Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, of Lexington, has collected about 1,000 instruments to donate to victims of tornadoes in western Kentucky, a way to show survivors that they are still in the minds and hearts of others, according to Michael Johnathon, folk singer with Chants des bois.
Woodsongs visited several tornado-affected communities in western Kentucky throughout the weekend, as well as Owensboro, to get instruments into the hands of those who may have lost theirs to the tornadoes.
By the time Woodsongs arrived in Owensboro on Saturday, however, the need was so great, according to Johnathon, that they were already nearly out of instruments, especially guitars and other high-demand string instruments.
“Owensboro was the last stop. We came to Owensboro because a lot of people from western Kentucky were moved that way,” he said. “Unfortunately, we kind of came to Owensboro to apologize because everybody wanted guitars and stuff and we just didn’t have any left.”
The organization was, however, fortunate to reach some badly affected areas, such as Mayfield and Dawson Springs, where large crowds gathered to pick up instruments.
“We had a lady today in Dawson Springs who was literally torn from her bed by the tornado. Her boyfriend was thrown about 300 feet and he died. She lost her home, her business was wiped out You drive through Mayfield and the communities are still raw,” he said.
The project, he said, was always a success because it helped put the instruments back in the hands of local Kentucky artists who have lost so much in recent months, and while they may have the bare necessities, l access to art is still lacking for many who have lost their means of artistic expression.
“Love is the greatest transaction of the arts and these people still suffer. What do they miss but houses and electricity and water pipes? They miss their art and their music, and that is where we can help them,” he said.
This project, he said, was a way to address that and show tornado survivors that they have not been forgotten.
Prior to visiting communities in western Kentucky, Jonathan said Woodsongs received hundreds of requests for pre-written instruments, illustrating the need and lack of access to the arts for tornado survivors.
The main purpose, he said, was to show love to the survivors.
“What we’re really seeing is not so much gratitude for the instruments, it’s, at this point, a reminder that people haven’t forgotten about them,” he said. “The tornado people have been left behind. I think what they were most grateful for was seeing people who remembered that they still needed help.