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Musicians pay tribute to bluegrass legend at camp

Musicians pay tribute to bluegrass legend at camp

Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2008 9:16 pm
By: AP

  OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — They came from across the country and across the ocean in the name of bluegrass.

On what would have been the 97th birthday of Bill Monroe, the creator of bluegrass music, beginners and more seasoned players alike gathered to devote themselves to studying the genre as part of a three-day mandolin camp held by the International Bluegrass Museum.

With a little help from some accomplished players, a few with some very famous names, the students and teachers devoted themselves to a form of music that has been around for decades and the one-of-a-kind style made famous by Monroe.

“It’s tremendously satisfying because Bill Monroe left a legacy that we want people to remember and celebrate,” said Mike Lawing, assistant director of the museum and director of the mandolin camp.

Some of the more famous names present included Bobby Osborne, of the bluegrass group the Osborne Brothers, and Mike Compton, who played many mandolin parts for the soundtrack of the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou” and performs with the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

Others, however, came from far and wide. The 43 students at the camp represented 18 different states, as well as Canada, England and France.

Bruno Adam, from Pertuis, France, discovered bluegrass music in 2004 at a festival in Bristo, where he met bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. Since then, Adam said he has been hooked.

“Bluegrass, it’s my life,” Adam said. “I really love the sound of the fiddle, of the mandolin. It’s a deep music with a lot of soul. This kind of music takes me in the heart.”

Coming from France to be a part of the camp, Adam said, “is like a dream.”

“In France, bluegrass, it’s not very well known,” Adam said. “I came here to live bluegrass.”

For Sid Griffin, coming to play bluegrass in Owensboro was a homecoming. Originally from Owensboro, Griffin now lives in London, England, and writes for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“When you live abroad, you lose touch with some things. Playing this music allows me to touch that base and come back here. It’s like recharging your batteries,” Griffin said. “I can come home and pick this music.”

Bluegrass, he said, is popular in England and elsewhere throughout Europe. Just a week before the Sept. 13 session of the weekend camp, Griffin was in Lisbon, Portugal, performing Bluegrass music before large crowds at a festival.

“It was just terrific to see Portuguese kids in a daisy chain dancing to music played by Bill Monroe,” Griffin said. “It gets bigger every year and it’s interesting how many young people like it.”

Compton, who studied under Bill Monroe, said it’s important that this musical style keeps going, especially with its common themes such as those of love, heartbreak and loss.

“It’s part of our tradition, it’s part of who we are,” Compton said. “The songs are about real things.”

Seeing the style continue, even decades after Monroe created it, is its own sort of proof.

“It just shows me that it’s no less valid that it ever was,” Compton said. “It gives me some hope.”

Richard Brown, a Boston dentist who teaches part-time at Harvard University, was another of the faculty. Brown, who has devoted years to Bluegrass and even once shared the stage playing with Bill Monroe, said it’s a great relief to him that Bluegrass has continued on. “I thought the style would die,” Brown said of his feelings when Monroe died in 1996. 

“It feels really great to be here. I really think that it’s really great to have people interested in traditional Bluegrass.”
Published in The Messenger 10.01.08

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