YES! Wintergrass is back as usual and lovers of bluegrass and related styles are delighted to be able to enjoy a wide variety of music and make some of it themselves from Februaty 26th through March 1st at the Bellvue Hyatt Regency Hotel, which is such a warm and friendly environment that has served us well as participants and audiences for the past several years with no end in sight. And as usual, much will remain the same and much is added on in order to keep the festival vital in it’s tradition and allow for the essential growth and expansion that keeps us relevant as well as grounded.
Theme: How Can I Keep From Singing?
Over the years we’ve highlighted a number of the instruments and traditions that have made bluegrass such a beloved and vital force in roots music. It’s only natural that the singers of this great music receive their due as a featured portion of a Wintergrass. Well, this is the year for it and do we ever have a list of vocal treats for you! We’ll feature the high lonesome sound from old-timers, new and exciting takes on traditional songs and contemporary pieces from the younger generation, musical tributes to vocal heroes of our history and a variety of other stunning sounds from many other singers and bands. And of course all your favorite instruments will be on stage all the time, played by many stalwarts of the culture as well as some of the newer contributors that we’ll be privileged to hear and see.
Let’s Start With Some Legendary Wintergrass Favorites that we’ll always love!
Del McCoury: Del is the leading singer in bluegrass (and probably anywhere) of what is known as the High Lonesome Sound. He’s been singing, recording and performing bluegrass with various bands (including his family band with his fabulous sons) for about a half century and has established himself as a giant of bluegrass culture and a performer who’s shows are required viewing for anyone serious about bluegrass as a musician of fan. He’s sung this music almost everywhere and always left his audience feeling much better when they left than when the arrived. At this time he’s in semi-retirement, will perform only 8 shows all year, and has picked our festival for one of them. Can we really afford to miss it?
Aofie O’Donovan: Aofie is a Wintergrass veteran despite being relatively youthful, having appeared several times with the immensely popular and excellent Crooked Still, who filled the auditoriums and dance halls of the festival time and again with an amazingly eclectic repetoire covering all sorts of music and subjects. They were never really true grass but fit into the culture via the variety of acoustic instruments and related sounds and were enjoyed by a wide variety of our clientele. since the group disbanded she has offered her singing talents to several other projects including Irish song and folk/jazz. This year Aofie will perform a solo set and will write and perform with the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra.
Mark O’Connor: The phrase child prodigy was made to describe someone exactly like Mark O’Connor. He was found to be immensely talented as a kid, was brought along as a public figure who could play as well as the adults and became a star before he could vote. Since then he’s only added on to his talent, credentials and overall repetoire and is considered to be one of the most important artistic figures in roots music of any kind. He also champions an expansion of all kinds of music so that an artist may feel free to express themselves exactly as they feel at the time rather than be hog-tied by an old tradition that refuses to budge. Mark will be at the festival on Sunday to play a set and write and perform with the Youth Orchestra, BUT he will also be conducting a 3 day seminar that is new to the festival and which will be discussed below.
Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick: Laurie and Kathy were early converts to the bluegrass tradition and so many years ago met and played with many of their heroes. They formed an early all women’s bluegrass group, the Good Ol’ Persons (which later added a token male) and became popular at folk and grass festivals and coffee houses of the day. They both went on from there to form various bands which were always excellent and popular and have also kept their friendship alive for over 40 years. At this time they will be treating our audiences to a tribute set for Vern And Ray; A vocal duo who were an early source of inspiration. This will include some of the finest and most loved songs of Americana culture and will be entertaining as well as historically relevant: A treat for old, new and in-between grassers. In addition, Laurie brings her band, The Right Hands, with partner Tom Rozum, which will deliver a fine performance from an expansive grass and related repetoire. Whether it’s vocals, fiddle of anything else Laurie delivers the goods. Who wouldn’t want to be there for it?
I suppose we could have a Wintergrass without Darol Anger but (in the words of many a gangster who wondered about a confederate who he wasn’t sure he could trust) why take a chance! He always brings something new and exciting and pleases our audiences with music that almost always expands the scope of what roots and bluegrass are and offers food for our musical consciousness. This year his group is Mr. Sun; A supergroup which will offer an instrumental and vocal mix of jazz and grass that will compliment the traditional offerings and will also be writing for and performing with the Youth Orchestra. The combination of all the above legends is more than enough to merit a sold out weekend, but there is so much more that makes this festival so important and all the prices seem so reasonable.
And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!
What a blessing to have so many fine performers from all over the bluegrass and geographical map to share the various stages over 4 days! Della Mae, also Wintergrass veterans, are a 5 woman band with local roots; Dale Ann Bradley and her band play traditional grass and she’s no stranger to best vocalist awards; Faast and Blair play what they have dubbed, “Extreme Bluegrass” which dcribes their music and feeling on traditional, original or pop tunes; Jeff Scroggins and Colorado present a great mix of old and new songs; The Steel Wheels have a marvelous lead singer and infuse their trad. and folk roots grass with a magical feeling and shape note influence; True North from Oregon offers diverse and intelligent songwriting featuring the vocals of Kristen Grainger and super hot interplay from the band; Patchy Sanders is a 7 piece jam band that features original material; Pearl Django is the much beloved gypsy Jazz band whose hot licks relate to the bluegrass music that didn’t even exist when Django made his reputation; Jamie Stone, a Canadian banjo player will present the Lomax Project; Preserving and performing songs from the Alan Lomax collection that has been instrumental in preserving our folk music heritage; Cahalen Morrison and Eli West are 2 of the most innovative and subtle musicians of roots music anywhere and structure a sound that is based on bluegrass and old-time but is reflected through a 21st century lens. Their music is instantly accessible and built from simple materials but also seems to transcend it’s base fundamentals; Billy Strings, a wild man of vocal and guitar and Don Julian on mandolin will present old country songs with very high energy. And the above acts are not all the excellent performers there are. Come and see for yourself! And if your attendance is predicated on specific performers (or if you just can’t wait) just go to www.wintergrass.com and findit all out.
How About Some New Learning Experiences.
Wintergrass is pleased and proud to announce our first ever teacher training seminar with no less an instructor than Mark O’Connor! In a 3 day session specifically designed for music educators, O’Connor will offer his unique method of stringed instrument instruction and will fit in perfectly with the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra philosophy of bridging the gap between classical and oral traditions. Clinician Patti Hopkins will instruct on Tues. & Wed. before Mark appears on Thursday for a special lecture , demonstration and performance. Mark believes that a new American classical music is evolving because students do not wish to be left out of the great sound and energy of folk and jazz music simply because they desire to be great classical players. And he’s definitely right! Why should anyone have to choose one music at the expense of another for any reason? This seminar aims to bring teachers and students close together and help to create musical generations that will have a more holistic world view of playing and performing music then now exists in many places. The seminar will include 15 hours of instruction on the evenings of Feb. 24th and 25th, a full day on the 26th, the O’Connor method books 1 and 2 and will cost $340. For any other information you can go to the Wintergrass Web Site: www.wintergrass.com. No matter how much a music teacher knows there’s always room for expansion and when you can learn from one of America’s leading lights why pass up the opportunity?
Also new on the educational front is Joe Craven’s half day session on Creativity on Thursday morning, the 26th. Here’s his take on it; “I define creativity as ‘The Pursuit Of Possibility or Pop!’. I’m driven to help individuals take possession of what they already have and demystify art through self-expression as a daily ritual.” Joe has been instructing at Wintergrass for a good many years, is well known and loved for his abilities and immense good feeling. The cost is $55 and well worth it if you’re feeling stuck or simply want to check out a variety of creative possibilities and feel that there’s so much more out there than you’ve been exposed to so far. Again, go the the web site for all the details.
And That’s Not All On The Educational Agenda.
Thursday, Feb. 26th will offer a variety of intensives from some of the finest practitioners in the field. Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz will present an all day workshop on vocal harmony for $100, Grant Gordy presents an afternoon session on guitar for $55, Tashina and Tristan Clarridge will present another new Wintergrass workshop on fiddle and cello in the afternoon for $55, Phil Leadbetter will teach dobro in the afternoon, also for $55, and Joe Walsh will offer a session for advanced mandolin in the afternoon for $55. There is also an intensive on mandolin for all from Don Julin, but unfortunately for some of you it is sold out. Yes, these sessions are popular so if you’ve an interest now is definitely the time to show it by going to the web site and registering!
Passing It On.
The annual Youth Orchestra presentation, in conjunction with several of our performers/composers/instructors has become one of the most popular staples of the weekend, and no wonder. Lovers of any culture want to offer future generations an opportunity to enjoy the musics (and other things) that have given them so much pleasure and this partnership of professionals and students is a wonderful and rare opportunity to help bridge the gap between classical and oral traditional musics. This year Darol Anger and Mr. Sun, Aoife O’Donovan & Sarah Jarosz, Matuto and Mark O’Connor will be composing, instructing and playing with middle and high school musician/students from 3 schools as well as individual youth who wish to be a part of it all. There will be rehearsals in February (dates to be announced) and also on February 28th from 9:30AM to 1:30PM and culminating in a Grand Ballroom Performance on Sunday, March 1st. The cost is $100 per student and includes a pass for the festival on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, parents of orchestra students are eligible for a discounted parent Sunday pass. A good deal all around and for any other information just go to www.wintergrass.com as usual.
Will There be the usual free workshops that come with a ticket?
Yes, Yes, Yes!!! All day Friday and Saturday morning a variety of sessions on a variety of instruments and other related subjects will be offered and the web site will let you know where and when. Always good to take a tiny bit more musical knowledge home with you than you arrived with.
Let’s move our feet. It’s good for you.
A few years back Wintergrass began offering dance sets and the response has dictated that dance is indeed another festival tradition that you look forward to. This year the Regency Ballroom with come alive with the feet shuffling music of Patchy Sanders, Pearl Django, Caleb Krauder, and the Dust Bowl Revival. On Saturday you may enjoy the Steel Drivers, G-Burns, Matuto and more Dust Bowl. You already know what to do, right?
So is anyone else making music this weekend?
YES!! You are!! You’ll bring that instrument and find more than enough friends (old and new) to play various forms of grass and related musics all over the Hyatt Regency Hotel during all hours of the day and night w/no curfew and no outside interference. And as you know, this is one of the joys of any folk festival, without which it wouldn’t be a real folk or bluegrass festival. The real culture is always about all of us making the music, which in the terms of our individual lives is much more important than being a spectator, no matter how great the performers are. The more of you are hanging out and jamming the happier we are, and the instrument check will be open from early till fairly late each day so you can ditch it when you want to attend a set, meet with friend or just be free of it. Another interesting fact of jamming at festivals is that many musical associations and bands and other kinds of relationships have begun with strangers meeting over jam sessions, becoming friends and eventually learning that they have other interests in common as well. Jamming can be a gift that keeps on giving! AND SUCH FUN!
How Can I Contribute To Wintergrass Besides Simply purchasing a ticket?
I’m glad you asked. I can think of two ways. One is to join Acoustic Sound/Wintergrass (Go to web site or there will be ample information at the festival) and by doing so you’ll contribute financially to our survival and also receive all information in advance. The other is to volunteer at the festival. There’s always something that needs doing and for 12 hours of work you can garner a festival pass for the weekend. And like the jamming scene you’ll meet people who may become friends musically or otherwise, Because (at least for me) volunteering for a community festival such as Wintergrass isn’t as much a job for a company as a family of like people who are helping to manifest something that we all love. The more we put in to anything the more we get out of it. Let’s get as much as we can out of Wintergrass in all the right ways.
Where Can I Stay?
The Hyatt is SOLD OUT! That’s that. But the Courtyard Marriott can be reached from the web site or 425-454-5888, the Westin is on our web as well and at 425-638-1000, and the Silver Cloud Inn Reservations Line is at 800-205-6937. There are also other hotels on an extensive list at: Bellevue.com Hotels Page or at: Expedia.com. There’s got to be a place for you somewhere. And you’ll be pleased to know that a cab ride from a mile of Wintergrass is only $5, which is a lot less than day parking at the Hyatt.
So, Is there anything else we need to do?
Yes there is! You need to be thankful for our sponsors, for they are huge in our ability to put on this high quality cultural celebration year after year. Main on the list are the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the City of Bellevue who make it all possible in the first place. And then we are pleased to have Rayco, Nechville, D’addario, the Washington Acoustic Music Association (WAMA), the Oregon Bluegrass Association (OBA), and the Montana Rockies Bluegrass Association (MRBA) and several others that you will see at booths and around the festival. These contributions are important as we all know and so during the rest of the year when you’re shopping for something for you, or that gift for a holiday, birthday, etc. that is offered by one of the above, kindly remember their contribution to our success and purchase accordingly. The quality is excellent and the return of good Karma is good for all concerned!
Well, that’s all folks. All that’s left is to get your situation together and join us for one of the finest weekends of music and cultural education anywhere. See ya there!!
(All comments welcome: Percy Hilo: firstname.lastname@example.org)