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June 3, 2010 12:35 am


Keys to your heart: Beloved musician Ann Rabson opens the summer concert series.



The library won't be as quiet as you think this summer.

The Friends of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library kicks off its 25th annual "Music on the Steps" season Monday evening with a performance by veteran blues pianist and guitarist Ann Rabson.

The season will last through the end of August, with free concerts every Monday from 7 to 8 p.m (excluding July 5).

"When I first started doing this 25 years ago, I only gave musicians a glass of water and an electrical outlet," said Lynda Baer, program coordinator for the library. "Now they are bringing in these big sound systems and everything sounds amazing.

"This year we're going to have the same high-caliber talent, same energy and diversity of music."

This year's lineup includes the Cajun sounds of the Dixie Power Trio (June 21), the familial roots music of the Homegrown String Band (July 21), and the pure rock goodness of The Sunday Times Band (Aug. 30), among others.

Over the years, the steps have played host to hundreds of rising and established regional musicians--and even one disco DJ.

"It was in the late '80s, and this one guy approached me and said that he had a disco band and wanted to play," said Baer. "I said OK. Well, he turned out to be just a DJ and he was up there playing all of these disco songs, probably on 45's. Fortunately there weren't too many people there to see it!"

These days, such a blunder probably wouldn't go overlooked. The series attracts large, family-friendly crowds, sometimes of 400-plus people, looking to have a relaxing evening in a picturesque setting of scattered picnic baskets and dancing kids.

Entering 2010, there was widespread concern that there may not be "Music on the Steps" this summer. Fiscal cuts for 2009-2010 hit the program hard, and private donations were down due to the the recession.

But thanks to the generosity of the musicians, who will be playing for little more than pure gratification, the show goes on.

"I love doing this," said Rabson in a phone interview . "I love playing for people from my hometown. It's been a wonderful showcase where people can go to see live music and their kids can go. It's not a bar, it's not late it's a nice setting."

Rabson, who has been a staple in the blues community since 1962 and is most known for her seminal work in Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women, has seen the library grow from a quiet haven to a thriving cultural center for the Fredericksburg community.

"The library of my youth has gone away," said Rabson. "That hush-hush library thing is a thing of the past."

Jesse Scott is a Fredericksburg writer.

What: "Music on the Steps" concert series, presented by the Friends of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Where: CRRL headquarters, 1201 Caroline St., Fredericksburg When: Every Monday, May 31-Aug. 30 (excluding July 5), 7-8 p.m. Cost: Free and open to the public. Info: onthesteps

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