Banjo festival provides ‘organic experience’



For a noncommercial music festival this summer, check out the Mike Seeger Commemorative seventh-annual Old Time Banjo Festival, Saturday, July 20 at The Birchmere concert hall in Alexandria. Artists performing include Tony Trischka, Dan Geller, Adam Hurt, Paul Brown, and Silver Spring local and Grammy-winning duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.

Each artist will perform his or her own set and bring something different to the performance, from traditional music with the five-string banjo to a newer contemporary style of playing. Instruments will range from the base banjo to a ukulele banjo, in addition to fiddles and guitars.

“I really like promoting music that I’m involved in and spreading the love of some of the other people who play this music I’m crazy about,” said Fink, who has been playing the banjo for about 40 years.

The concert is named for banjo musician and organizer of previous Banjofest concerts, Mike Seeger, who passed away four years ago. Seeger brought music to the festival  he collected from the oldest folk singers, which is still a large part of what musicians at the festival play, listen to and love.

“It’s an opportunity for us not only to play this music that he was so highly influential in, but also to honor him at the same time,” said Fink.

All performers at the concert are musicians except for Paul Brown, who is by day a news announcer for National Public Radio. He also plays the fiddle and has a large repertoire of music from the South. Adam Hurt is a performer from the newer generation of banjo players, and, according to Fink, has been one of the great innovators in old-time five string banjo music for the past 15 years.

Fink and Marcy Marxer have been a duo for over 30 years and have 42 recordings together. In addition to being musicians, all of the performers teach and will hold workshops on how to play the banjo the day after the concert. Those interested in signing up can email for more information.

“They do not play this music much on the radio anymore, but music is really a live experience anyway,” said Fink. “You can listen to recordings and love them but when you hear and see people play, you are getting an organic experience.”

Tickets for the concert are $29.50 and can be bought at the Birchmere Box Office or 202-397-SEAT. 

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