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Bluegrass something to fiddle with

Brackendale Bluegrass Festival hosts evening concert, daytime workshops



What: 4th Annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival

When: Saturday, May 6

Where: Brackendale Art Gallery

Tickets: $15/$10

Who can’t get enough of those rapid-firing tempos and jazz-like improvisations bluegrass music affords? Instruments switch off to give each acoustic artist their run at that high lonesome sound interwoven with sentimental storytelling.

There is no lead instrument, no fiddle narrowed to merely an accompaniment role. Each instrument has its turn in the sun: vocals, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar.

In the spirit of the American-born genre, the fourth annual Brackendale Bluegrass Festival Saturday, May 6 at the Brackendale Art Gallery (BAG) unites musicians and music lovers alike with workshops by day and concerts by night.

"I think it is pretty easy for people to get involved in it," said Cam Salay, musician and event organizer.

"It’s a great learning experience as well as great entertainment."

Salay is a longtime fan of the bluegrass festival circuit, where workshops play as important a role as the concerts themselves. Master guitarists, fiddlists and banjo players like himself pass on secrets of the music tradition, both inspiring and being inspired in turn in a supportive, laid back environment.

"It’s not intimidating at all," Salay said of the workshop format. "That is the nice charm of it. Beginners and intermediates are invited to join… Bluegrass is very accessible to beginner (musicians). It’s a good starting block for anyone wanting to start playing acoustic music."

Salay will host a banjo workshop at 3 p.m. Matt Kennedy will teach mandolin at 4 p.m. Connie Jean Thiessen and Lorraine Cobb will instruct both a guitar workshop at 5 p.m. and a vocal workshop at 8 p.m.

And even if the three-chord standard for most bluegrass tunes intimidates, feel free to leave the guitar at home and sit back to listen to how the pros tackle those strings with a concert from The Mountain Bluebirds and The Courageous Mountain Rangers at 8 p.m.

Vancouver’s Mountain Bluebirds romp through bluegrass with tight harmonies and foot-tapping acoustics. The six-piece band threatens "no one gets out (of one of their concerts) without a smile."

Pemberton’s The Courageous Mountain Rangers, formerly known about these parts as the Tragically Hick, will also strike up a sunshine chord for the evening.

Workshop tickets are $10 and the concert $15. Pick up advance concert tickets at the BAG and Mostly Books in Squamish. Register for workshops by calling Cam at 604-898-2338.