Dust off those coveralls and pull on a straw hat: a virtual feast of bluegrass music is coming to Maple Ridge over the Labour Day weekend.
From Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, the community will be a hotbed for the genre when the first annual True North Fraser Bluegrass Festival is held at Albion Fairgrounds, off Lougheed Highway and 105 Avenue.
On tap are many bands ranging from international stars to regional award winners, to local favourites.
Festival senior coordinator Robert Hornsey is also the coowner of Maple Ridge-based Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts, which offers music lessons locally.
Bergthorson recently organized a society that will work with other community groups and organizations to cultivate performance opportunities for emerging artists.
That society (known as the Bergthorson Community Musical Education Performance Society) is sponsoring this festival, which has moved west from Chilliwack following a successful 25-year run.
"All of that time, it was always a project of the Chilliwack Arts Council," Hornsey said.
Throughout its quarter-century long existence, the festival never had a losing, or down, year in Chilliwack.
But recently there has been a "re-organization" regarding arts and culture funding in Chilliwack, according to Hornsey.
"They couldn't come to agreement for use of a venue," he added.
Chilliwack Arts Council executive director Rod Hudson was also director of the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival, and when it became apparent that Chilliwack wasn't going to host the event, Hudson was determined to keep it going, somewhere.
That somewhere is now Maple Ridge.
"What we wanted to do is keep it in the Fraser Valley, for one thing," Hornsey said. "And to make a five-year business development plan to expand it into a major destination event that would attract people from Washington, Oregon, Alberta, and B.C. and have it permanently located here."
THE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL:
High Plains Tradition, a 25-year-old group that patterns its musical stylings after legends such as Bill Monroe, the Country Gazette, and Ralph Stanley; The Downtown Mountain Boys, a veteran band from Seattle; 5 On A String, longtime veterans of the Chilliwack festival who are working on their 25th anniversary CD; The Crowe Brothers, guests of the Grand Ole Opry who were voted one of the top bluegrass acts in the nation by SPGMA Bluegrass in Nashville. Hornsey describes The Crowe Brothers as "bluegrass legends"; The Fisher/Stevens Band from Alberta; The Clover Point Drifters from Victoria, who have been active since 2000; and The Still Blue, four friends who draw from progressive bluegrass.
Other features include a continuous open stage in which newly formed groups can sign up and perform, free instrumental and vocal workshops every morning, Sue Malcolm's Slo-Pitch Jam sessions, a trade show, and a free corn roast on Saturday and Sunday night after the mainstage show.
Performances on the main stage run from 6:10 p.m. to past 9:20 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, 11 a.m. to past 9:20 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, and 11 a.m. to the grand finale starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. The festival celebrates bluegrass, a genre popularized in the 1940s by Bill Monroe.
Known as The Father of Bluegrass, Monroe fused Appalachian music, blues, jazz, and old time country music to create the style.
"It was acoustic, it was played un-amplified, and it was the kind of thing that people played in their kitchen and out in their backyard," Hornsey said. "It was family orientated. He [Monroe] not only put his stamp on bluegrass, but he also created a forum for how that would be delivered called a bluegrass circle."
In a circle, each musician gets to play a piece and if so desired, takes a turn at doing a solo lead.
"It's very inclusive, it's very democratic, and respectful," Hornsey said.
Typically, bluegrass's lyrical content revolves around tragedy and heartache, but you wouldn't know it because the tempo of most of the ditties is quite upbeat.
"Things like the Will The Circle Be Unbroken that a lot of people know is about a funeral march," Hornsey said.
For ticket information call 604-467-6613. As of Aug. 15, tickets can also be purchased online at www.truenorthfraserbluegrass. com.
Festivities Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 Albion Fairgrounds Tickets: 604-467-6613 or www.truenorthfraserbluegrass.com
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