2019 Barcelona Bluegrass Camp report

This report is a contribution from Lluis Gomez, noted Spanish banjo player and teacher. Many thanks to Lluis for his work spreading bluegrass in Europe.

The 4th Barcelona Bluegrass Camp was held this past February 22-23, 2019, in Barcelona. It is an annual acoustic music camp featuring workshops, jamming, and personal interaction with some of the top performers of the roots music world, in a friendly and supportive environment. The Camp is held in Centre Civic La Sedeta, a historical building located in the center of Barcelona that has been converted to a community center.  For two days, more than 100 participants meet at the Bluegrass Camp to learn, play, and enjoy really great bluegrass music. 

The Camp is organized by the Associació de Música Bluegrass y Old-Time Al Ras, the sole organization in Spain dedicated to promoting bluegrass and old-time music. The main organizers of Al Ras are, or course, also musicians. They are involved with the bi-monthly Barcelona Bluegrass Jam and play in various bands around the region.   Organizers include Xavier Cardús, Ignasi Cardús, Jorge Rodriguez, Juan Pablo Caja, Joan Manel Hernandez, and Lluís Gómez. This group organizes and promotes bluegrass and old-time music in Barcelona. For more information on this organization and the activities they sponsor, check out www.alrasfestival.com.

The Barcelona Bluegrass Camp gives students the opportunity to participate in many activities: jams, concerts, workshops, a duet contest, combos, etc. Two common jam songs were given to work on and students were advised to prepare them before arriving. As soon as they arrived, the students met up at La Sedata to play in the Big Jam— it’s the big welcome to the Bluegrass Camp. There are many other opportunities for students to jam during the camp and play with others.

The students also attended two concerts: The Teacher’s Concert, with all the teachers on the stage, and the Student’s Concert. The classes were held at different locations in the Centre Cívic La Sedeta. Teachers met with the students in a room, presenting several exercises for the students to play. Listening one by one, the teacher gives suggestions to improve the student’s playing techniques. 

Workshops with different instruments were held by international teachers: bluegrass banjo (Lluís Gomez and Jake Schepps), old time banjo (David Prat), flatpicking guitar (Josep Traver), fingerpicking guitar (Miguel Talavera), mandolin (Jesper Rübner-Petersen), bluegrass fiddle (Oriol Saña), old time fiddle (Mitch Depew), double bass (Maribel Rivero), harmonica (Juan Pau Cumellas), and vocal harmony (Sharon Lombardi-Jean Marie Redon).  

Student combos are organized so that the students learn how to play with others, and they work up material to perform together on stage. All levels and ages are welcome to the Camp. This year there were at least a dozen students less than 12 years old. Our youngest participant was Carla, a competent 7 year old bluegrass fiddler.  

The location, La Sedeta, was an important silk factory built in 1900. Over 1,000 people worked at the factory during its heyday. Today, it stands as an example of the industrial heritage of Catalunya and serves as an important social, civic, and cultural space. Every year we have many students come to the camp from outside the region because attending the Barcelona Bluegrass Camp is also a good opportunity to partake in the rich cultural history that Barcelona has to offer, such as Gaudi’s modernist architectural masterpiece Sagrada Familia.

Come visit us for the next Barcelona Bluegrass Camp, March, 6-7, 2020.