Summer Solstice Music Festival
by Margie McCord
Thursday-Sunday, June 19-22, 2014
The 13th annual Seldovia Arts Council’s Summer Solstice Music Festival presents again in one of the most beautiful settings in all Alaska, just a quick boat or plane ride from Homer. International and national performers mix with Alaskans and local talent to provide a unique potpourri of music, song and dance. If any of the previous Festivals are an indication of what’s to come this year, you won’t want to miss this one! This year a fine arts event, En Plein Air, has been added to our Solstice celebrations. Artists, professionals and hobbyists, are invited to come to Seldovia to create works of art inspired by our gorgeous, unique town.
The “Headliners” include:
OKAIDJA & SHOKOTO, the dance and drumming ensemble from Ghana, provide outreach to youth around the world which combines cultural education, performance arts, and hands-on participation to introduce students to West African culture. Okaidja & Shokoto create innovative music drawing upon their West African roots and the diverse music of the African Diaspora. Okaidja Afroso had extensive training at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies and became a member of the Oregon Arts Commission for Artists in Residency Program. He travels to schools in rural Oregon to help kids discover the richness of Ghanaian culture. In 1994 Okaidja was accepted into the prestigious Ghana Dance Ensemble where he learned to blend the songs of his youth into an expression through dance. Other impressive members of his group include: Charles Mortimer, Mashud Neindow, and Benard Tetteh.
ASHU, an internationally renowned saxophonist, will mesmerize both young and old with his phenomenal technique. Ashu has established an extraordinary ability to communicate with audiences around the world through his charismatic and emotive performance style. While his virtuosity continues to thrill listeners, his artistry reaches far beyond this demonstrating a unique personality and musical voice. He is a very engaging player-as much fun to watch as to listen to. He possesses a deep musicality which pours through his playing and hooks the audience. Last summer Ashu was selected as the winner of the prestigious “Audience Award” at the renowned International Musical Olympus Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, competing against the First Prize winners of the world’s foremost violin, piano, and voice competitions. He will be accompanied by Amy Briggs, a renowned classical pianist from Chicago. Briggs was appointed Director of Chamber Music and Lecturer in Music at the University of Chicago in 2009 and is a Steinway Artist.
That’s just for starters! The headliners will appear at both Friday and Saturday evening concerts but you will be equally impressed with the rest of the lineup for the weekend! We have a wonderful variety of performers from Pittsburgh, PA and St. Louis, MO to Alaskans from Fairbanks, Anchorage, Eagle River and the Kenai Peninsula.
There will be a total of 4 bands in this year’s festival in addition to all the other artists with the first being SHOKOTO. We will also present ONE TAKE from St. Louis, MO now based in Talkeetna, who build on the traditions of Reggae, Americana, Jazz and the Blues; their repertoire blends everything from rock to soul with a heavy dose of Island Music. Members are Brian Corbett, Danielle Asianian, Daryle Keefer, Matt Johnson, and Dennis Ward.
In addition, SWING 49 from Anchorage blends Gypsy jazz and contemporary jazz on their guitars and bass with vocals. Members include: Jacqueline Schafer, Tovi Newman, Arkadi Futerman, and Kevin Worrell.
Last- but-not-least of the bands is Seldovia’s own BILLY GOAT, the pride of the community, with their renditions of Oldtime music. Long-time members are Kirby Corwin, Kari Hendrich, Chris Lillo, and Jeff Snedgen.
Talk about variety! We are pleased to welcome Elliott Sussman from Pittsburgh, PA, who mixes it up with a bit of Americana, Tin-Pan Alley, Doo-Wop, and Ragtime Blues with his guitar, ukulele, and kazoo!
You also won’t want to miss a mix of Irish, British, Folk, and Gospel from Anchorage’s Wade Hampton Miller who originally hails from Missouri where he learned to play mountain dulcimer, mandolin, banjo and guitar. Wade has lived in AK since 1982 and has taken part teaching in music camps around the state and taught in Bush villages as part of the AK Artists in the Schools program. He has regularly appeared at the Anchorage Folk Festival and the AK State Fair.
Two very popular Kenai performers are Dan Pascucci and George Holly. Dan makes science fun for the youth in and out of the classroom using his mandolin, guitar,and “big barn boom” to educate about respecting wildlife and the environment. He is a regular at the Kenai River Festival and is joined by his wife Amy Lou. George Holly mesmerized the crowds last year with his commanding voice singing of Alaskan Native Culture. He is the recent recipient of the Rasmussen Foundation Artist Fellow award for 2014. He has been writing and performing original music for 20 years using his talents to support the native language revitalization movement in Alaska.
Seems as though the Kenai Peninsula has an abundance of talent with Jon Crocker hailing from Anchor Point whose storytelling and folk singing with the help of his guitar, mandolin and banjo. He will be joined by Trina Uvaas. He has performed at Homer’s Concert on the Lawn, Fairbanks Folk Festival, and in the Southeast. He also plays in a Homer-based Celtic band called Guinness Records. Johnny B from Homer will be returning playing Boogie Woogie and Neo-Classical pieces on his piano. He graduated from the Berkley College of music and composes most of his music.
Two more Alaskans from Fairbanks and Eagle River round out a large contingent from our great state! Inna Rivkin sings Alaskan Folk on the piano with vivid lyrics and evocative melodies influenced by the old Russian songs of her youth. She also hosts a monthly songwriter showcase in Fairbanks and facilitates songwriting workshops. Lou Nathanson is a singer songwriter on the guitar and performed for 5 years with Sacred Scriptless Improv, but was fired because he could never memorize his lines! He will be appearing with Kristine Holmes.
Finally, we couldn’t complete our Summer Solstice Festival without a return appearance of our own Songster and Story Teller Betsy Scott who just might have composed a new song or an enactment of a favorite tale!
Now if these short bios haven’t tweaked your attention yet for this year’s festival, let’s tell you about the rest of the happenings at the festival! The festival schedule will surely include something for everyone and many opportunities to interact with the artists. The festivities begin on Thursday around noon with a ferry jam on the Tustumena, the Alaska State Ferry. On the way to Seldovia the performers will share a song or two with the lucky folks on the ship. Once they arrive in Seldovia, they will be hosted by local families. At 6pm join the performers at the Linwood Bar and Grill for a “Meet and Greet” and then attend the OPEN MIC session at the Susan B. English School Commons where the concerts and workshops will be held throughout the weekend. The OPEN MIC at 8pm will be open to any and all who would like to sing, play, tell a story, or recite and is often a fun and impressive evening!
A “must attend” activity which the Festival is being recognized for is the workshops on Friday and Saturday for any and all musically and non-musically inclined who would like to learn more about how artists compose, teach, play, or inspire others of their love of music. There will also be a workshop for the youth! There is a special Friday morning Songwriter’s Workshop from 10:30am-1:30pm taught by several professional songwriters (Inna Rivkin, Jon Cocker, Kevin Worrell and Lou Nathanson) which features various songwriting angles, including instrumentation and lyrical writing. Even the most talented come to learn something new and we think you will truly be inspired with the many presentations that will be available. A schedule will be available on the website (www.seldoviamusicfestival.info) and at the SBE School.
Saturday morning’s 8:30am Yoga class for all ages, at the Sea Otter Community Center ( SOCC) next to the school has become a wonderful way to start the day. The festivities begin with the traditional 10AM Song Circle, always a great time, and will be held at the former book store on the slough which is now called “Amon’s Coffee Shop”.
For those of us who may include the meaning of “ARTS’ FESTIVAL” with the thought of paints and easels…Friday, Saturday, and Sunday bring a delightful compliment to the Festival with the presentation of EN PLEIN AIR, a variety of artists who have been invited both locally and around Alaska to paint their impressions of beautiful Seldovia at favorite vistas and locations throughout our town. Many of their productions will be available for perusal and purchase. Go for a stroll to see how the artists are doing with their masterpieces.
The Friday and Saturday evening concerts begin at 6:15pm at the SBE School Commons and promise to deliver unforgettable performances until after 11pm. These evening performances are not to be missed for the headliners will each perform again along with the numerous other musicians.
FINALLY… if you haven’t heard it all, there is the ever popular Gospel Sing on Sunday afternoon at 1:00pm at the Dancing Eagles B&B on the slough.
The price for the entire festival is $49.00 at the door. The Earlybird Special is $39.00 for an adult for the entire festival including workshops can be purchased at “Thyme on the Boardwalk” until Wednesday, June 18th by 5pm. Single night passes are $25.00 (adults), teens (13-19) $8.00 per night, and children (12 and under) are FREE and workshops $5.00 for each day if you don’t have an all Festival pass. Festival passes and one day festival tickets will be available at the door.
2013 Lineup and Schedule Released
by The Seldovia Arts Council
The Seldovia Arts Council presents the 2013 Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival list of performers and schedule. The annual event will take place in Seldovia, June 20-23. The festival includes a ferry jam, open mic, workshops, a song circle, gospel jam, and 14 performing acts.
This year’s headliners are Broadway performing artist, Theresa Thomason, and Alaskan band, Super Saturated Sugar Strings. Others included in the festival lineup are Si Kahn & Suzanne Little, John Cook, Alex Mabey and many more outstanding performers from around Alaska.
The festival starts off with a “Ferry Jam” on Thursday, June 20th. Performers and festival attendees can travel on the Seldovia Bay Ferry’s Kachemak Voyager from the Homer Spit to Seldovia, while enjoying a live musical jam session. Ferry departs from Homer at 11:00 a.m.
A no-host dinner will take place for performers and visitors at 5:00 p.m. at the Linwood Bar and Grill. An Open Mic starts at 7:30 p.m. and is sure to include many surprising performances by local Seldovians, plus visitors to the community. After the open mic, local band Billygoat will play live back down at the Linwood Bar.
On Friday, there will be a Musicians United to Save Bristol Bay workshop at 1:00 p.m. at Susan B. English School. It will focus on music and social action to make the world a better place, and to inspire others – led by Si Kahn and Suzanne Little. At 2:00 p.m., there will be a videoconference workshop at the Seldovia PublicLibrary at 1:00 p.m. This workshop, “Is it a fiddle or a violin?”, will feature collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and will focus on the difference between the fiddle and violin.
Festival performances start on Friday evening at 6:15 p.m. at Susan B. English School. Ticket prices at the door are $49 for adults and $30 for children. Local Seldovian student, Alliah Wheeler, will open off the evening with a performance on the Native American flute. She’ll be followed by Robin Hopper, “Food for the Soul”, Betsy Scott, Theresa Thomason, Super Saturated Sugar Strings, John Cook, and the sweet sounds of Alex Mabey to wrap up the night.
Saturday morning starts off with Yoga at the Sea Otter Community Center from 9-10, followed by a Song Circle at the Tide Pool Restaurant overlooking the Seldovia Harbor, which starts at 10:00 a.m. If the sun is shining, guests can join the musicians out on the deck for a time of singing, while the eagles fly by overhead, and the sea otters play around in the harbor.
Workshops take place on Saturday afternoon from 1:00-4:00 p.m. back at Susan B. English School. They will feature sessions with the headliners, as well as many other performers. The eight workshops will include instruction on an assortment of instruments, as well as vocals, plus some dancing.
6:15 p.m. is the start again on Saturday night for the festival. The evening will begin with Brian Slover, followed by “Billy Goat”, Jack Will & Sue Biggs, Super Saturated Sugar Strings, Theresa Thomason, Si Kahn and Suzanne Little, and then George Holly. Be looking for a planned “impromptu” dance at the end of the night!
One final gathering on Sunday afternoon for a Gospel jam will take place at 2:00 p.m. before folks begin to make their way back home.
Theresa Thomason - Theresa’s vocal talent began to emerge as she grew up singing in church. Jazz, pop, and R&B later followed. Her winning performance at the world-famous Apollo Theatre was a stimulus to love the stage.
Theresa has had a succession of sold out concerts in the U.S. as well as over 170 European cities where she spent over 17 years overseas headlining a theatrical concert she wrote and produced.
Her career has spanned over two decades of performances and recordings with eight time Grammy Award Winner Paul Winter and remains a featured artist with Winter’s Consort performing regularly at the world-renowned annual Winter Solstice and Earth Mass at New York’s infamous Cathedral of St. John The Divine. Several performances have aired on NBC and PBS.
Thomason appeared on Broadway in the musical HOT FEET featuring the music of Earth Wind and Fire directed by Maurice Hines. Returning to the famous Apollo Theatre in 2012 Thomason performed for The Harlem Jazz Shrines “Jazz A La Carte” with Wycliffe Gordon, Savion Glover and Maurice Hines. Wall Street Journal in 2011 named this event “The best Jazz event of 2011”.
Celebrating ASCAP’s fourth annual event at the United States Library of Congress on Capital Hill in Washington, DC Thomason performed with some of ASCAP’s distinguished creators of America’s most popular music who were there to be honored and celebrated by the members of Congress.
Theresa continues to tour throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, The Caribbean, New Zealand and Alaska with her own band, Jazz duo and trio. She is featured in several released recordings as well as one of her own. A new release is forthcoming. She often collaborates with artists from the historical Riverside Church in Harlem, NY. along with an array of choirs and promoters around the globe.
Thomason seeks to share various styles of music worldwide focusing on community-minded events and developing productive expression through the arts.
Other performances include:
Ray Charles, The Dalai Lama, Dream Theatre, Valerie Simpson (Of Ashford and Simpson), The United Nations, Ruby Dee, Ray Parker Jr., Joseph Joubert, Pete Seeger, renowned composers John Rutter, Paul Sullivan and Paul Halley, Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun, The Vatican, The Zenith (France), Falu, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Dino Fekaris, Stephen Bishop, New Zealand Maori Indians, The Duomo (Italy), Musica Sacra (Germany) United Protestant Union.(France), Fuller Theological Seminary-Honoring the renowned John Nash (Calif).
Photo by Carly Garay
Super Saturated Sugar Strings - The members of the Super Saturated Sugar Strings are a lot like the songs they play: complex, diverse, and brimming with stories. Based out of Anchorage, Alaska, the Sugar Strings are a high-energy, harmonious blend of piano, violin, cello, guitar, and odd percussion, creating the sound of a funky and sweet foot-stomping symphony.
The Sugar Strings consists of Carlyle Watt on lead vocals and guitar, Kathryn Moore on keys and lead female vocals, Miriah Phelps on fiddle, and Teresa Taylor on cello. Each musician brings a different musical background and regional sensibility to the table, spanning east coast to west and country to classical. Although you might expect diversity to lend itself to artistic struggles between band members, the combination seems to be working quite well for the Sugar Strings.
Keyboardist Moore says that despite stylistic differences, all of the members have wanted to move in the same direction. “We all have different styles that we combine to make a unique sound, but we all have the same sound [too]…with the SSSS I wake up and realize something new about my band mates every day.”
Alliah Wheeler - Alliah loves to draw and is very artistic. Music is a big part of her life. She loves to sing, play the flute and keyboard. She also loves video games and “One direction”. She has been playing the flute for about a two and a half years. Alliah says, “I hope you like me!”
Brian Slover - Brian Slover’s beautiful Native American Flute music can often be heard in the morning and evening as it winds its way up the Seldovia Slough and into the wind. Brian has taken several eager Seldovia students under his wing to teach this wonderful instrument that comes straight from the heart and breath of its player. An artist, Brian enjoys the inspiration of life in Seldovia.
Robin Hopper - You never know quite what to expect from singer-songwriter Robin Hopper….. One moment, you’ll be laughing as she delves into the hilarious aspects of the human condition, and in the next, you’ll find yourself reaching for your kleenex as she tugs at your heartstrings. Robin is an award-winning music educator, and a decorated songwriter; winning Top Five Finalist honors four times in Alaska Public Radio Network’s Alaska Song of the Year Contest, and being named as the Contest’s Overall Winner in 2003. You’ll find her at Alaskan festivals and concert series, as well as points Outside, both as a main-stage performer, and workshop presenter. She has 5 CDs available, with a 6th in the planning stages. Her music is available on CDBaby.com and iTunes.
Food for the Soul - Food for the Soul has been playing folk/singer-songwriter music around the Kenai Peninsula for well over 20 years. Each member is an accomplished singer, musician, and song-writer involved in several musical pursuits.
Sue Biggs is the concert mistress of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra and teaches music at Soldotna Middle School. Her husband, Jack Will, is involved in a number of local bands and is also a member of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. They are both founding members of the Spur Highway Spankers bluegrass band but most often perform as a duo.
Bonnie Nichols is a Grammy-nominated songwriter who is currently writing the score for a Broadway musical and has collaborated on several internationally recognized lullaby albums, including one that has reached platinum status and has been translated into several languages.
Suzanne Little comes from a musical family that includes Keith Little who is currently band-mates with David Grisman; Suzanne lives in Anchorage and is in the bluegrass band, “Bootleg Brown.”
Vickie Tinker started the 5th Sunday Worship project, bringing Peninsula church musicians and congregations together several times per year in an effort to break down walls between churches. Several of her worship songs have made their way around the world. In addition, she is a dreadfully lapsed member of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.
Together, this group loves singing folk music with rich harmonies and lots of stringed instruments.
Betsy Scott - Betsy Scott studied Theatre at UC Santa Cruz. Was seen @ the Magic and Eureka Theatres in SF, Alaska Rep & Cyranos in Anchorage; Was Artisitic Director of VPA and Pacific Rim Theatre. Mother of two fine sons. Did some teaching/performance stints with Alaska State Council’s Artist in Residence program. Toured Alaska with her one-woman show “Alaska: A Few Stories”. Got practical late in life and has BFS in Nursing at UAA. Now loves to share music and story with folks.
John Cook - John Cook is known for his finger picking style guitar, using a variety of styles of acoustic guitar playing in both standard and open tunings. He has performed in numerous locations in Alaska, North Carolina, South Carolina as a solo performer and also performs frequently with his acoustic Trio. He is returning for his third visit to Seldovia. He is again offering a finger style guitar workshop and is currently working on his third solo CD.
Alex Mabey - My first album was created in 2008 right before my journey to Nashville, TN where I studied the Music Business and realized my gift and potential. That led me to reach an understanding of just how I am supposed to nurture that.
After creating my second CD of original music, I decided to travel as much as I could because I wanted to understand all the different people of the world, the people who I write music for, on a personal level. I spent a significant amount of time in Africa, Guatemala, Upstate New York, Baja, Alaska, California, and Colorado, rafted the Grand Canyon for a month, and the Olympic Peninsula of Western Washington, where I grew up.
During my travels, I had the privilege of opening for Amy Grant, Wynonna Judd, Sara Evans, and Craig Morgan. After living life-like a gypsy, I believe I’ve landed on a place I’ll stay for a while. Alaska. I’ll be doing a solo tour along the Kenai Peninsula this coming summer, and finishing out the summer playing music and shooting my second music video in Homer.
My music took a major shift during this last year, and I am excited to get it out there with my third CD, which will hopefully be completed by the tour in June.
Sue Biggs & Jack Will - Sue Biggs and Jack Will have been playing music together for over fifteen years. They first performed in the bluegrass group, the Spur Highway Spankers. Since then, Sue and Jack have played as a duo, in the women’s group, Food for the Soul, in country bands, swing bands, Dixieland bands, rock bands, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, the Kenai Performers, and The Gathering, a contemporary Christian band.
Jack is primarily a guitar picker, but sings and plays violin, fiddle, mandolin, and tenor banjo. He is a song writer, composer, and producer. He is a retired electrician in the oil field, but is currently building a Glastar airplane. Besides airplanes, Jack’s passion is shooting and producing videos with his guitar compositions as background music.
Sue teaches general music, choir, and band at Redoubt Elementary School is Soldotna and was recently named a BP teacher of excellence. She is a fiddler and singer, but teaches and performs on piano and guitar as well. Sue is a song writer, composer, photographer and dancer. She is concert master of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.
Billygoat - Billygoat, a local favorite string band (okay only) playing their version of old-time/ bluegrass mountain music and some other stuff, too. Sometimes a four-piece; sometimes more. Once again Carl Kittrel and Jen Warren join the usual suspects Kirby Corwin, Chris Lillo, Jeff Snedgen and Kari Hendrich. Come git your goat on!
Si Kahn & Suzanne Little - Si Kahn has been writing, singing and recording roots music for over 50 years. His songs of family, community, work, peace and freedom have been performed and recorded by hundreds of artists. Such songs as Aragon Mill, Gone Gonna Rise Again, Wild Rose of the Mountain, Go To Work On Monday and Rubber Blubber Whale are sung at folk gatherings and in living rooms around the world.
His 2010 album Courage was the #1 CD for that year on the international Folk DJ List. Si himself was named the #1 artist, based on airplay reports sent in by over 200 DJs around the world.
Si is a co-founder of Musicians United To Protect Bristol Bay. His 18th CD Bristol Bay will be released this summer.
George Holly - Fresh off of a special performance at the dedication of the USS Anchorage, Alaska Native George Holly will be bringing his exuberant style to Seldovia. Holly is not new to the Seldovia scene, having visited often on special holidays, always willing to get out his drum and start singing some beautiful music. With experience as an actor and director, Holly is sure to bring a lot of entertainment to the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival’s audiences.
Recap of the 2012 Festival by Susan Mumma, photos taken by Darlene Crawford
I would like to personally thank all those who did such a great job on the Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival. It was a great success, well attended and beautiful to listen to.
I think the spirit of the festival was best seen at the beginning and the end of the festival. Each night the music was ushered in by Aliah Wheeler and Brian Slover on their Native American Flutes. The notes, so artfully made, soared around the room transforming it. The evening performances were equally special. Our local group Billy Goat rounded out the Friday night performance with great harmonies. Saturday night a rousing all-performer ending chorus of “Summertime” was returned by an equally enthusiastic return chorus by the audience, which many of the performers said, sent chills up their spines.
Highlights of the festival for me included the sunny days making outdoor jamming fun, the high quality workshops that were so well attended this year, and the shows themselves. Funny, dramatic, beautiful, each of the acts were a special treat. The headliners, Dan Crary and Thunderation and James Lee Stanley and Cliff Eberhardt were icing on the cake!
Many thanks to all of the performers, volunteers, sponsors and the Seldovia and Homer businesses and private families that came to aide, providing housing, transportation, food and more for this event. Each of your efforts is greatly appreciated and needed.
Here are some thank yous that we at the Seldovia Arts Council received and appreciated.
Thank You Susan Mumma and The Seldovia Arts Council, and thank you to all the wonderful musicians and friends who came. Your music is a gift for us. We watched your fingers fly across the strings, we listened to your cotton candy voices, we danced to your souls, and we were happy. Thanks for an experience of immeasurable value. We love you all. Rose, Sam, Zack.
Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival is a class act! Great musicians. Warm Seldovia hospitality. The snowy mountains, the clean fresh breeze. A spiritual presence. Meticulous sound crew. The last moment of music when the audience roared out Summertime gave us musicians on the stage a rare thrill. Love hugs and gratitude to all who made this magic event happen. Lindianne Sarno
Such a grand time was had by all.