Once again Rainer Zellner has led a troupe of American string musicians through Germany in December as part of his annual Bluegrass Jamboree series.
The idea for this tour occurred to him several years ago, to bring talented artists from the US and Canada to represent bluegrass and old time music to German audiences who often have very little familiarity with it. The shows are booked in high profile theaters and art centers throughout the country, as opposed to beer halls and restaurants. Regional media respond quite well to these productions and attendance is high. Nearly 7,000 saw the shows last month.
For December 2017, Rainer brought Lula Wiles and The Lonely Heartstring Band from Boston, plus The Lonesome Ace String Band from Canada. All three groups climbed on a bus with tour support personnel totally 15 people in late November, and spent the next 26 days riding all over Germany.
Zellner explained a bit about his philosophy for opening up the German music market to bluegrass, and why he does it the way he does.
“We reach out to audiences that are new to the genre and introduce them to bluegrass as well as the related acoustic music formats. Over the years we have created a strong fan base for the event, and steadily growing appreciation for this American music style that is not that well known over here. Audiences as usual reacted enthusiastically to the shows. We get very strong support from all kind of media, it definitely helps to only present top performers in a carefully designed line up, so that we are covered in good art magazines and inserts of national and regional media.”
They also get support from US government offices. A special matinee performance was held in Bavaria at a school in München, sponsored by the American consulate. Consul for Public Affairs Stephen Ebelli came to the show, and arranged for this video to be created which documented the concert and interviewed several of the band members.
Rainer says that after the school concert, which acquainted 100 young students with the joys of American bluegrass, they all hopped back on the bus and headed to the world famous Hofbräuhaus for some great local food and beer before their show later that evening in München.
He also described a promotional giveaway they held this year.
“As an incentive some “Kentucky Midnight” blue grass seeds in specially produced packaging were raffled among those who signed the mailing list. The 50 winners will now grow their own Bluegrass on their windowsills!”
Well done Bluegrass Jamboree. Details for the 2018 tour will be shared online in the fall.
This article was written by John Lawless and published on Bluegrass Today.
John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.