Successful Fortune Williams Music Festival comes to close as Mary Chapin Carpenter takes stage

By Christina M. Mitchell/staff

October 1, 2007

STAUNTON - Applause and cheers broke through the first few lines as Mary Chapin Carpenter launched into her hit song, "I Take My Chances."

"I take my chances, I don't mind working without a net. I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get."

As the beat picked up on Carpenter's guitar, so did the foot-tapping and head-nodding response from the crowd.

It was Carpenter's first live performance since canceling a summer tour due to health issues, and seats quickly filled with fans eager to get a glimpse of the singer/songwriter Sunday.

A last-minute addition to the Fortune Williams Music Festival, Carpenter told the crowd the festival seemed an ideal venue for easing back into the spotlight.

Her set list Sunday included songs from her latest album, "The Calling," including "Here I Am," and "Houston," as well as old favorites such as, "Stones in the Road," and "The Hard Way."

The audience even got into a bit of the act, singing along for the chorus of "He Thinks He'll Keep Her." A crowd favorite, the song drew Carpenter a standing ovation.

For long-time fan Linda Burchfield of Bridgewater, Sunday marked just the latest in a long line of pilgrimages to see one of her favorite musicians. Sporting a black Mary Chapin Carpenter T-shirt, Burchfield explained that she's admired the artist for as long as she can remember, and she routinely travels to see Carpenter perform.

"Her music is so personally felt by her; she really puts her heart into her music, and I think that's why it touches people so deeply," Burchfield said.

Burchfield joined a contingent of other East Coast fans Sunday from the MCC (Mary Chapin Carpenter) mailing list - an online e-mail network of fans from around the world. About half a dozen gathered Sunday from Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut to see Carpenter perform.

The group said they enjoyed watching Carpenter in her element onstage and were anxious to report back to the group that she looked well. Carpenter canceled her summer tour after she was hospitalized in April with a pulmonary embolism, and the concert schedule on her official Web site doesn't include any events until 2008.

"I think everybody's anxious to know about how she's really been doing, so I think that makes this performance special for a lot of people," said Cathy Lawder of Richmond.

As for the rest of the weekend, organizers estimated the 5th annual Fortune Williams Festival had drawn in nearly 4,000 people over three days of performances.

Title artists Jimmy Fortune and Linda Williams both said they felt the weekend couldn't have gone better, and that the event was showing signs of slow, steady, healthy growth.

"We love Staunton, Virginia, we want to show it off, and we figure this is the best way to do it," Fortune said.