Bluegrass as it was meant to be

5 on a String is (from left to right): Hugh Ellenwood, fiddle; Garry Stevenson, guitar; Dan Mornar, upright bass; Gordie Sadler, banjo; and Tim Eccles, mandolin. - courtesy Gord Sadler
5 on a String is (from left to right): Hugh Ellenwood, fiddle; Garry Stevenson, guitar; Dan Mornar, upright bass; Gordie Sadler, banjo; and Tim Eccles, mandolin.
— image credit: courtesy Gord Sadler

Here's a piece of trivia that might help in your next game of Trivial Pursuit.

What band put bluegrass music on the map?

Bill Munroe and the Bluegrass Boys, a Kentucky band, in 1938.

If the answer just rolled off your tongue, then you'll probably be interested in attending Chemainus' fourth annual Blue Grass Festival, being held July 26 and 27.

While there are a number of bluegrass festivals on Vancouver Island this summer in Sooke, Cowichan Bay, and in Coombs, there's something special about the one being held in our backyard.

"It's a little different than most," said organizer Bob Johns, president of the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society, which organizes the show. "It's for two days only, it's much less expensive and it's friendly and small. Bands that have played here have told us, 'It's special, try to keep it small.'"

According to Gord Sadler, a founding member of one of the festival's featured bands, the aptly named 5 on a String band, it's the combination of the fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass fiddle and a guitar that gives bluegrass its unique sound.

"It's simple music," the banjo player said. "It's roots are in British and Irish fiddle tunes, a blues sound, mixed in with gospel music."

Another appeal is its subject matter, which springs from the Great Depression. Bluegrass songs are often about, "the old home," and missing people and places.

"Everyone has nostalgia for the way things used to be," Sadler said.

The musician, who has been playing the banjo for 40 years, "longer than I should admit," said some of the more well-known bluegrass tunes have been popularized in the car chase scenes in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, the theme song for Deliverance, as well as the title song for the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Though, starring George Clooney.

Of the bands now booked — Johns said currently five, hopefully more by showtime — two are from Vancouver Island. Duncan's The Moon Riders, featuring Sharon Dudka's amazing voice, are performing both days, because they proved so popular last year. Rounding out the Island's bands is Johns' own, Bluegrass Fever.

Last year some 1,000 people attended, so if you're thinking of bringing the RV, it's best to book in advance. As in the past, the Saltair Pub is providing free camping for RVers. To reserve your spot, contact pub manager Peter Matthews at petermatthews@shaw.ca.

Jamming opportunities are also available on the pub's grounds, whether you're camping there or not.

For further information, email festival@chemainusbluegrass.com, or visit www.chemainusbluegrass.com.

Your ticket

What: Chemainus Bluegrass Festival

When: July 26 and 27

Where: Waterwheel Park, lawnchairs are recommended; food but no alcohol will be sold

Tickets: July 26, $15 suggested contribution; July 27, $10, or buy a two-day pass for $20. Family passes are available. For further information, visit  http://www.chemainusbluegrass.com/index.html.



Saturday, July 26

11 a.m. Bluegrass Fever

Noon Moon Riders

1 p.m. Tishomingo String Band

2 p.m. Steep Ravine

3 p.m. 5 on aString

4 p.m. Bluegrass Fever

5 p.m. Tishomingo String Band

6 p.m. Moon Riders

7 p.m. Steep Ravine

8 p.m. 5 on a String

Sunday, July 27

Noon 5 on a String (Sunday gospel set)

2:30 p.m. Moon Riders

1:30 p.m. Bluegrass Fever

2:30 p.m. Tishomingo String Band

3:30 p.m. SteepRavine

4:30 p.m. 5 on a String

5:30 p.m. Grand Finale


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...