John Reischman and Scott Nygaard at Wintergrass 2017 – photo © Tara Linhardt
Each year the Wintergrass festival has a theme that they weave throughout the festival. They notify all the musicians hired for the festival as well, and they also weave that theme into their sets and discussions and song choices. It is a cool idea where they can often tie in some of the history and concepts related to what is now bluegrass music. This year’s theme was Bach to Bluegrass, so there were many ways that the classical and bluegrass artists overlapped and tied in. There was plenty of straight ahead bluegrass to be found, but there were also some cool auditory flavors that one does not find at every bluegrass festival.
There is also the Youth Orchestra which works with two great conductors, and also with an all star cast of bluegrass greats, all playing together. The final show with all hands on deck occurs on Sunday, but unfortunately I flew home Sunday morning. Next year I hope to come back to this festival for all four days and try to not miss any of the fun. I did get a little clip from the practice time of the Youth Orchestra playing with the great bluegrassy band Mr. Sun because I thought for those of you around the country it would be hard to imagine what the photos would sound like.
There were also not just the workshops for pickers hoping to learn more musical knowledge, but there were also ones like the workshop I attended for people looking to incorporate bluegrass and Americana music into their teaching at various levels and types of classrooms. Tom Peterson led a great workshop where he handed out lesson plans that could be used by teachers and handouts with great tidbits of historical information to get students who think they will not be interested in bluegrass/old time and traditional American musics to open their minds and maybe think it is cool.
Like did you know that Pete Townshend started out playing bluegrass on a banjo-mandolin? Or did you know that Elvis Presley had said that he had wanted to be a Bluegrass Boy? Or how about that James Brown’s first foray into performance was playing bluegrass tunes on a harmonica and clogging outside of Country music radio station WRDW in the 1940s?
Here are some more tastes of the Bach to Bluegrass year of Wintergrass 2017.
What I’ve been able share from Wintergrass is just a small taste of all the fun, but really one should come and experience this festival for themselves. If you have never been, try to put it on your festival map for next year, and if you have an instrument make sure to bring it along. You will find bluegrass jams a’plenty, as well as some old time, swing, Choro, country, Texas swing, gypsy jazz and some sundry other possibilities to get into as well.
Whether you are a picker, a soon to be picker, or just a music fan you are sure to have a great time!
Here’s a few more videos from Saturday, starting with John Reischman and Scott Nygaard.
Caterina Lichtenberg and Mike Marshall doing Elzic’s Farewell…
Turtle Island String Quartet…