‘Walking Tour’ minstrels wind their way through western Mass.
Musicians Mark Mandeville, Amy Alvey, Raianne Richards and Mark Kilianski are joined by friends Lydia Blackburn and Adrienne LaBombard as they wind their way down Wendell Road in Warwick Wednesday, hiking from show to show for the 17-day, fourth annual Massachusetts Walking Tour.
Mark Kilianski, Amy Alvey, Raianne Richards and Mark Mandeville play a free show in Warwick Town Hall Tuesday. Warwick was one stop on their 17-day Massachusetts Walking Tour, which will take them from Royalston to Longmeadow.
Massachusetts Walking Tour musicians Raianne Richards, Mark Mandeville, Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey take a load off at the entrance to Erving State Forest Wednesday, halfway through their hike from Warwick to Erving center.
If you see a road-weary quartet walking down the road, their instruments lashed to their backs, don’t give them a ride.
Their van’s not broken down or out of gas; these musicians are hiking from gig to gig for the fourth annual Massachusetts Walking Tour, a series of free concerts aimed at bringing entertainment to small towns, and awareness to the state’s hiking trails. The musicians carry their clothes, food, and water in backpacks, along with their tents and instruments. Most nights, they sleep in the great outdoors, either on the trail or near a venue.
Though the weather was warm and sunny for their last two days’ hikes, Mark Mandeville and fellow musicians Raianne Richards, Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey, donned ponchos and parkas, and covered their gear in trash bags, as they trudged through Tuesday’s torrents.
“We walked a soggy seven miles from (Sam and Barbara) Richardsons’ cabin (on the New England National Scenic Trail) in Northfield to be here tonight,” Mandeville told the crowd gathered in Warwick Town Hall Tuesday.
“People ask us what we do when it rains,” added Alvey. “Well, we get wet.”
Tuesday’s was the second show of the tour, this year’s route taking them down the newly minted New England National Scenic Trail, from Royalston to Longmeadow.
Richards and Mandeville founded the walking tour in 2010, and are joined by two different musicians each year. This year, they’re touring with Kilianski and Alvey of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, who perform as the folk duo Hoot and Holler.
Alvey has spent some time in Colrain, but Franklin County was new to Kilianski.
“It’s great to see all this nature, the beauty of Massachusetts, that you don’t see in Boston,” he said. “I’ve played a few weddings in western Mass., but we would just go, play, and head home.”
In addition to the natural beauty of the more rural end of the state, the musicians found some country hospitality.
“Someone left a pitcher of cold water, a watermelon, and strawberries by the road, with a sign that said ‘for the walkers,’” said Richards. “We call that ‘trail magic.’”
They were also offered a dry place to stay Tuesday night, by Dan Dibble of Warwick. They didn’t mind adjusting their walking route slightly for some dry digs.
The musicians also accommodated the locals.
A big part of the mission behind the tour is giving folks a chance to share their own talents. Local musicians are always welcome to take the stage and play a couple numbers at walking tour shows.
Tuesday in Warwick, Pat and Tex LaMountain, of Greenfield, Jamie Harristonfeld and others stopped by to jam on guitars, fiddles, flute and piano.
Anyone’s also welcome to come join them on their hikes.
Though they travel with smartphones, GPS, and space-age water-repellent jackets, the group relies on good old-fashioned country wisdom rather than Doppler radar when it comes to the weather.
“We always use the Old Farmer’s Almanac when we plan our routes,” said Mandeville. “It definitely worked last year, the only rain we had was a little sprinkle. It hasn’t failed us yet.”
There’s still time to catch a show before the tour finishes up in Longmeadow. Upcoming shows are:
7 p.m. tonight at Red Fire Farm, Montague.
6 p.m. Saturday in the Hitchcock Center, Amherst.
6 p.m. Monday in the Clapp Memorial Library, Belchertown.
6 p.m. Wednesday in the South Hadley Public Library.
6 p.m. June 27 in the Holyoke Visitors’ Center.
7 p.m. June 28 in the Agawam Public Library.
7 p.m. June 29 on Longmeadow Green, Longmeadow.
For more on the Massachusetts Walking Tour, including hiking routes, visit www.masswalkingtour.org.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279