Elizabeth Mitchell‘s music sounds like the kind of parent — make that person — I want to be: peaceful but exuberant, joyful but gentle, open-spirited but intentional.

Her music is the sound of sunshine tumbling through tree branches.

What a delight to get to hear the harmonies of this wonderful artist live this morning at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods.

When an artist opens her performance with such reverence for nature on a hot day, with sincere gratitude to be “in this beautiful place,” you have to stop and be thankful for everything around you: the trees that are still standing after last week’s storms, your children, the shade.

The happy vibe of the show was the embodiment of Mitchell’s song So Glad I’m Here.
It felt like I’d just slipped off my sandals to run in cool grass. But then, this is often the feeling I have when listening to Mitchell.

I was introduced to her work by my sister-in-law, a yoga teacher who sent us a copy of Catch the Moon (Mitchell’s collaboration with Lisa Loeb) when my six-year-old was one or two. It is a beautiful book and great music to be enjoyed by anyone, but it pretty much sings out “this is a happy childhood” to me.

Mitchell’s fan base is devoted. Rebecca Pepper of Sterling, Virginia, said as she waited in line for an autograph with her two daughters and husband, “We delayed our vacation so we could come” to this performance, the family’s first time at Wolf Trap. “It was totally worth it.” Five-year-old daughter Betsy enjoyed both the performance and the chance to snack alongside the stream. The space is such a great setting for a performance. A garden near the entry of the Theatre-in-the-Woods (down the hill and behind the main stage of Wolf Trap) was such a hit last year that the National Park Service got an earlier start on it this year. Like Mitchell’s infectiously happy music, the garden’s skyscraper sunflowers seem to ask “What’s not to smile about?”

Today Mitchell showcased a number of Woody Guthrie songs that she’s recorded her new Smithsonian Folkways Recordings album Little Seed: Songs for Children By Woody Guthrie. Woody would have turned 100 this July, and his music still makes your heart feel like it’s a strummed string, especially when rendered by Mitchell, her daughter Storey Littleton and husband Daniel Littleton. The tremendous trio also shared the stage with singer-songwriter Anna Padgett (aka The Good Ms. Padgett), violinist Jean Cook, and backup Miggy Littleton and the young Penny Littleton and Micah Hughes.

The audience sang along, clapped along, and danced in a train that wove up through the benched amphitheatre. It was a  lovely morning.

Two years ago, I got to have a post-Wolf-Trap-show interview with Steve Songs of PBS Kids fame. Today I got to chat a bit with the warm-hearted Mitchell before she had to jet downtown to be on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. I hope to correspond with her more when she can catch her breath and ask her what it’s like to parent and perform all at once.

Mitchell has two more performances here in D.C., Friday and Saturday morning. So pack a lunch and some water — and some cash or your credit card to stock up on great deal $10 CDs and Storey’s coloring book — and head on out to Vienna!

Disclosure: I was given a media pass with two free tickets to attend this show. I was not required to write anything.

Jessica Claire Haney enjoyed a rare morning out with her two children to write this post. The rest of the month she is/will be coordinating the final touches on a green house renovation and packing to move, after which time she hopes to get to more regular Green features and back to her blog, Crunchy-Chewy Mama.