Five-time Grammy Award winner Robert Cray launches the 10-day Gettysburg Festival lineup, June 8-17, into its banner fifth birthday by celebrating the blues, a purely American music style completely fitting for a festival focused on American arts, culture and cuisine.
More than 75 additional events explore a full range of American art forms: Broadway-style “improv” theater, farm-to-table cuisine, traditional as well as contemporary brass, America’s largest gathering of historical artists, up-and-coming Americana folk trio Red Molly, and a choral concert exploring the roots of America’s Negro spirituals, along with much more.
Robert Cray Band kicks off the festival with a June 8 concert set for Festival Main Stage at Gettysburg College; tickets ($25-$60) are available at www.gettysburgfestival.org or by calling (717) 334-0853.
Cray, credited with carrying America’s blues tradition into the 21st century, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 and has based a successful career spanning 35 years upon his soulful voice, creative guitar work and songs bridging the gaps between blues, rock, soul, gospel and jazz.
“The blues were born in America out of times of hardship,” said Festival Executive Director Beth Kirby. “However blues music is still relevant and alive today thanks to incredible artists such as Robert Cray who unify audiences through this uniquely American art form.”
The blues-tinged theme continues throughout the first festival weekend, as “sizzling” blues singer Shemekia Copeland teams up with the festival’s most popular culinary event Blues, Beer & BBQ on June 9. Critics have hailed her as the eventual “Queen of the Blues,” following in the footsteps of Ruth Brown and Etta James. The Boston Globe writes, “She roars with a sizzling hot intensity.”
“This 5th anniversary festival builds on a strong foundation of musical excellence at Gettysburg Festival, but also explores a wider range of musical styles than ever before, including not only blues, but brass, rock, Americana/folk and choral music,” said Kirby.
A Festival performance by Red Molly (June 16) dabbles into the Americana, folk and bluegrass genres. This all-female trio based in New York City features, “Tick-tight arrangements, crystalline vocals and caramel harmonies,” writes Boston Globe.
The Gettysburg Festival presents a rich musical history of America through the show “Then Sings My Soul: Songs and Spirituals from the American Experience” (June 17), featuring award-winning mezzo-soprano Cheryse McLeod Lewis. Spirituals, rooted in the Civil War era, are combined with inspirational Broadway favorites and historical narration.
Perennial festival favorite, the free All-American Brass Picnic (June 16) includes returning as well as fresh performers including the nation’s first all-female brass band - Athena Brass - as well as the critically-acclaimed “dream team” of brass, Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass.
The Festival’s 2012 theater highlight is “Broadway’s Next H!T Musical,” hailed by The New York Times as “hilarious.” Set for June 15, this interactive show features a veteran cast of improv actors who play off ideas from the audience to create a spontaneous evening of music, theater and laughter.
Culinary events, sprinkled throughout the festival schedule, feature a potpourri of personalities: former White House Chef Walter Scheib, the festival’s Artistic Director for Culinary Events; Biker Billy (Bill Hufnagle), entertaining the Blues, Beer & BBQ crowd with a freewheeling, fiery cooking demo; and Farmer Lee Jones, nationally known in the sustainable agricultural movement and featured at a new Festival event, the Garden Brunch.
“Set atop a beautiful vineyard hillside, with guests dining at one long continuous family-style table, the June 10 Garden Brunch at Adams County Winery is a farm-to-table themed event where guests can learn more about fresh produce, responsible growing and gardening practices, as well as enjoy a first-rate brunch in an exquisite location,” said Scheib.
Additional new culinary events for 2012 include the “Oklahoma!” Pie Auction (paired with the classic movie/musical “Oklahoma!”) and the decadent Chocolate on Broadway (paired with “Broadway’s Next H!T Musical”). Several tried-and-true culinary events remain fixtures in the festival lineup in addition to the Blues, Beer & BBQ: the Edible Art Tour through Gettysburg galleries (June 14) and the ever-popular White House Dinner (June 16).
New to the Festival’s visual arts lineup is the Quick Draw (June 15), offering plein air artists the chance to compete in an artistic downtown showdown on Gettysburg’s historic Lincoln Square. The public has multiple opportunities to watch artists in action, painting on location as part of the Artist Colony (June 14-17) and Plein Air Paint Out (June 8-17). The Adams County Arts Council Juried Art Exhibition (June 8-17) is known as one of the finest juried shows in the mid-Atlantic region; while the History Meets the Arts gallery events highlight the work of America’s most noted historical artists. All offer free admission to the public.
Art Market, stretched across the first festival weekend of June 9-10, features free admission to eight musical acts at the Festival Main Stage, as well as artisan tents featuring live demonstrations and numerous food vendors. “Artisans thus far include painters - both watercolor and oil, along with quilters and other fascinating artists,” said Kirby. “Applications are still being accepted through April 1.”
A showcase of arts-related community events, such as historic tours, art exhibits, cabaret acts, children’s theater, and a showcasing of the local music scene, is offered through the Gettysburg Fringe Festival, occurring simultaneously, June 8-17. “Fringe events add local flair, color and personality to the Festival lineup,” said Fringe Coordinator Phyllis Netherland. “Local businesses and artists have dreamed up some fantastic events for 2012, and I know the public will enjoy kicking off the summer season with ‘the Fringe.’”