On Saturday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Theatre at Washington, following the release earlier this month of “Entwined,” Colorado-based bluegrass banjoist Jake Schepps and his band will spotlight the album’s all-acoustic work — commissioned by Schepps from contemporary classical composers Marc Mellits, Matt McBane and Gyan Riley, as well as mandolinist-composer Matt Flinner.
It’s all about the strings and the versatile gifts they bring — beautiful Appalachian bluegrass tones, modern classical gems, spirited Swedish polkas, and lively jazz tunes. These works are something new, and these gentlemen are masters of their craft. The Wall Street Journal called Schepps’ work “flawless and joyful.” The quintet is comprised of five peerless acoustic musicians with histories of pushing boundaries. Jake Schepps, banjo; Ryan Dickey, violin; Matt Flinner, mandolin; Ross Martin, guitar; Eric Thorin, double bass.
Hailing from Boulder, the banjo pioneer Jake Schepps consistently and confidently “has the excitement of true originality” (says AllMusic.com), and while his nimble touch and deep sensitivity to the five-string banjo’s idiomatic qualities are deeply rooted in traditional and progressive bluegrass styles, his insatiable curiosity and open spirit have brought him to the exciting frontier of new acoustic music, alongside artists like the Punch Brothers, mandolin master David Grisman and violinist Darol Anger. He has made a name for himself as an ingenious arranger and performer of decidedly non-bluegrass material, a reputation that has evolved and deepened over the course of three critically-acclaimed albums — the jazz-inflected “Ten Thousand Leaves” (2007), “An Evening in the Village: The Music of Béla Bartok” (2011) and “Entwined” (2015).
Mandolinist Matt Flinner has made a career out of playing acoustic music in new ways. Guitarist-composer Jordan Tice got his start with the Allman Brothers at age 12 and has developed into a master of bluegrass, jazz, classical, and more. Violinist Ryan Dickey, RockyGrass Fiddle champion, has recently returned from a year on a Fulbright scholarship studying traditional Swedish folk music. Bassist Andrew Small is a polymath musician out of Chapel Hill, N.C., who plays a wide palette of bluegrass and classical. Together with Schepps, they are your guides into a brave new world of music, where borders are a thing of the past and the possibilities are endless.
Jake Schepps Quintet will perform fresh classical pieces written for the traditional string band instruments by composers outside the genre. This sounds nothing like your preconceptions of classical music. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised! For tickets ($20, $10 for ages 17 and younger) or reservations (recommended for preferred seating), call 540-675-1253 or email email@example.com.
The Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community (RAAC) screens “Boyhood” at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6 at the Theatre at Washington. The R-rated drama was written and directed by Richard Linklater, who won best director and best film honors at the recent Golden Globe awards. The film, which stars Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (who won a best supporting actress Golden Globe), chronicles the life of a young man from age 5 to 18. Admission is $6. The concession stand has popcorn, candy and water. For more information, visit www.raac.org or call 800-695-6075.
It’s called the Bland Music Contest, but it’s anything but bland.
Each year, the Rappahannock Lions Club sponsors the only annual juried music competition in the County for school-age children. The contest has been sponsored by the Lions statewide since 1948, and can result in thousands of dollars in scholarships for the state winners.
The prizes are more modest at the county level, but the competition is spirited and worth seeing.
Lion Club President Gordon Axelson noted that “This is an opportunity for our young people to present their musical skills as individuals, in a supportive setting, and to be graded on their skills by other musicians. Each child who stands up on that stage and performs a solo will be awarded $25. The winners in each of the two categories (vocal and instrumental) will receive $100.”
The contest is named after Jimmy A. Bland, a legendary black musician and songwriter of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bland composed over 700 songs, including “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” and “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers”, the theme song for the Philadelphia Mummers Parade.
Bland’s most famous song is “In the Evening by the Moonlight.” Though it was written 136 years ago, Amazon still carries 31 versions of the song in its digital music store.
This year, the Lion Club’s Bland Music Contest will be on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. It will be held at the Theatre on Gay Street, which offers its facility each year at no charge for this community event. The contest is open and free to the public.
“Come out and join us,” says Axelson. “It’s a great way to support our kids while having an enjoyable afternoon in town.”
The Rappahannock Nature Camp’s 30th session will be June 15-26 — but now is the time to sign up! Our day camp has space for 24 campers and it usually fills up quickly. Your devoted, fun-loving, hard-working director (yours truly) had to scramble in January to line up a camp sponsor, but I am immensely pleased to report that Headwaters, Rappahannock’s respected educational foundation, will be our new sponsor.
So, more than ever, I am looking forward to two weeks of nature observation, exploring, river hiking, turtle racing, coyote walking, dam building. We’ll even camp out for one night. As always, our goal will be to observe living plants and animals in their own natural environments, and to understand what it means to be a part of a community of living things. This year, we’ll be studying “Flying Things” — birds, bugs, bats, butterflies, bees, moths, dragonflies, clouds and (weather permitting on our night of camping) imaginary inhabitants of the starry night sky.
We were not able to arrange for a second session (for older campers) this year, but if you are 8 to 12 years old, pick up a blue brochure at the Headwaters office (at the Sperryville Schoolhouse), the kiosk at the Washington Post Office or the Rappahannock Extension Office. Or you can contact me at 540-987-9530 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you’d like a copy of our awesome 12-page 2014 newsletter, written and illustrated by the campers. And, first chance you get, say thank you to Headwaters. See you at camp!
— Lyt Wood
Rappahannock painter Nedra Smith had four paintings chosen for the juried exhibit, “On Main Street,” a look through painters’ eyes at America’s cultural icon, running Feb. 7 through March1 at Byrne Gallery — including an oil that depicts the Theatre at Washington, and two others that feature the town’s annual Christmas parade. The Theatre painting — and, yes, of course, the Theatre is not on Main Street but actually on Gay Street, though it hardly matters — was chosen for the show’s official poster and card.