This summer has been an active one for popular music benefits of worldwide and regional scope. But fundraisers are not necessarily seasonal affairs, and, as proven at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall Tuesday night, need not be confined to a single genre: The Reed Family Singers, a local gospel quintet, and John McCutcheon, a one-man archive of traditional folk musics, gave a concert in behalf of the Washington Bach Consort.
The idea of mixing Bach and banjos was a "payback" of sorts. McCutcheon had used some of the Consort players on a recent album, so he donated his services for this worthy organization. A benefit on both sides, one might say.
After three numbers by the Reed Family Singers (capped by a stirring version of "Be Grateful"), McCutcheon went about his minstrel ways. A thoroughly engaging performer, equally at (or down) home on banjo, guitar, fiddle, hammer dulcimer, autoharp and jaw harp, he also spins a good tale. One song told of a woman who sells her custom Corvette for $65 -- only at the request of her estranged husband who needs money. Remembrances of sneaking into the county fair preceded a moment of "musical self-abuse," the hambone, where he played his body like a makeshift drum set.
There were serious moments when McCutcheon let his instruments do all the talking. A collection of dulcimer pieces embracing Gaelic and Hebraic melodies were stunning in their stark simplicity and haunting beauty. His reverent account of "Satisfied Mind" set to strummed autoharp even managed to work in a classical reference -- appropriately, a snippet of Bach's "Ode to Joy."