The story of how Stained Grass Window came to be is essentially that of a happy accident. Our origins lie at an event local to us called the Jerseytown shindig. This monthly jam provided the opportunity for a chance meeting between Mark Doncheski and Mary Hermann. Mary is an ER doctor with an interest in bluegrass and acoustic music. Mark had been playing bluegrass in an organized setting as a bass player for the band Dark Hollow. A third individual, Ken Shafranko, was fulfilling a long simmering ambition to learn the dobro and he, too, found himself at the same jam. The year was 1990 when these three made each other's acquaintance. At Mary's invitation they found themselves at her house from time to time just for the enjoyment of playing together. A fourth individual, Tom Harhart, would join these sessions. Tom was a fairly accomplished player on just about anything with strings from banjo to mandolin to guitar to dobro. And he could sing.
After a couple of years of playing together just for the fun of it one night Mary announced that she'd found someone who wanted us to play for a fee. And so it happened that these four musicians presented themselves to an audience, playing to a St. Patrick's day crowd at a local tavern. No thought had even been given to a name for this assemblage of erstwhile musicians. Spring turned to summer and we found ourselves playing before other groups. At one of the events someone in the audience wanted to know what was the name of the band. Mary, ever quick on her feet, replied "Stained Grass Window." The name stuck.
Tom decided to discontinue performing in early 1996 and that proved to be the occaision for Lou Eberlin to join us. Lou had a long time interest in country music and his brother played bluegrass in the southeast Pennsylvania area. Lou's voice can be heard as lead on many of the cuts from our three recordings. Another indivdual with whom Mark played in his Dark Hollow days was Bob Meehan. Bob had developed into a seasoned harmonica player and he, too, began to perform with us. While harmonica isn't a staple amongst bluegrass bands you do hear it from time to time. Even the Foggy Mountain Boys recordings featured Charlie McCoy on some of their work. In early 1999 Mary became part of an all female bluegrass ensemble. In her place came Rick Marcera. Rick, a native of the Phillippines, came to be introduced to bluegrass music by his wife. She attended festivals in her youth along with her parents and after she married Rick the two of them would attend festivals together. Rick was already an accomplished musician as he earned his living on the cruise ship circuit playing drums, saxaphone, and piano. He also took up the guitar. At the point he became part of Stained Grass Window he was not a bass player and we needed one. It was something he figured he could learn and learn he did.
The year 2004 was a year of transition for Stained Grass Window. Bob Meehan relocated from his home in New Jersey to South Carolina to be closer to a daughter. Also in 2004 Bob Knorr came into the band, replacing Lou. Bob was known to us for a long time and we'd performed at places where he was performing with other groups. He anchored us on bass and had considerable skills on the guitar and mandolin as well. The thing that Bob really brought into our music though was his appreciation for traditional bluegrass. He can sing lead or move to tenor or baritone. The addition of his voice allowed us to do some things musically that we weren't able to do with the previous array of voices.
Which brings us to the most recent personnel change. An addition, actually. Doug Ward joined us for the 2008 season and we put him to work on bass. That moved Bob Knorr over to guitar and allowed Rick Marcera to concentrate on mandolin. Doug's been around bluegrass for quite some time and can be heard on a Jim Eanes recording. He has a well developed ear for traditional bluegrass and he has contributed a couple of songs to our reportoire which strengthen that portion of our music.
In the course of performing for as many years as we have we can look back and see two stages to our evolution. The first part was where we labored pretty hard to become good musically. While we still work pretty hard at that we've matured as performers and have now come to understand that what we provide is not just something that is musically comptetent. The fact is, only a minority of the people we play before are musicians. People come to have a good time, not to be music critics. Our purpose must be to provide entertainment, allowing the members of the audience to just sit back and relax to the music we make.
Mark Doncheski (Photography by Amira Chtourou) Mark plays banjo, mandolin, finger style guitar and bass. Residing in Danville, PA he previously played bass with Dark Hollow, a regional bluegrass band. Ask him who his banjo heroes might be and he'll tell you Don Reno or Eddie Adcock.
Bob Knorr (Photography by Amira Chtourou) Bob anchors us on rhythm guitar but also plays bass and mandolin. He can be heard on both lead and harmony vocals. Berwick, PA is home for Bob.
Rick Marcera (Photography by Amira Chtourou) Rick joined us in March of 1999. Playing bass, guitar, mandolin, saxaphone, drums, piano, and he sings a pretty powerful song, too.
Ken Shafranko (Photography byAmira Chtourou) Ken provides harmonies and a lead vocal now and then. He is from Williamsport PA and in addition to his duties as resophonic guitar player he does the emcee work when we perform.
Doug Ward Usually found on bass he plays guitar and mandolin, too. We feature his voice in several of our vocal selections (Photography by Amira Chtourou)