Storyhill, the popular duo that was born and bred in Bozeman, returns to their roots July 24-27 for the 30th Anniversary Celebration and Road Show.
After graduating from high school back in 1989, Chris Cunningham and Johnny Hermanson spent a day at Peak Recording and made a record, simply titled Chris and Johnny. Now known as Storyhill, the duo is celebrating 30 years with a 30th anniversary concert and dinner July 27 at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, preceded by a four-day tour of their favorite haunts and inspirations.
During the concert at 7:30 p.m., the duo weaves through 15 albums of music, splicing songs from their high school, college and full-time national touring years with newly written tunes. A celebration dinner at 5:30 p.m. is available pre-concert; and all attendees are invited to a post-concert party at Ted’s Montana Grill in the historic Baxter Hotel.
Storyhill is also hosting a VIP Road Show for a limited number of fans July 24-27; the tour visits some of their favorite locations in Southwestern Montana, including Bridger Bowl, Hyalite Reservoir, Mary on the Mountain (aka Our Lady of the Rockies) and the headwaters of the Missouri River.
Although they had been on a hiatus from writing and performing music as a duo since 2014, they released a live album in the fall of 2018 called Stages and toured in support of it. That tour helped reignite their passion for collectively creating music.
According to their manager, Jim Kowitz, the 30th anniversary Road Show and concert are part of a more expansive plan, including future performances in Montana. The duo’s anniversary show Aug. 25 in Minneapolis is already sold out; a performance is also slated for Nov. 9 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.
Storyhill fans connect “in times of hope, pain and celebration”
Cunningham resides in Bozeman, where he continues to write songs, perform, and record and produce for other musicians at his Basecamp Recording Studio.
“I can never predict where a song will come from or what I’ll write about,” he says. “The one constant for me seems to be a sense of revelation and hope, even after a period of struggle or reflection.”
Hermanson, who lives in St. Paul, Minn., is an award-winning songwriter and composer who has created and sold music in many genres, including orchestral, world, pop and rock. He’s also the creative director of Egg Music, which specializes in original music for advertising, film and TV.
Even though the two have gone different directions and nourished successful careers, they continue to return to their roots as songwriters and singers whose uncanny harmonies have been compared to Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers.
Their enduring national popularity “is a phenomenon,” says Kowitz.
From their start at Bozeman High School to attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., together, followed by nearly two decades of sporadic cross-country touring and performances on nationally syndicated radio programs, they’ve developed a devoted fan base.
“Each time the duo has stepped back from touring or creating music together, the fan base has clamored for their return,” says Kowitz. “Fans are able to connect to their lyrics and melodies, clinging to them in times of hope, pain and celebration.”
Road Show: Quirky & Original
The 30th Anniversary Road Show and concert are drawing people to Bozeman from Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Texas and even Argentina.
Road Show attendees are split between those traveling from afar for the celebration and Montanans. Certain portions of the trip are sold-out, but Kowitz notes, “there are still a few spots left for those who want to travel with us to Butte to visit Our Lady of the Rockies, or as Storyhill fans call her, ‘Mary on the mountain’.”
Kowitz says planning for the celebration has taken nearly a full year. It began with the idea of sharing “the where and how it all started. The guys talked about locations that were meaningful to them and inspirational to their songwriting,” he recalls.
Together, they drafted a Road Show agenda and shared it with some long-time admirers, whose response “was overwhelmingly positive. We knew then that we had to make it happen.”
Like Storyhill’s music, the tour itself is quirky and original.
It starts off with a visit to Bozeman High School’s choir room. “The school district’s music department and teachers were instrumental in the duo’s formation and it felt important to take the fans into that space,” says Kowitz.
When he filed a facility usage request in early January, “I had to explain who Storyhill was and why we wanted to get into the choir room for a night.”
He also tracked down Marco Ferro, the duo’s choir teacher, who plans to join the tour group “for a conversation about having Chris and Johnny in his classroom 30 years ago.”
Hyalite Reservoir, another destination on the tour, holds a special place for the pair. “From camping trips as kids, to weddings and their very own Storyhill Fest, Hyalite has become part of the fabric of the duo and their fans,” says Kowitz.
Their visit to Butte takes them high above town to Our Lady of the Rockies, a giant statue of Mother Mary that overlooks the city. “She became the subject of a fictional tale sung by the duo since the mid 1990s,” says Kowitz. Even though she appears in song, neither songwriter has visited the iconic statue. “This will be their opportunity to visit her and perform their song at the feet of Mary.”