The Woodward News

August 12, 2012

Longdale group to celebrate 45 years of music

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — LONGDALE--The Longdale Country Op'ra will soon mark a milestone anniversary as members of the community have come together for over 4 decades to share and celebrate a love of making music.

"It started 45 years ago in a hog shed north of Longdale," current Op'ra Director Sharon Heer said of the weekly country music jam sessions that are held every Sunday at 8 p.m. in Longdale.

Back in 1967, Heer said a few local musicians "started hearing each other play in the neighborhood and so they decided to get together.  One of them, George Kopf, decided to clean out his hog shed so they'd have a place to come and jam every Sunday night."

What started with 6 musicians, has grown to twice, triple, even five times that size, depending on how many come to play any given Sunday.  Heer said that there can be anywhere from 15 to 30 musicians who come to play together on Sunday nights in Longdale, with up to 100 people in the audience who just come to listen and enjoy.

Over the years, the Op'ra has had many homes, Heer said.

When the gathering outgrew its first home in Kopf's hog shed, she said, "it moved to the A-Frame Cafe, which is now a bookkeeper's office.  From there it moved to the opera house which was next door and is now a private residence.  Then it moved to the community building across the highway.  And now it's held at the Longdale Community Gym, which is an old school that's been converted to a community center."

The Op'ra has also seen a variety of musicians, who play everything from guitar, fiddle, bass and even the saxophone, Heer said.

"Over the years there's been 100s of different musicians," she said, noting "they come from all over, including Texas, Colorado, Kansas and other surrounding areas."

She said many of those from out-of-state may just attend while visiting the area, however, there are several who attend on a regular basis that come from all over Western and Northwest Oklahoma, including Weatherford, Calumet, Enid, Fairview, Canton, Carmen, Aline, Waynoka, and Woodward.

"For 45 years we've held this thing together in this small town so we decided to have a big blow-out," Heer said, noting "because of the 45 years, we thought we'd do something for the community and to honor the musicians who've been coming for all those years."

To celebrate the near-golden anniversary, the Op'ra will be hosting a 2-day country music festival on Saturday, Aug. 18 and Sunday, Aug. 19.

"We're having country music bands and entertainment for 2 days," Heer said, noting that the fun begins at 3:30 p.m. each day and lasts until 11 p.m.

The music line-up will feature "some very talented musicians including some up and coming stars," she said.

Some of the highlighted performances will included Buck Goucher, from Hennessey, who performs country classics from the '50s and '60s, Heer said.

"And he sounds exactly like the artists," she said.  "If you just turn away, you'd think Johnny Cash was sitting there or Charlie Pride was sitting there."

Goucher is set to perform at 6 p.m. on Aug. 18, followed by the "Originals" Band, which Heer said features "the leading Op'ra musicians."

The "Originals" include Don House, Ray Coulter, Daryl Mason, Faye Hansen, Fred Seger and true original Buzz Coulson, on fiddle, who has been with the Op'ra since it was first formed. Coulson is one of 4 Op'ra founders who are still living, Heer said.

On Sunday Aug. 19, at 6:15 p.m. there will be a 45-minute gospel performance from a group of musicians from the Fairview and Alva area, followed by an hour-and-a-half performance by the Tinker High Flying Band, which is a 17-piece "dance band with a country twist" from Tinker Air Force Base.

And, of course, the festival will end with the traditional Op'ra jam session that will be "open for all musicians who want to join in," Heer said.

In addition to the music, she said the 2-day festival will include horse-drawn wagon rides and food, including a supper meal both days as well as homemade ice cream, cobblers and pies for dessert.

"The whole event is free, but of course we will accept donations to help pay for all this," Heer said.

Everyone is invited to the festival and encouraged to "come and just listen if you want, or you can visit or dance if you want to," she said.

For more information about the music festival, contact Sharon Heer at (580) 886-5141.

The following is a schedule of events for the Longdale Country Op'ra 45th Anniversary Country Music Festival.  All events will be held at the Longdale Community Gym.

Saturday, Aug. 18:

3:30 - 5:00 p.m. - Live music by Jarod Cross, Jestic Gould, Melvin Kruse

- Horse-drawn wagon rides

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.     - Free supper (as long as it lasts)

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. - Buck Goucher performance

7:15 - 8:15 p.m.- "Originals" band

8:15 - 11:00 p.m. - Bobby Bennet & the Borrowed Bandits

- Homemade ice cream/cobbler/cake

11:05 p.m.    - Door prize drawing

Sunday, Aug. 19:

3:30 - 4:30 p.m. - Live music by Cal Heer, Faye Hansen, Joe Helzer, Therese Denton

- Horse-drawn wagon rides

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. - Free supper (as long as it lasts)

5:30 - 6:15 p.m. - McCaskey Sisters, Ray Schoonmaker, Will Nunn, Mallory Severs

6:30 - 8:00 p.m. - Tinker High Flying Band

8:00 - 8:30 p.m. - Recognition ceremony

8:30 - 11:00 p.m.     - Jam session

    - Homemade ice cream/cobbler/cake

11:05 p.m.    - Door prize drawing