Shanti Emerson: Outdoor summer concerts at the fairgrounds a wonderful opportunity
August 6, 2018
What a wonderful opportunity awaits us every year at the most beautiful fairgrounds in California. Five outdoor concert series! Each series has its distinct personality with different audiences, each passionate about that particular genre of music.
Hundreds of people sit cheek to cheek in tiny chairs listening to musicians playing from morning to night. Each event offers special musical workshops, yoga and activities for children.
The Strawberry Festival on Memorial Day Weekend has a huge following which takes up all the camping spots. With the campers organized into clans, there is lots of action in the RV park with amateurs sharing a beer or a joint and playing jam sessions with pickup bands. On the grounds, more than 20 acts performed on the main stage and many others on the side venues.
Father's Day brought the 43rd Bluegrass Festival. The sounds of the zither, banjo and mandolin brought tears to the eyes of the faithful. Many musical groups are southern families, with some performers growing up on our stage. Jeans and boots are the normal attire.
The Music in the Mountains Summer Fest has been at the Fairgrounds for over 37 years. This sophisticated audience enjoys classical music played by a world class orchestra, and in the summer, in addition to Rachmaninoff and Brahms, Music in the Mountains will book the likes of Judy Collins, the Fab Four Tribute Band, etc.
This year the Bernstein/Gershwin concert drew great enthusiasm, but it was the lovely ten year-old girl violin prodigy, Amaryn Olmeda, who stole the hearts of everyone who saw, heard or talked to her.
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Music in the Mountains does so much for the children in our community with their brilliant Young Composers Project, Youth Orchestra, and Young Musicians Competition and Showcase. They provide musical curricula such as Carnegie Link up, Music Live concerts and teacher training for the classrooms. It is incalculable the support Music in the Mountains has given for children's music in our county.
The fourth series, WorldFest, 22 years old, organized by Center for the Arts, overfills the parking lots and camp grounds. The mission of WorldFest is not to just entertain the public but to heal the world through sharing international music. Awesome!
As a celebration of world culture, WorldFest honored the indigenous people with spokesperson Shelly Covert of the Nisenan Tribe at the opening ceremonies.
A South Korean quartet, three men and a woman, three drums and a horn, played music so different from ours that it sounded cacophonous. But as time passed, the audience began to like it. A drummer dressed in a tunic with Korean calligraphy spoke little English but said, "I like America!" Tears came to my eyes. How long had it been since I'd heard that? "I like you people," he said. Then he taught us two Korean words. Their language is not only phonetic but also tonal. The audience struggled with the tonality, but we experienced unity with South Korea. It felt good.
The WorldFest crowd was quite different, mostly from the demographic Nevada County has sadly lost — the 20 to 35 year olds. With their body art, interesting hairdos, and unconventional clothing (serapes, sarongs, top hats, fringed boots and short short shorts), they were totally enthusiastic about every group and every country at this event. If I hadn't known it was 2018, I would have thought it was 1968. The youth were dancing, kissing and hugging. I wouldn't be surprised if a few children were conceived at WorldFest.
They seemed to understand that bringing the world together (by music or any other way) is the most important thing people can strive for. We used to know that world peace was the most important aspiration, too. How did this message get lost?
The last musical event, the 22nd Celtic Festival which will be held Sept. 28-30, is the main fundraising event for radio station KVMR. The Fairgrounds becomes reminiscent of jolly olde England and the British Isles during the Renaissance. Participants and audience dress up in costumes of that day … women in long full skirts and men in tights. Wow!
Red haired Queen Elizabeth I and her court stroll around the grounds in a royal parade once a day. There are falconers, Irish sheep dogs, and mainly the sweet dulcet sounds of lutes, harps, and fiddles playing Irish and Scottish music. The side yard becomes a spot for Celtic sports such as tossing the caber, a young tree trunk used as a trial of strength. Discounted tickets are on sale now.
Yes, we who live in Nevada County are so blessed for so many reasons … and these concert series are part of that good fortune.
Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.