For the folk/gospel duo The Braeded Chord, it was an honor just to be nominated — once they realized they actually had been nominated for a WAMMIE award for the second straight year.
“We didn’t even really see our name on the ballot until I printed it out,” said Sharon Dennis, who plays guitar with Doris Au MacDonald on keyboard. “I called Doris and said, ‘Hey, we’re on the ballot. I hope you voted for us!’”
On Feb. 18 at The State Theater in Falls Church, the duo was in attendance for this year’s WAMMIES — the Washington Area Musicians Association awards — when the winner for Best Gospel Inspirational Group was announced. The acoustics in the room combined with consistent conversation obscured the name of the victor.
“When nobody else walked up, we figured it was us,” said Dennis. “It’s quite an honor that other musicians think that your music is good, because we can be very critical of each other.”
The Braeded Chord’s first WAMMIE win continues a remarkable journey for this duo from church performers to award-winning players on the local music scene. Au MacDonald, who lives in Fairfax, and Dennis — who lives in Culpeper, but grew up in the Rosemont section of Alexandria — have been together for four and a half years and have released three CDs of their music, which are available on www.thebraededchord.com.
It was their two sons who originally got them together. The boys were both in the same first-grade class at Little Run Elementary School, and the families lived in the same neighborhood. One day, Dennis’s son called up Au MacDonald’s son to see if he wanted to play, and the mothers soon became friends.
One day, Au MacDonald asked Dennis what her interests were, and she revealed she was a musician. Au MacDonald offered her services as a backup vocalist and musician; two weeks later, she received a call from Dennis seeking her help for a gig.
“It actually started out with us playing together in the same band in a church,” said Au MacDonald, in reference to their early days harmonizing at Parkwood Baptist Church in Annandale. “We enjoyed it, but there’s a lot of people outside of these walls.”
EVENTUALLY, THE duo started playing small gigs around the area, including a coffee house near Lorton. That’s where Ron Goad, a long-time Songwriters Association of Washington board member, heard them and began introducing them to people who could broaden their careers.
The band faced a huge hurdle when Dennis and her family relocated from Alexandria to Culpeper in 2003.
“When she told me she was moving, I cried,” said Au MacDonald.
“It was a huge adjustment for my family because we had to change all occupations,” Dennis said.
The solution was to find rehearsal space in between the two band members, and they found it at the Church of the Word in Gainesville, which allowed them to meet there once a week for a year. In January, The Braeded Chord began playing music for church services there.
While their music includes many gospel standards and music inspired by their faith, Dennis and Au MacDonald said they add in more popular covers and other tunes when they play outside of church — such as when they appear at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Alexandria, as they’re scheduled to do on June 30.
Au MacDonald doesn’t believe their messages in their music should be limited to a Sunday service.
“There really shouldn’t be a division. Sometimes people make a difference between what happens in a church and what happens in the marketplace. But we’re all people. We all have the same feelings, we all have the same experiences. It would be nice to mix it up.”
ON SATURDAY, March 3, The Braeded Chord will appear at an Auction and Dessert Benefit at St. Stephens United Methodist Church, 9203 Braddock Road in Burke from 7-9 p.m. Au MacDonald said the event will raise money for a child rescue center in Sierra Leone for children who are orphaned due to AIDS-related deaths and civil unrest in the nation. It’s one of several charity events the duo plans to support this year.
Even as a now award-winning band, The Braeded Chord remains committed to its uplifting message.
“One of our big things is to try and encourage other people,” said Au MacDonald.