Welcome to this year’s edition of our newsletter, the Postcard from Swannanoa. This summer the Gathering’s new Admin team welcomed our biggest group ever.
Our spring Celtic Series, a part of the Mainstage Concerts at Asheville’s Diana Wortham Theatre, presents some of the world’s finest Celtic artists, and last year featured concerts by Eileen Ivers and We Banjo 3. See the “P.S.” section below for details on next spring’s concerts.
To reduce conflicts with other events, this year the order of our programs was revised, with Week 5’s programs (Fiddle and Mando & Banjo) moving to the Week 1 slot and all the other programs shifting over a week in the schedule.
Fiddle Week continues its partnership with Mando & Banjo Week, as the two programs combined jams and band sessions, and members of both staffs performed in the staff concerts over three nights. This year’s Luthier’s Exhibit featured violinmaker Joe Thrift and bowmaker Roger Treat. Coordinator Julia Weatherford’s staff this year included bluegrass phenom Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, creative dynamo Joe Craven, jazz great Andy Stein, old-time fiddlers Erynn Marshall and Josh Goforth, Irish fiddler Liz Knowles, multi-stylist Alex Hargreaves, Scottish fiddler Laura Risk, Brazilian choro fiddler Andrew Finn Magill, Nora Garver teaching beginners technique, guitarist Greg Ruby and bassist Kevin Kehrberg.
Mando & Banjo Week featured such world-class mandolinists as Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg, bluegrass greats Alan Bibey, and John Reischman, jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg, Celtic mandolin/guitar player David Surette, choro player Tim Connell, Newgrass master Matt Flinner, blues player Steve James, and Mandolin for Dummies author Don Julin. The banjo staff was led by bluegrass masters Tony Trischka and Bill Evans, with Paul Brown and Terri McMurray teaching the traditional old-time clawhammer banjo style. Ed Dodson taught guitar and led the daily bluegrass jam, while legendary mandolin builder Lynn Dudenbostel was again on-hand to offer expert repair work.
Our vocal program, Traditional Song Week, welcomed newcomer Grammy-winner Suzy Bogguss to the staff that also featured singer and activist Reggie Harris, Irish singer Nuala Kennedy, bluegrass and old-time veteran Joe Newberry, Riders in the Sky’s Ranger Doug, Karl Scully of the Four Irish Tenors, Thistle & Shamrock host Fiona Ritchie, coordinator Julee Glaub Weems, ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle, gospel singer Kathy Bullock, Irish ballad singer Len Graham, early country & honky-tonk specialist Mark Weems, multi-talented Appalachian musician Josh Goforth, Nashville guitarist Tim May, and community singer Matt Watroba. Special guests included old-time artist Carl Jones, Scottish singer Ed Miller and Grammy-winning member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom Flemons. Melissa Hyman offered a Fairy Tale-themed program for children during Traditional Song, Celtic, and Old-Time Weeks.
Celtic Week continued to be our largest single program and welcomed a few new staff this year including mandolinist Dave Cory, flute & whistle player Shannon Heaton, and Conor Hearn, who subbed for an injured Owen Marshall. After a long absence, we also welcomed back the great fiddler Gerry O’Connor. They joined veteran fiddlers Liz Carroll, Colin Farrell, Katie McNally, Liz Knowles, Mari Black, Alasdair White, Rose Flanagan and Caitlin Warbelow, guitarists Eamon O’Leary, Robin Bullock and John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy on flute and voice, storyteller Maírtín de Cógáin, bodhran player Anna Colliton, multi-instrumentalist piper Kieran O’Hare, singers Len Graham, Dave Curley and Ed Miller, harpers Billy Jackson and Gráinne Hambly, Cillian Vallely on whistle, Lúnasa flute player Kevin Crawford, accordionist John Whelan, sean nós dancer Siobhan Butler and John Skelton again served as the Celtic Week Host.
Old-Time Music & Dance Week had another big group, attracted by Coordinator Erynn Marshall’s terrific lineup that included Brad Leftwich, Bruce Molsky, Greg & Jere Canote, Evie Ladin, Phil Jamison, Kay Justice, Kari Sickenberger, Linda Higginbotham, John Hollandsworth, Carl Jones, Sheila Kay Adams, Tatiana Hargreaves, Vollie McKenzie, Ellie Grace, Abby Ladin, Rachel Eddy, Sam Bartlett, Travis Stuart, John Herrmann, Gordy Hinners, Meredith McIntosh, Paul Brown, Ben Nelson, folklorist and shape-note singer Ron Pen and dulcimer ace Don Pedi. This year’s Guest Master Artists were fiddler Bruce Greene, ballad singer Bobby McMillon, banjoist Larry Sigmon, Emily Spencer and dancers Mack & Thelma Samples and Thomas Maupin, accompanied by the irrepressible Daniel Rockwell.
Contemporary Folk Week welcomed back Asheville’s own David Wilcox and newcomer Moira Smiley, along with veteran staff members Tom Paxton, Kathy Mattea, John Gorka, Peter Mulvey, Vance Gilbert, Don Henry, Amy Speace, Ellis Paul, Jon Vezner, Joe Craven, Nora Jane Struthers and Camela Widad to the staff. Kim Richardson again acted as the Contemporary Folk Week Host.
New Guitar Week coordinator Greg Ruby tbrought in several new instructors this year to complement the veterans. Newcomers Christie Lenée, the 2017 International Fingerstyle Champ, flatpicker Grant Gordy, gypsy jazz guitarist Gonzalo Bergara and fingerstylist Hiroya Tsukamoto joined blues players Steve James, Scott Ainslie and Del Rey, percussive guitarist Vicki Genfan, Jazz player Sean McGowan, Celtic fingerstylists Robin Bullock and Steve Baughman, British fingerstylists Clive Carroll and Tony McManus, bluegrasser Ed Dodson, Jamie Stillway and A Prairie Home Companion’s Pat Donohue to create a staff with truly an international flavor, while instrument repairman Randy Hughes diagnosed problems to complement our Luthiers Exhibit which featured instruments by master luthiers John Slobod, Tyler Robbins and Jonathan Razo, along with selected inventory from Dream Guitars, a local shop specializing in high-end instruments. The week and the summer concluded with the return of the Friday night Luau, catered by our own Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Patrick Landeza.
Check out the “Coming Next Summer” section for a sneak preview of the 2019 lineup.