Barn dance music enlivens lengthy Maryland bill signing ceremony


Supporters look on as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signs a bill earlier this month. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) introduced a new twist at Thursday’s bill-signing ceremony in Annapolis: barn dance music.

For much of the two-hour event, a compact disc by The Barn Owl Band was piped into the governor’s reception room as he and legislative leaders signed more than 250 bills into law.

Aides said that O’Malley, a musician himself, had inquired for some time about having music played at the series of bill signings that follow each legislative session. Thursday was the first time his staff pulled it off.

The ceremony included the signing of a few high-profile bills, including a sweeping gun-control package and an increase in the state’s gas tax to fund transportation projects.

But like other such events, much of it resembled an assembly-line production. Supporters of dozens of bills waited patiently to be brought into the room for their turn for a photo with O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) as their legislation was signed.

The music of The Barn Owl Band — which is based in Iowa and promotes itself as “good old-fashioned, toe-tapping, foot-stomping entertainment” — brought some quizzical looks from some as they arrived on the scene.

On its Web site, the band describes its sound as “barn dance music. . . powered by fiddle, guitar, mandolin, piano, accordion, flute, tin whistle, hammer dulcimer and upright bass.”

“It adds a festive feel to the event,” said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who compared the bill-signing ceremony to waiting in line for attractions at Disneyland.

Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery) suggested he might play something different if given a chance. “If I were governor, it would be Metallica,” he joked.

The CD that played during much of Thursday’s ceremony, “Barn Owls Live,” was recorded in 2003 at a concert in Ames, Iowa.

O’Malley is the front man in a Celtic rock band, O’Malley’s March, that continues to play live periodically.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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