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Larry Groce will perform with his wife, Sandra, as well as singer-songwriter Todd Burge, on Oct. 28 at the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta. (wvpublic,org)
Larry Groce will perform with his wife, Sandra, as well as singer-songwriter Todd Burge, on Oct. 28 at the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta. (wvpublic,org)

The Human Importance of Live Music: an Interview With Larry Groce

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Larry Groce, host and creative director of the internationally distributed and critically lauded weekly live music program Mountain Stage has just released his first album in over two decades, a collection of covers entitled Live Forever.

“There were several criteria for the songs that I chose for the album,” said Groce. “There are a lot of songs that I think are important; and then there are some of those I can sing and some of them that I can’t. Some songs just aren’t for me even if they are very important to me. I need to be able to believe in what I am singing, I’m not a good enough actor to fake it if I don’t.”

Groce said the seed that led to the creation of Live Forever was planted by his wife of 15 years, Sandra Groce.

“Sandra is a symphonic performer on the viola. She’s always liked folk pop music; she just never played it,” he said. “She wanted to learn how to play a couple of my songs, so we started playing a little at home and we ended up playing in public a few times. She really liked it, and she’s the one who talked me into making another record. I love playing with her because she doesn’t bring in the typical sensibilities that people who are into folk, country and bluegrass usually do.”

The recording of Live Forever was simple; almost entirely live, a creative decision Groce made when he decided to get back into the studio.

“I think there is a special energy to live performances – there’s also artistry and energy going into the studio, and doing things that you can’t do live, obviously; but my personal preference has always been to hear live recordings,” said Groce. “A live recording makes it immediate: you’re trying to relate to someone else, someone who is listening. It goes back thousands of years; we haven’t always had recordings, but we’ve had live music.”

Groce’s belief in the inherent integrity of live music was a portion of what informed the initial creation of Mountain Stage in 1983.

“Francis (Fisher) and Andy (Ridenour) came up with idea to do a live radio show back in 1981 because West Virginia Public Broadcasting was expanding, and it seemed like it would be a good idea to have some sort of live show; alhtought they weren’t quite sure what kind of show they wanted to make,” said Groce, who was approached by Ridenour and Fisher about being the host and artistic director of the proposed show. “I told them I would be happy to come and do it, but that I would like it to not be a statewide show, but a national show – even though that seemed pretty silly at the time because we had no experience, no equipment and no money. National distribution became the goal from very early on.”

Much to the show’s creator’s surprise, within two and a half years, Mountain Stage was being nationally distributed.

“It worked more quickly than we hoped or expected; and it’s lasted a whole lot longer than we could have hoped or expected,” said Groce. “In the beginning we put on whatever we could get –but we were constantly, from the very beginning, working to reach out to wider range of artists. We didn’t just want to have one type of music on the show; and our reputation and budget grew so we were able to do that.”

On Oct. 28 Groce will perform alongside his wife and West Virginia based singer-songwriter Todd Burge at the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta as a part of a release show for both Live Forever and Burge’s Live on Mountain Stage (2006-2015).

“It’s great that we’re able to play in such a beautiful venue with such a great sound system,” said Groce. “I really believe in the songs that we’re performing; and I believe if people come to the show, the songs will do the work.

For more information, or to obtain tickets, visit peoplesbanktheatre.com.