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A night of stories and music at Rex


March 12, 2020

Miriah Kardelis

COMMUNITY MEMBERS chat and get autographs from members of The Wardens, who performed Friday evening at The Rex.

It was an evening of music and storytelling last Friday as the Sanders County Arts Council welcomed The Wardens to the Rex Theatre.

The Wardens came all the way from Canmore, Alberta, and with them they brought a night full of harmonizing melodies and tales about their experiences protecting lands and wildlife in Banff National Park. Their 60-plus years of wisdom as wardens of the park has been the inspiration behind their music.

"We are real park rangers, not prison wards, even though we get some real street cred from people thinking that," joked Bradley Bischoff, one of the trio's vocalists.

Bischoff, who also plays lead and rhythm guitar was accompanied by the other vocalist in the group, Ray Schmidt, who founded The Wardens in 2009. The strumming of Schmidt's mandolin and upright bass contributes to the folk and bluegrass tones the band is loved for. Scott Duncan, who has been with the band for the last four years, was the third member of the Canadian trio. Duncan's fiddle playing elevated The Wardens' music that evening and set the tone for the entire show.

It was The Wardens first time in Thompson Falls. They played for the Plains Elementary School kids earlier in the day. "We had a great time at the Plains elementary today, the kids there really get it, and I think it's the same here. You guys are so close and connected to the land," Schmidt expressed about the connectivity their music has with Montana. The trio played in Anaconda the previous day, with Shelby being the next town on the tour. "We love playing in the smaller communities," Bischoff said. Schmidt also added that they have loved getting to drive through our great state of Montana.

The set list was full of stories about their early beginnings as wardens and their experiences throughout their careers. "All these stories are one hundred percent original, you just can't make this stuff up," Bischoff told the crowd. Their music paid homage to the vast land they were surrounded by. Their ability to put into words what they saw made you feel like you were sitting right next to them while it was all happening.

According to Bischoff, their plans for their remaining time in Thompson Falls was to tour the Thompson Falls Dam and fish ladder. And of course, they wanted to head to Minnie's one more time for more pie and coffee. The Wardens' next record will be out at the end of spring or early summer. You can learn more about the group on or you can connect with them on Facebook or Instagram.

The Sanders County Arts Council took the stage during intermission to raffle off prizes for the attendees. One lucky winner won a $25 credit to a spring or fall art class and a second winner won two tickets to the next performance, String Fever, who come all the way from England. The money raised from the concert goes towards the artist's fees such as housing and paying for their meals. Any funds left over will contributed towards any visual arts activities and kid's art camps the Sanders County Arts Council puts on. "We try to serve lots of needs in the county, the arts are an important part of life too," said Joy Nelson, president of the board and volunteer.


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