A local family will provide Clarke County with one last gift for the holidays on Friday night. Members of the John and Nancy Friant Sr. family will perform a free Christmas concert at 7:00pm at the Barns of Rose Hill.
Born and raised in Berryville, John Friant, Jr. along with sisters, Clissy Funkhouser, Mary Veilleux and Nina Geiger, along with Nina’s children, Grace, Caroline, Jack and Molly Geiger, will perform a mix of traditional – and a few not-so-traditional – holiday favorites. Tunes will include humorous parodies composed by Clissy (O Little Town of Berryville and Johnny, Johnny Friant, Clarke County Cavalier) an original composition by Nina (In Him Was Life) and lyrics contributed by John and Mary.
The concert is both a gift to the community as well as a tribute to the musical traditions that John and Nancy Friant valued so highly. For decades, both John Friant Sr. and Nancy Friant were tireless community supporters in Clarke County. Prior to his passing in late 2011, John Friant, Sr. was Director Emeritus of the Barns of Rose Hill.
“Dad was a community minded citizen, who loved ‘gatherings’” said Mary Veilleux who still resides at Bel Voi, the Friant family home in Berryville, Virginia. “My mom was a concert pianist and from her, my father developed an appreciation for the performing arts. The concept of a local arts center energized him greatly!”
Clissy Funkhauser echoed her sister Mary’s sentiments about the family’s musical heritage.
“Music was always a huge part of our family life” said daughter Clissy Funkhauser. “Our mother Nancy, a Julliard graduate, was always playing the piano when we were little. Nina could sing before she could talk. And the tradition continues. At family gatherings everyone brings their instruments and songs to share. Our mother used to write funny songs, and that tradition continues.”
Clissy, who carries on the family tradition started by her mother, continues writing parodies and roasts for friends and family. Friday’s concert will feature four of Clissy’s original compositions including “O Little Town of Berryville” composed just for this concert.
“On a more personal level, singing is an expression of our faith and joy in the Lord” Clissy reflected. “We are blessed to be able to give voice to our love of Christ in song and we hope it is a blessing and encouragement to others.”
The collective talent of the Friant’s is well known in Clarke County as well as the rest of the region.
Nina Geiger and her daughters routinely perform at church functions at home near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, Nina and Clissy regularly performer at the Rumsey Radio Hour in nearby Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Nina and brother Johnny often collaborate in the with the Shenandoah Sheiks, however John Friant is a well-known local musician who plays many musical instruments including guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin and hammer dulcimer as well offering vocals for several local including swing (Hot Club Millwood), classic (Shenandoah Sheiks), progressive (GKTrio) and celtic The Brogue Rogues.
Both Mary and John are cantors at St. Bridget’s Chapel in Berryville.
“My mother was the main musical influence in our lives” said Mary. “She provided piano lessons – she hated teaching but she drove us to DC for lessons – and encouraged our talents. Nina was our only sibling to major in music in college. She graduated from Shenandoah University with a focus on music therapy. Clissy composes songs and plays the guitar. John is self-taught on a number of instruments including the guitar, fiddle, bass fiddle, mandolin and performs in a number of local bands.”
While the Friant clan never needs an excuse to gather and make beautiful music, Friday’s concert will be an opportunity for the family to honor the memory of John and Nancy Friant’s commitment to the arts in Clarke County through the Barns of Rose Hill. Nina Geiger will travel from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, Clissy Funkhouser from Charles Town to join Mary Veilleux and John Friant of Berryville. Four of Nina’s five children will also perform;, Jack who just graduated from Messiah College; Molly who is studying at DePaul University, Grace a Physician’s Assistant intern in Danville, Pennsylvania and Caroline who traveled from Barcelona, Spain where she is an au pair.
The suggested donation for the concert is $10 which will be used to support The Barns of Rose Hill’s ongoing operating costs. A portion of the proceeds will to go to the Nancy L. Friant Scholarship Fund for the Performing Arts, an endowed scholarship fund administered by the Clarke County Education Foundation for deserving Clarke County High School students who demonstrate an aptitude in of music, theater and dance.