Swing into spring with a country concert for all ages

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Get ready to jam with the Leiter family and leap into the new season with style at the third annual Spring into Country concerts April 21 at Edwards Township Hall.

The show, which will be performed twice, from 2-3 p.m. and 6-7 p.m., is one of three events the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame hosts each year. Randy Leiter and his wife Sue are the organizers of the event, and currently run the hall of fame. They said a lot of preparation goes into each of the shows they put on, and this one is no exception.

“I spend at least two months just on the music,” Randy said. “It’s not the same show as last year. We’re doing close to 40 songs. That’s a lot of material.”

After two months of putting the music together, Randy said the final push can be hectic. He said once all the musicians get together, they generally only have two days to get the timing and chemistry together for the final performances.

This year the program will feature 10 artists, six of which are women. Sue said she’s excited because they have never had a majority of women performing at their shows. She said the fact they have so many women performing this year will lend well to the type of music they plan to play.

“Up until this time it’s been a majority of traditional country music,” Sue said. “It’s important to know that this show will also feature more ’80s and ’90s music than in the past.”

Randy said the age range of the performers this year varies greatly, and that has introduced an interesting element to the way the musicians prepare.

“We have the tenderfoots (young musicians) learning traditional songs, and our older guys learning the newer music,” Randy said. “We can’t ask the younger musicians to learn the traditional stuff without asking the older ones to do the same for them.”

According to Randy, making the show accessible to all ages was a conscious decision.

“If the hall of fame doesn’t reach out to the younger generation, we’re dead in the water,” he said. “If we can get more young people involved, we want to eventually turn the hall of fame over to them to keep it going.”

Sue said last year the two performances were nearly at capacity and saw roughly 500 people show up. She said one of her goals is to make sure each show gets better.

“Every time people come they say this is the best show we’ve ever done,” she said. “That’s exactly what we want. For each show to get better and better.”

Sue said one thing she’s excited for more than anything else is that this year she will be able to perform with her family. Two of the Leiters’ daughters will be at the show singing and playing their instruments of choice with their parents. Sue said it will remind her of when her kids were still in high school and they would take them on the road to play shows.

“Of all the things I’ve done throughout my career, of all the people I’ve worked with, my favorite part has been performing with my family,” she said.

Randy said music isn’t the only form of entertainment one should expect at the concerts. He said it will be more like a variety show with some stories and humor mixed in.

In the long run, the Leiters said they hope to have their own performing arts center to house the hall of fame. They hope to have a house band and be able to have enough room to put on shows like this more often. They don’t expect West Branch to become the new Nashville, but they said bringing in more tourism to the area couldn’t hurt.

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