09 October 2011

Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration 2011

Enda Donnelly, Rhonda Vincent, and Geraldine Donnelly outside the Monroe homeplace

Enda Donnelly sends this report of an epic pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Father of Bluegrass Music; we publish it with much gratitude (and immense envy):

As they say in Kentucky - 'hi, y'all?' Well Geraldine & I finally made it to the Holy Grail of bluegrass music, after many years of promising to do so. The Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration Sept. 2011, in our opinion, has been the most memorable festival of them all.

It was a six-day event with over fifty bands playing only traditional bluegrass music. A beautiful setting in the Kentucky woodlands set the scene for perfect viewing/listening, under the blue Kentucky sky. Some of the headline bands appearing were Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, Frank Ray & Cedar Hill, the Cumberland Highlanders with Wayne Lewis (Blue Grass Boy), Melvin Goins, David Parmley & Continental Divide, Dan Paisley, Junior Sisk, Karl Shiflett, etc. Glorious sunshine - mid 80s every day - but cool at night.

Bill Monroe's graveside service on Sunday morning was truly a remarkable experience, set in the tranquillity of Rosine cemetery. The gospel music rang out for one hour and the service concluded with a rendition of 'My last days on earth', played unaccompanied on mandolin. However, the 'icing on the cake' was an invitation to take part on stage with some of the above musicians in the Grand Finale.

While at the 'Ridge' we met many interesting people, including relatives of Bill Monroe. We talked with Jill Riley (above), a grand-stepdaughter of Speed Monroe. Jill told us she was the little girl referred to in the song 'The little girl and the dreadful snake'... she survived, unlike the lyrics say, as the snake was not venomous. We also met a lady volunteer who told us she had Uncle Pen's second fiddle, complete with snake rattles (the other fiddle can be seen at the Bluegrass Museum).

We also included a visit to the Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, which was most inspiring, and during the festival we met up with Niall Toner and RTÉ Radio 1 producer Aidan Butler, who came up from Nashville for the event. Niall also gave a rendition of his song at the Monroe graveside.

It was a long and arduous trip,but someone has to do it!


At 9:26 pm, Blogger Lonesome Mtn said...

Hello Enda, How are yall doing? It was nice to meet you and the better half at Jerusalem Ridge. My son Cole Sands and I enjoyed picking with you on the tailgate. You can see some of our show on YouTube under Jerusalem Ridge Festival 2011 - Lonesome Mountain Boys. I hope we can stay in touch, and see each other again. Do you have an email address? TAKE CARE! Holland Sands

At 10:45 pm, Blogger Richard Hawkins said...

Hi, Holland,

This is the BIB editor replying on Enda's behalf: he would indeed be glad to keep in touch, and you can contact him by e-mail at this address.

Richard Hawkins


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