folk, musicians need time to relax, refocus and renew. And that’s where Lamb’s Retreat for Songwriters came from.

And that’s where Lauran and I came in.

The Retreat’s Saturday Night Concert is the inspiration for A Winter’s Tune (named after a song named after a Shakespeare play). Staff members on tall stools share the stage, each plays one song then “passes the guitar” to the next trying to “better” the last. The banter, humor, and ability to go deep with just an instrument, a voice, and a song produces a far richer experience than simple entertainment.

Lauran and I, burned out from our own travels down the road of rock returned revitalized. We accepted an invitation from the Vineyard East Cafe to put on a “Christmas Song Showcase.” Artists were called and Chuck Petersen brought in GRTV’s new, mobile studio to capture it all. And so a tradition began.

From the very start the “challenge” was the songwriters to create a new “winter, holiday or seasonal” song and interpret a song “traditionally played” during the winter holidays (an evergreen classic to something more modern).

Over the years AWT has been presented at different venues including Vineyard East, One Trick Pony, UICA, Gibson’s, Schuler Books and Music, Wealthy Theatre and rebooted in 2019, at Listening Room in Studio Park. Each setting brings a sense that, something special is being created, and you’re part of it.

Generating community, even if temporal, between local and regional songwriters, and between performers and listeners is an unstated goal of the event. Part of developing community is to add to the community trust; AWT and the performers have raised funds for organizations that work for the common good such as ACCESS (All-County Churches Emergency Support System), Heartside Ministry, and Hospice of Michigan.

THANKS to the many wonderful songwriters that have performed for AWT over the years – there will be more, fine songs going forward, from past and new artists.

We have good reason to believe this year’s performances at AWT, as during the original series, will be joyful, reflective and heartening (like the season itself). We hope the songs shared engage mind and spirit, hold up a hopeful mirror, generate a laugh and perhaps touch your heart.

And hope to hear you singing.

– J Oscar Bittinger


*”Johnny” is the affectionate name of a real person – John D Lamb who wrote “Watch Out For Deer”, featured on his CD “Feel That”
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