It’s always happy news when another bluegrass festival launches, but even more so when they pop up outside the zone that spawned the first ones more than 50 years ago. There may still be more of these festivals in the southeastern US than anywhere else, but it is no longer off to learn of them occurring all over the world.
2018 will mark the debut of another, the Greenvalley Festival of Bluegrass Music in Switzerland’s lovely Emmantal valley. It will be held in the HSR Arena in the town of Ramsei, located in the canton of Bern, June 8-10.
The festival is the brainchild of Swiss banjo player Silvio Beltrametti, who lives in Thun, and performs there with Frets Unlimited. He tells us that there is a good bit of bluegrass there in Switzerland, and even a couple of festivals, but none like the outdoor weekend events he remembers from the time he spent living in the US some years ago. He wanted to introduce the campground and parking lot picking scene to bluegrass lovers closer to home, and he discovered a perfect spot last year to host a new event.
“Since my wife and I lived in Los Angeles, oh my it’s over 20 years ago now, I personally dream of a bigger festival here in Switzerland that gives us all the opportunities you guys have. Now last December when I was invited to a cheese fondue night at a little western village, good old Bill Monroe flashed up before my eyes when I walked through the village, and I knew that I had my chance to do it! So first of all I decided to do a little festival with my partner band Hot Destination (it’s a trio with two legendary swiss bluegrass players who started the first bluegrass band of Switzerland in the early ’70s called Bluegrass Blossoms), and one or two more bands from Switzerland. I just wanted a festival for musicians with nonstop jam’s from Friday to Sunday.
Since I reconized the village has more then a 7 acre field to build a campsite, and the feedback from the European bluegrass people is great, I couldn’t stop building up the festival untill today. Now it’s going to be even more than a bluegrass festival, it will also be a great big western fan gathering with cowboys, Indians and everything in between. Except country music – although I love it too.” 😉
Something that not many stateside fans understand is that in central Europe, many lovers of bluegrass and country music associate it with the tales and the culture of the American Old West. There is respect and admiration for both the native peoples who had originally settled in the plains, and the new settlers who moved west, mostly of European descent. So you can expect to see roping displays, and plenty of people decked out in their western wear at Greenvalley.
Silvio has booked several groups from Belgium and Germany as well as Switzerland, and has a number of jam sessions scheduled during the weekend. The venue is a recreated Western village, with jamming get-togethers planned throughout. There will be a There’s a western saloon jam, a chuck wagon jam, a fireplace jam and a campground jam. He is also a professional storyteller, and will share ancient stories of the Blackfeet nation at the festival, while a storytelling friend of his will tell cowboy and old west stories.
Everyone is invited to attend, and the admission is free. Silvio says that any American or European pickers who may be traveling through in June are also welcome. They will even have spare instruments for you to join in!
See all the details online.