16 March 2020

Trials, troubles, tribulations

The BIB editor writes:

In the last ten days the impact of COVID-19 has abruptly hit the bluegrass world. In the USA, institutions such as the Earl Scruggs Center, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Grand Ole Opry itself have suspended events or closed their doors till the end of this month or early April. Festivals, including the iconic MerleFest, have had to be cancelled because of state restrictions on the size of gatherings.

In this island, tours have already been cancelled or cut short; at present the BIB has had no official notice of other cancellations, but with venues from theatres to bars being closed, it's hard to see how some of the tours still on our calendar can take place. We hope that the festival schedule will remain intact, but at this stage nothing can be confidently predicted.

In a major article on Bluegrass Today last Friday, David Morris outlines what all this means to the bluegrass world in financial terms. An article in No Depression by Jake Blount describes forcefully what it means to a working musician who can see a month's income wiped out in a day. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has set up a Bluegrass Community Resource page on its website as part of its commitment to assisting the entire bluegrass music community in any possible way.

For us fans, the task is to do what we can to support the people who make the music by buying (direct from them wherever possible) what they're still in a position to sell: recorded music and other merchandise; online concerts; and instrumental tuition online, as instanced in David Morris's article. One of the bands Morris mentions as hit by the present crisis is our Italian friends from Red Wine, who have just had to cut short a US tour and go home to the most seriously affected country in Europe.

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