Festivals and Concerts

“Fine performances featuring… unadorned music that speaks volumes about the reality of living in the rural Midwest”

-Barry Cloyd, Arts Alive!-

Chris Vallillo is an outstanding roots musician, performer and raconteur who has toured the Midwest for the past 30 years.  Dirty Linen magazine described his music as “vivid, original story songs” delivered with an “eye for detail and a sense of history”  while Folkwax magazine said “Vallillo’s guitar playing flows like warm honey and is a true aural delight.”

Having spent over 30 years living in the rural Midwest, Chris Vallillo’s natural affinity for American roots music brings the people and places of “unmetropolitan” America to life in a concert setting.  Performing in a roots based style on six string and bottleneck slide guitars and harmonica,  Vallillo weaves original, contemporary and traditional folk songs and instrumentals into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyle of the Midwest.


House Concert Availabilities

Chris is available to share his music at the homes of fans who would like to experience a one hour (or more) show – in your living room, on your front porch, or even in your backyard. It’s a fine way to celebrate a special event with friends and/or love ones (Anniversary? Birthday? Blue Moon?). It’s an affordable “one-of-a-kind” experience for your next get-together and it’s a unique gift for the person on your list who has everything!     Xmas house 06

Chris will come to your home and perform your favorites from his repertoire. He has his own sound system (so, no rental costs for you!); but for most small and intimate events he can sing and play without amplification.

What’s the cost? As the father of a pre-teen girl who goes through shoes like chewing gum, Chris will consider any reasonable offer. Bear in mind he has to come out ahead after covering his travel expenses and such. Weekend days and nights will tend to run higher. He drives most places and doesn’t require expensive lodging, so travel is usually quite reasonable. Depending on the circumstances, you might consider charging admission or asking for a free will donation. When everyone gives just a little, there’s no need for the hosts to give a lot!

If hosting a Chris Vallillo House Concert interests you, please contact me: or by phone at 309-833-4838, and we’ll kick around the options!

In addition to concert and festival performances, Chris has a number of specialized programs:  

Special Programs


New for 2014:  Oh Freedom, Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement has been described as one of the greatest singing movements that this country has experienced.  From “We Shall Overcome” to “This Little Light of Mine”, music played an vital role in that historic struggle both as an inspirational rallying point and as a way to spread the message of equality and justice. Civil Rights

From the Freedom Riders, to the the jails of Montgomery Alabama, and Parchman Prison, all the way to Washington DC,  both old and new songs of the era spoke of the yearning for equal rights, the struggle and the determination to win freedom.  They engaged and energized the movement and became the backbone of the nonviolent civil disobedience movement led by Dr King and others.   Music was a huge part of the process both locally and nationally.

In a show created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, award winning Illinois folksinger Chris Vallillo performs pivotal songs from the music that inspired and sustained this landmark movement.  Intermixed with the music, Vallillo presents first hand accounts of the historic struggle and discusses the impact of music to our nations most important social cause.

Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln in Song

Endorsed by the Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

In addition to being highly entertaining for adult audiences, this program is wonderfully appropriate for middle school students learning about Illinois history and planning their field trips to Springfield and/or New Salem. See endorsements here!

The life of Abraham Lincoln spanned a period of change, growth and struggle in our young nation, and the music of his era movingly characterizes these remarkable times. From his days as a flat-boater, through his time at New Salem, his years as a circuit lawyer and on up through his presidency, Lincoln’s life is a microcosm of the development of Illinois during that period.

Abraham Lincoln in Song helps shed light on one of history’s most beloved figures “not only as a remarkable leader, but as a man,” who knew and loved many of these very songs himself. Special emphasis is placed on showing Lincoln ‘s unique bond with the common man and his desire for reconciliation, not revenge. It is an extensively researched, historically accurate program Chris uses period music Lincoln may well have known and sung, and Lincoln ‘s own stories to illustrate his life and put it into context.

The show is designed to be an interactive, accessible, program that educates as well as entertains. It covers Lincoln ‘s life from his birth on the big south fork of Nolan’s Creek in Kentucky in 1809 through his death in 1865. It has been performed in association with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, The Gerald R.Ford Presidential Museum, The Lincoln Home National Historic site, Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum and various touring exhibits including Forever Free from the Huntington Library and “Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War” from the Library of Congress and the American Library Association.  Abraham Lincoln in Song has recently been endorsed by the Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. The show works well for both school audiences (grade 3 and up) and adult audiences.

Parallel Paths; The Poetry of Carl Sandburg, the Music of Chris Vallillo

In a program created for the 2012 Carl Sandburg Days Festival, Chris Vallillo presents a combination Sandburg’s poetry paired with his original songs and instrumentals as well as several of the songs Sandburg himself collected as a folklorist.

Carl Sandburg playing  bell shaped Washburn Guitar

Carl Sandburg playing a bell shaped Washburn Guitar

Vallillo’s work has long been compared to that of Sandburg.  He has been described as “Illinois’ pre-eminent prairie-poet singer-songwriter” and is well known for incorporating original and traditional material to make the people and places of “unmetropolitan” America come to life.   Much as Sandburg himself, Vallillo spent several years collecting and documenting the music of rural Illinois, much of which influenced his own work.

Vallillo’s performance will pair his original music and traditional songs Sandburg collected with poems Sandburg wrote.   “For years people have been telling me my work reminded them of Sandburg’s poetry. When I began to explore the possibilities, I was struck by just how powerful the combination was.”


Stephen Foster and the Rise of Popular Music


Description: From his first hit with “Oh Susannah” in 1848 through his death in 1864, Stephen Foster created music that touched millions and lives and live on to this very day. In his lifetime, his songs were known and sung around the world and played a large part in the creation of an emerging popular American culture. Looking back, they also reflect the complex, torturous relationship between black and white cultures of the young nation.

Award winning folksinger and multi-instrumentalist Chris Vallillo performs nine of Foster’s best loved songs while exploring the impact of this legendary American icon and his music on American culture.


Roots of of Rural Music

Illinois is unique among all the states in that its access to the major waterways of the Mississippi, Ohio and Illinois Rivers as well as the Great Lakes made it a virtual crossroads of peoples, cultures and ideas. As railroads surpassed the rivers as a means of transportation, Illinois would become the Central hub for the nation’s rails. This FRED ZWICKY/Journal Starmingling of people produced a rich body of roots music which paints a colorful portrait of our heritage and gives detailed insight into the people and times that forged the state we have become.

Chris draws on his experiences as a music collector and performer of the songs of rural America; from the first pioneers through the era of Steamboats, trains and early radio. Vallillo brings this rich heritage to life in a lively performance and discussion of roots music and its impact on our lives today while performing on a fine collection of vintage instruments.

Folk Music For Little Folks

In this engaging and entertaining performance, Vallillo presents a folk musical performance geared towards younger audiences. Chris introduces and discusses traditional Illinois folk music and performs on the guitar, resonator slide guitar, Jew’s Harp and an 1880’s hammered dulcimer. Educational, interactive and fun!