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All Canadian line-up at this year’s Bluegrass Festival

June 23, 2022   ·   0 Comments

It is three days of great live music held at the natural amphitheatre at the Tottenham Conservation Area, and this year the Tottenham Bluegrass Festival has returned after being on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic.

This year will feature an all-Canadian line-up of musicians.

Organizers erred on the side of caution for the return of the festival because of worries during the planning stage that American performers may run into trouble crossing the border with the pandemic still a concern at the time.

The all-Canadian line-up means the show will feature several exciting bands from across the country.

At the festival, many informal jam sessions take place in the campground over the weekend where people bring their own instruments.

Bluegrass Festival committee chair Jerry Switzer, who also has a band performing at the Festival, said there is a real camaraderie among bluegrass enthusiasts that makes the music fun to watch, as well as be a part of.

“That’s what the festival is all about,” he explained. “It’s not just what is happening on the stage. The skill level of players goes from ground zero to very skilled. Much of the activity happens around the campfires. That’s why I love bluegrass.”

Many people attend the entire event watching some bands, taking a break, then coming back for the evening performances. Others will buy a day pass and spend the day listening to the music.

Jerry’s band, Beeton Creek Rising, is a five-piece ensemble featuring Jerry, Doug Cornish on banjo, Sharon Niederhuber on vocals and guitar, Jan Reimers on mandolin, and Gray Niederhuber on bass.

Jerry is an accomplished lifelong musician who picked up his first guitar in his early teens, and also plays banjo, dobro, and fiddle. He is often seen performing at events around Tottenham, and Beeton Creek Rising plays at festivals around the province.

Bluegrass is a unique style of music. Instruments used are fiddle, guitar, mandolin, upright bass, banjo, and dobro. The music is all acoustic. No drums are ever used when performing bluegrass.

The rhythm and timing come from the stringed instruments.

“It’s very rewarding, because no matter you play, I can follow you,” Jerry explained. “I could follow you and play a break on whatever you doing. That’s the magic of the bluegrass – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do it. There are certain rules you follow in bluegrass music when you have a jam session. You may have ten people but they all follow the rules – if you can’t hear the singer, you’re playing too loud,” he explained of the way bluegrass music is played among enthusiasts.

Bluegrass music is unique as every musician contributes evenly when performing.

“There’s no real star in bluegrass,” Jerry explained. “The best thing about bluegrass is sharing the music with others.

The other local band appearing at this festival is Switchback Road.

The band has Mike Kirley on mandolin and vocals, Al Neff on guitar and vocals, Drew Elmer, bass and vocals, Samuel Ganton, fiddle and vocals, and Denis Lepage on vocals.

Switchback Road is a group of very talented and very experienced musicians.

On the stage this year  14 bands that will be performing including some big names in bluegrass.

Headlining are J.P Comier, and the Good Brothers.

In the line-up, bands include Vaudevillian, The New General Store, Vasser, Concession23, The Nelson Family, Simply Blu, Denis Lepage and South Wind, and Alicia Robicheau & Lonesome Sound.

The festival is also bringing back the children’ talent contest on Saturday.

The Tottenham Bluegrass Festival will take place at the Tottenham Conservation Area from Friday, June 24, to Sunday, June 26.

By Brian Lockhart


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