Note: The first of a seven-concert Bluegrass series begins Saturday with Beppe Gambetta and Dan Crary at 7:30 p.m., Cashmere Riverside Center. For details: cashmerecoffeehouse.com or 548-1230.
The mission of the Cashmere Community Concert Series, a non-profit organization started in 2001, is to familiarize folks with bluegrass music. We believe this means sharing this traditional style of music and encouraging young talent. We do this with our monthly concerts at the Cashmere Riverside Center, and our biggest event, The Wenatchee River Bluegrass Festival. Both venues feature well-known regional favorites, as well as nationally famous bluegrass bands.
So what is bluegrass music? Here are five things to know:
1. This music is as old as the hills. It is the music that came to our shores with the early settlers. It is traditional music with roots based in Ireland, Scotland, England, and even Africa. This style of music is typically performed on acoustic stringed instruments. The beat is laid down by an upright bass, the off beats by the mandolin and fiddle (no drums needed here, folks). There’s the solid rhythm of a guitar, the lonesome sound of a dobro, and the resonating sounds of the banjo. Then someone who is brave enough will handle the vocals, with two or more joining in with some sweet harmonies. Now that’s bluegrass.
2. Bluegrass songs generally tell a story: anything from mama’s cooking, the Bottomland where the musician was raised, or a soldier killed in the Civil War clutching a photo of his three children. Either the song puts a smile on your face, or a tear in your eye.
3. Next are the waltzes or just good ole instrumentals, in which a person may find themselves swaying with the rhythm, tapping their foot in time, or if it is a real good fast one, find themselves dancing around the living room.
4. Past bluegrass greats include Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Hazel Dickens and The Stanley Brothers. Now we have bluegrass favorites like Alison Krauss, The Seldom Scene, The Gibson Brothers, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, my personal fiddle hero Stuart Duncan, and many others. My introduction to bluegrass was by my mother, who listened to the Grand Ole Opry. My brothers and I referred to it as “Mom’s Music”; we listened to Rock & Roll. Years later, with the release of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” I found the same love for this music that was “Mom’s Music.”
5. Bluegrass is not only music, it is also the people; whether they are a musician, or someone who just loves the music, these folks are simply good down-to-earth people. They are respectful of each other’s abilities, no matter what level; a seasoned player or someone just starting. Fifteen years ago as a beginning fiddle player, they took me under their wing and made me feel welcome, and they continue to do so. Not only are we Bluegrass Friends, we are a Bluegrass Family. Something very special, a true gift.