Saturday, October 4, 2008

37th Fiddlers' Festival set for Sunday


The twang of banjos, hum of fiddles and cascading notes from mandolins will fill the air Sunday at the Stow House in Goleta, when hundreds of musicians and “old timey” music fans flock to the 37th annual Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention and Festival.
“It’s music everywhere,” said festival organizer Gary Jensen. “A lot of people like this festival because it’s old timey. The ambience is just perfect.”

On one stage, organized bands like The Brothers Barton, Foggy Dew, The Stiff Pickle Orchestra and the Old Time Fiddler Band will perform. On another, contestants will compete for cash prizes in categories ranging from singing to banjo, and from mandolin to miscellaneous.
In the midst of this sound spectacular, anyone interested and armed with an instrument is welcome to jump into a jam session.
The key to this festival, and what distinguishes it from the more common bluegrass festivals, is its emphasis on old-time music.
Those who enter the competition have to abide by only one rule: the music must be in the old-time style.
Jensen said old-time music predates bluegrass and has its roots in Appalachia, where floods of immigrants from Scotland, England and Ireland settled and brought their distinct sounds along.
And with the melting pot cliché working on different cultures in cities across the country, what resulted was a music that became distinctly American.
Jensen said old-time music is stylistically different from bluegrass.
Jensen, who plays the banjo, mandolin and bodhram, an Irish drum, explained the difference in relation to the banjo.
He said old-time banjos have an open back and are played with a claw hammer style, which is defined by a sort of beating on the banjo, rather than using finger picks.
Jensen demonstrated the style yesterday from his home on a new Deerling classic open back banjo that will be auctioned off at the festival.
Instead of using picks, Jensen used his thumb to pluck the top string, while connecting with lower notes in an upward stroke with his index finger.
Jensen said last year’s festival drew 1,000 people, the majority of whom came from out of town.
He said old-time music fans from San Diego to San Francisco mark the date on their calendars each year.
“It’s just fun,” Jensen said. “The musicians just like to get together and jam.”
And those who aren’t musicians can enjoy the music, which isn’t strictly old-time. Jensen said there will be some bluegrass and blues as well.
“It’s just good American music,” Jensen said.
The festival was first held in 1972 and was organized by Santa Ynez bluegrass musician Peter Feldman.
Its first home was on the campus of UC Santa Barbara, and then on a baseball field nearby. For the past several years has found a home at the Stow House.
Aside from the music, chances to win a Fender banjo, Lanikai ukulele and four guitar lessons with a month guitar rental will be raffled off.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for teens. Children under six get in free.

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