Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Russian-American bluegrass jamboree

Pete and Joan Wernick and Justin Hoffenberg have returned from headlining the first-ever Russia-America Bluegrass Jamboree. The event took place July 20 and 21, 2010 in the cities of Vologda and Semenkovo in "deep Russia", an overnight train east from St. Petersburg. See their report, with links to video, on  the web site.
Our trip was arranged expressly for the purpose of bridging the gap between Americans and Russians. Thanks to all the positive attention we got, from concertgoers, from the media, and from the various officials in the Consulate world, both American and Russian, it seems it was a successful effort. I felt a serious responsibility, representing America to such a large number of Russians, and representing bluegrass music as well. The main Jamboree event we played was in the town center of a sizable city amid ancient buildings. Vologda is in a farming area, famous for butter, ice cream, linen, and lace (not bad!). The people there are used to long winters, hard work, and quite a lot of loss. They can be high spirited, and really believe in festivities, and in their kids. So we got some good tastes of those aspects, and enjoyed three very elaborate "official" type meals with Russian and Consul hosts. A second performance took place at a historical museum comparable to Williamsburg.

There has been some interest in bluegrass and country music in Russia for some years. Best known was the group Bering Strait, which I think disbanded a few years ago -- and tried to break in to Nashville. The band was the subject of a documentary film that can be viewed online.

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