by Linda Burlingame
The Johnson Strings, a remarkably talented family, will astonish you, whether they’re performing Via Dolorosa or playing Yankee Doodle Dandy — and everything in between. Violins, cellos, bass, mandolin, banjo, piano … if it has strings, they play it!
The lineup for many of the pieces has Dad on bass; Mom on piano; Laura, Abigail, Karen, and Luke on violin; Silas and Seth on the cellos. Abigail is the music arranger for the group; that’s a lot of work. When they do a medley of Beethoven’s “Fifth,” Flight of the Bumblebee, and William Tell Overture, Abigail tells us that’s 10,795 notes! Seven Johnsons on one piano and one keyboard, changing positions all the while … the wonderful Scott Joplin medley … how do they figure that all out?!
While Abigail is figuring out the measures for the music, Karen is working on the measures for her cookies and cupcakes. This year her Missouri Mud, Chocolate Chip, and Amish Sugar cookies are available at the concession stand. (So, don’t eat dessert before you come … and/or plan to take cookies back to your hotel!) Turns out all six kids like to bake and cook. The Johnson siblings have been home schooled, and Home Economics class was taking turns preparing dinner. Mom, Linda, was a teacher, in the Philippines and later here in the states. Dad, Paul, is a mechanical engineer for John Deere. Education is an important part of the Johnson Family.
The massive Majestic sits high on the corner of Gretna and Roark Valley Roads. Many of the interior features are antiques, like the wood and glass panels from Ireland, and the stairs are from a castle in Scotland. The Johnsons’ theater upstairs is an intimate venue, seating just over 100 people. (There’s an elevator.) The show really is like a close-up concert, with full orchestral arrangements, a lot of which are unique and not just the typical versions we’re used to hearing. The Theme from the Magnificent Seven, Laura’s vocal The Man I Love; Fiddler on the Roof; Karen’s vocal Get on Board — every piece is well done, beautifully presented. The entire family is exceptionally talented. I especially liked their interpretations of Stars and Stripes Forever, When the Saints Go Marching In, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
The Johnsons treat the audience to a preview of the Christmas show, complete with a giant, beautifully decorated Christmas tree and a large, lighted wreath … and We Three Kings. It’s a fun family, playing and singing, telling stories (Wait’ll you hear the goat story!); that enjoyment is shared by the audience. The Johnson Strings has shows thru October 26th. Their Christmas show begins November 1. Shows are Monday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at 7:30. You’d better plan another trip to Branson, for the Christmas season!
If you are looking to add a little outdoor adventure to your trip to Branson, be sure to check out our Outdoor Activities available to you and your family!