02 August 2017

2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland - a great experience

The BIB editor writes:

Through the generosity of Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene, co-organisers of Bluegrass Camp Ireland, Carol and I were able to drop in on the 2nd Bluegrass Camp Ireland when it was well into its second day on Saturday 29 July, and - a much appreciated bonus - stay over till after breakfast on Sunday. The best way to sum up our experiences as guests is to refer to the BIB of 6 July, in which Simon and T.J. describe the location, the organisation, the instruction, the atmosphere, and the food. We found every word of that to be true. 

Don't take our word for it: here are reports by two active participants for the whole weekend. First, William Duddy:

That was my second Bluegrass Camp Ireland and, if it were possible, I enjoyed it even more than last year's inaugural event, meeting many old friends and making more new ones - some of whom were venturing across from the Irish traditional scene. This is really a tuition weekend and mini-festival rolled into one, with the daytime classes followed, after dinner, by excellent stage concerts on both nights - featuring the top-flight American visitors who were well matched by our own local talent.

Jeff Burke [photo] opened many new doors for those of us in his mandolin class. It is a rare thing in a great player to be such a good teacher with a really focused, structured, patient approach as well as being an all-round nice guy (worth 380 of your euro in itself!). But then maybe not so rare, because all of the other tutors were earning the same feedback from their own students. The accommodation, in Headfort School, must be unique in bluegrass circles and the food by the Edible Flower catering ladies was top notch. Simon and T.J. deserve great credit for their warm welcome right from the 'get go', continuous hard work, and wonderful good humour throughout the whole weekend.

This has to be one of the friendliest gatherings on the island and along with Patrick, Luke, Niall, Aran, and Lily (of Dublin Bluegrass Collective) we couldn't ask for a nicer, friendlier bunch of people. I really hope we can help Simon and T.J. meet what seems to be a fairly critical numbers threshold for next year to establish this fine project as a regular calendar event.

Secondly, Colin Henry:

James and I thoroughly enjoyed the Bluegrass Camp Ireland. I thought Simon Humphries and T.J. Screene did a great job in putting together what was a well organised, informative, and above all fun weekend. The teaching standard was very good. Even though I am a dobro player I attended Bill Forster's banjo class. He is an excellent teacher and great player; and dobro or not, he managed to instil some wisdom into my old hands! James was very taken with him and told me on the way home that he had learnt a great deal from him over the weekend.

The jamming was non-stop from arrival on Friday to departure on Sunday afternoon. (And for some literally non-stop, with a few managing to forgo sleep between Saturday and Sunday). There were fast jams, slow jams, and all points in between to suit your abilities or inclination. I met many old and young friends and made many new ones. The setting at Headfort School in Kells was beautiful and perfect, and the accomodation was spot on. I must make a special mention of the food by Edible Flower. If truth be told it was worth it for that alone. In short, Simon and T.J. must be commended - and more importantly, supported - in taking a risk on this idea of a Bluegrass Camp in Ireland. Personally I think it is an asset to Irish bluegrass. I hope it can continue and flourish.

The attached photo is the Saturday evening concert with Sweet Olive String Band in the great room with the Headfort House ancestors looking down from the walls and enjoying cracking bluegrass!

The BIB applauds this unique event, Ireland's equivalent to the acclaimed Sore Fingers Summer Schools in England. It has already attracted attenders from abroad, but there's ample room for more support from within Ireland. 

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