Ozark Mountain Soul brings light, music to eclipse weekend

Ozark Mountain Soul brings light, music to eclipse weekend

Less than 10 years ago, Opal Agafia was scanning tickets at local festivals and waiting for her chance to sing at picking circles around campfires in the Ozarks. Now she’s organizing her third music festival on the very stages that she used to watch.

Ozark Mountain Soul arrives at The Farm in Eureka Springs just in time for all the eclipse travelers, April 4-8. Headliners include Del McCoury Band, North Mississippi Allstars, Town Mountain, Kyle Tuttle, Melissa Carper, Sunny War and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. The annual arts and music festival also corresponds with the solar eclipse on April 8, which is drawing crowds to music festivals and eclipse viewing events within the path of totality. The solar eclipse is estimated to begin at 1:45 p.m. and will last until 2 p.m.

“Eureka Springs will experience a very deep partial — 98.6% of the eclipse. We will have live music playing through the afternoon and early evening!” Agafia says. Bands performing will be Friends of the Phamily, The Shiny Object and Front Porch.

Agafia’s festival was previously held in the throes of Arkansas’ sweltering summer.

“It will certainly be less hot!” she exclaims. “Originally, I had planned on having the event in June, but with more events moving to that time frame, we decided to change our dates.”

Now a staple on the festival and local music scene, Agafia is still recovering from a bus accident last year and still working to make her dreams come true. The journey has been exciting — and a little romantic, too.

Growing up, Agafia says she always loved singing and had a natural ear for music. Her love of song was accentuated by attending shows at the Grand Ole Opry anytime her mom, poet, songwriter and historian DeAnna Smith, could swing a pair of tickets.

“I grew up listening to all kinds of music and was a professional shower singer,” Agafia laughs. She started penning her own songs with her mother’s help in high school and by college started attending music festivals and singing during the after-parties.

“I found so much joy and freedom in the local scene. Little did my new or old friends know, I had a book of songs of my own,” she says. Once she started telling others that she was writing too, they didn’t believe her.

“They probably thought I was just a college kid messing around, but by the end of 2014, I finally started finding the courage to share my songs at the picking parties. Singing in front of others began to feel so natural and real to me — and to the little girl that had been wanting to bust out of her shell for a long time.”

She credits local musicians like Richard Burnett, who helped her book her first official show, and local guitarist Mike Hopper for helping her to get established on the local scene over the last decade. Since then, she’s played everything from beer festivals to headlining at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.

“I guess in short: My music story is built on finding the courage, authenticity, and fight from within myself, while learning from the people who encouraged me along the way,” she says. “That’s how I started and that’s how I continue.”

And she’s not alone. Her band includes Michael Brinson on guitar, Don Mayall on drums, Garrett Jones on bass and her husband, Michael Schembre, on fiddle. They will perform on Saturday night, but have canceled the Friday night performance for health reasons.

“We’ve been playing together for quite a few years now, and we just have a mold — especially the rhythm section, which makes everything more smooth and enjoyable,” she says of her band. “This group has a unique ability in versatility and creating the appropriate music voicings to match me and the style of my songs.”

By her side for this band and their project She & Him is her husband Schembre, who works with a number of local bands, among them Red Oak Ruse, Sprungbilly and Candy Lee’s Backyard Bugs.

The fiddle player says his path to music started at home with his musical family.

“I started playing the fiddle when I was just 5 years old,” Schembre says. “My dad played the banjo, and my brother was already an amazing classical pianist, so I think I was nudged towards the fiddle so my dad would have a bluegrass partner. But I was also just very drawn to that instrument from the beginning.”

For the last 15 years, he says that he’s been pursuing music as a career. Like his wife, the Russellville native found himself playing gigs around Eureka Springs and joining in picking circles around the campfire, and now he’s integral in the festival planning too.

“We met at Highberry before I started playing music,” Agafia remembers. “I think it was only my second or third festival I had attended. He was in a band called Mountain Sprout at the time.”

She says he spent the weekend trying to get her attention.

“I knew immediately that our friendship was going to be special,” she says.

“There was an immediate connection between us, but we wouldn’t officially date until years later,” he says, after he became part of the band. Now they not only sing together, but he’ll present his Hip Hop Fiddle show for late night fans on the Friday night of the festival.

Patti Steel Band, Front Porch, Chucky Waggs and The Company of Raggs, Magnolia Brown, Rochelle Bradshaw and Hypnotion, Monk is King and Red Oak Ruse and more will add to the local live music. The Matchsellers, Chris Thompson and Coral Creek, Dirtfoot, Pretend Friend and more round out the out of towners coming for Ozark Mountain Soul.

Other events for the festival will include sound healing sessions, workshops — including a banjo workshop with Kyle Tuttle — yoga sessions, face painting, art making and more. Agafia adds that there will be a water slide for kids along with fun activities for the little ones and craft vendors for those looking to do a little shopping.

Tickets are available online at Opal Agafia.com or at the gate upon arrival. Kids 12 and younger attend free. Camping is included with event tickets. This event is BYOB; no glass allowed.



Ozark Mountain Soul:

The Great American Eclipse Edition

WHEN — April 4-8

WHERE — The Farm in Eureka Springs

COST — $30 & up

INFO — opalagafia.com/ozarkmountainsoulfestival



Eclipse Events

• Eclipse Food Festival with live music from DJ Josue, The Shiloh Old Time Pickers and Meadow Makers, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 4 at Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville.

• Moonlight Before Eclipse with AVIVA TU, Doug Powell, Tim Hillwood and Catherine Reed, 7 p.m. April 4, The Aud in Eureka Springs.

• Totality on the Mountain at Mulberry Mountain, with Bag Men, Crystal Shawanda, The Blue Ridge Girls, The Well Drinkers, Bluewater Revival, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, Sean Harrison, Ozark Riviera, Jon Bailey and Heath Sanders, April 7-8 in Ozark.

Categories: Music