A bluegrass festival is more than just engaging music according to Linda Thorburn.
The banjo-player has been playing the music and attending bluegrass festivals for around 35 years. She said she has heard a statistic that around 97 per cent of the general population don’t know what bluegrass music is, and she’s keen for people to find out and enjoy it as much as she does.
“Bluegrass music eludes a happy feeling, which is why it is so much fun to play and sing,” she said.
Bluegrass music invites the listener to bring out their instrument and play along, Thorburn said, and allows people to harken back to happy memories of singing favourite campfire tunes. Bluegrass Festivals are often known for their warm, friendly atmospheres, where strangers greet each other and parents feel safe letting their children run free and dance.
The fourth annual Lighthouse Bluegrass Festival takes place June 26 through 29 at the Lighthouse Community Centre in Qualicum Bay and Thorburn is one of the organizers. She has also been a big part of the Coombs Bluegrass Festival (celebrating 36 years this year) taking place July 31 through August 3. Both are presented by the Mid Island Bluegrass Society.
Music at bluegrass festivals is played spontaneously and acoustically, Thorburn said, as opposed to following notes on paper. The music is played with the spirit and stories of the people performing.
“Songs are about life: heros, lost love, tragic romance, and stories of bravery, much like folk music but there are less ballads and the music is usually faster,” she said.
First class musicians are traveling to perform at Lighthouse Bluegrass this month, including Lonesome Meadow from Ohio, Lonesome Otis from San Diego and North Country from Washington.
There is weekend camping at both festivals where much of the signature “parking lot pickin’ takes place in people’s sites. Thorburn said musicians have been known to play all night and this friendly atmosphere is where music is learned and passed on through generations.
“The music is sweet and pleasant and soon you drift off to sleep, and you wake up the same way.”