Expedition Quartet to St. Petersburg

Colorado banjo player Jake Schepps and his band, Expedition Quartet, have just arrived in Russia. They have been invited to compete in the 1st Annual Terem Crossover in St. Petersburg this week, where they will go up against dozens of other small ensembles from all over the world. The Quartet consists of Schepps on banjo, Ryan Drickey on fiddle, Grant Gordy on guitar and Ian Hutchison on bass.

The competition is hosted by St. Petersburg’s renowned Terem Quartet, and the contest takes its theme from their melding of folk, classical and original music. It is open to any ensemble of 2-7 acoustic instruments, with particular emphasis placed on the “Crossover” aspect of their music. Entrants were selected through video submissions, and the semi-final and final rounds are scheduled for March 22-25 in St. Petersburg.

Jake shared a bit more information about their participation shortly before leaving on Sunday.

“Terem Crossover is a fascinating and challenging competition, mainly in the fact that the early rounds focus on music each act’s choosing, but Round 3 requires music by a both a classical composer and a selection from one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets. We have prepared a Béla Bartok piece and have arranged Dance of the Swans from Swan Lake for stringband.

Round 1 was via video late last fall, and we submitted the piece Somerset from my album Ten Thousand Leaves, a fiddle tune in 7/8 by Ryan Drickey, and the aforementioned Béla Bartok piece An Evening in the Village.

Round 2 takes place in St. Petersburg, and consists of a selection from Round 1, and something that creatively represents our group. We have worked up a fiddle tune medley, replete with metric modulations, key changes, and a more driving bluegrass vibe.

Of the 70 bands, about 50 are from Russia, then several from Europe, Japan, Brazil, and beyond. Musically, there are quite a few balalaika bands, a couple bass quartets, a cello trio, an oboe quartet, and several other bands that seem more classically oriented. We are the only one from the USA, and the only one with a banjo. The prizes include a significant purse, a potential concert tour of Russia, and a spectacular trophy. There are workshops, concerts, and music throughout the week.

We are competing on Friday, and then have a show Friday night in St. Petersburg.”

Jake tells me that his Russian is limited to “hello” and “thank you” at this time, but that he planned to listen to several podcasts on his iPod during the flight in preparation. He also pointed us to this video of the music they would be performing.

You can follow their Russian adventure on Jake’s Facebook and Twitter pages online.

Good luck guys!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.