By CHERIL VERNON
Musicians from across the country will descend upon the Museum for East Texas Culture in Palestine today for the 13th Annual Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival.
The halls of the old museum will be filled for three days with the sounds of old time music workshops, jamming sessions and nightly concerts today through Saturday during the second weekend of the Dogwood Trails Celebration.
Festivities kick off today with the first concert starting at 6:45 p.m. Headliners and participants will be arriving throughout the day with jamming sessions possible.
“We have some wonderful performers coming here for our 13th year,” Margaret Wright of Kennard, who founded the festival with her husband, Jerry, told the Herald-Press Wednesday. “We would really encourage the public to come out especially for our first concert (tonight) because the people on stage will only be performing that night.”
Leading off tonight's performance will be the Sea Cruisers from Michigan — who sing hits from the '50, '60s and '70s. Current national finger-style guitarist Mark A. Cruz from Austin also will perform.
Pip Gillette — known for his cowboy music he has played for years with his late brother Guy Gillette at the Camp Street Cafe in Crockett — also will make an appearance.
Pip has won numerous awards with his brother including the Western Heritage Wrangler Award for Best Traditional Western Album of 2010 from The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
For the dulcimer festival, Pip will team up with national mountain dulcimer champion Lloyd Wright (son of the dulcimer festival founders) for the concert.
Tickets to the night concerts are $15 each for the public and $10 for the day concerts.
“Our schedule is loose on Thursday because there is a lot of visiting and jamming going on as people arrive early,” Margaret Wright said. “Our first real organized event will be the concert (today) and then on Friday morning we start early with the workshops.”
The organizers are expecting about 300 musicians from across the country to attend the festival.
“We have people all over the United States coming. There are a lot of people in the dulcimer and old-time music world that simply hear the word 'Palestine' and they know we are referring to this festival,” Margaret Wright said. “We don't even advertise anymore — the festival grows just from word of mouth now.”
Part of the charm — and draw — of the festival is its location at the historic museum.
“The museum is perfect for what we do. The acoustics are so great — the wood floors and the 10-foot ceilings when you have a room full of musicians is just amazing. Having the old music in the old building, it all goes hand in hand wonderfully. That's the whole enticement,” Margaret Wright said. “It would totally change the festival's atmosphere to have it somewhere else.”'
Museum Director Dan Dyer is expecting the annual festival to be a boost to the Palestine economy — especially to local hotels and restaurants..
“It brings a lot of people here. Last year we had people from 27 different stages plus all over Texas — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and as far as El Paso,” Dyer said. “It's a great boost to the Palestine economy.”
The Wright family got the dulcimer and old time music bug after a family vacation where they passed through Missouri and Arkansas in 1994, hearing the old time music coming from the Appalachian Mountains.
Over the years, their skill increased. Their son Lloyd Wright became the National Mountain Dulcimer Champion in 2000. The family traveled to many festivals over the years, and both Margaret Wright and Lloyd Wright hold workshops at many of the festivals. Margaret Wright also produces the popular Twelve Tune Song Book, which includes old time sheet music for the mountain dulcimer, and teaches sacred harp singing.
“Sacred harp singing is an old style of teaching to sing with no prior knowledge. I will be doing one of those classes every day,” Margaret Wright said.
Through the years the local festival has grown, bringing in some of the best dulcimer and old time music artists from around the country to serve as headliners for the concerts and to lead workshops.
Headliners for the three days of concerts this year include: Tull Glazener, Sue Carpenter, Margaret Wright, Wayne Henderson, Dana Hamilton, Lloyd and April Wright, David Lindsey, Mark A. Cruz, Don Pedi, The Rosin Sisters, Beverly Smith, The Dove Brothers, Mac Traynham, Alice Gerrard, Betty Scott, Ann Kirrane and Gerry Handley, Linda Thomas, Dan DeLancey, Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains.
New folks on the block for the festival include Glazener, Kirrane, Hanley and Cruz.
“Wayne Henderson is an internationally known guitarist and luthier (instrument builder) from Virginia. Dan DeLancey is a well-known guitar flat top picker. Linda Thomas plays the hammer dulcimer. Dana Hamilton from Arlington is a two-time national hammer dulcimer champion,” Margaret Wright said talking about some of the performers participating in the festival. “David Lindsey from Oklahoma is a well-known dulcimer builder who has performed all around the country for 25 or 30 years. Dulcimer player Don Pedi from North Carolina plays old time civil tunes up to speed with old time fiddlers. Alice Gerrard is a legendary female performer in bluegrass and traditional old time music who has recordings with Smithsonian Folkways. Her playing buddy is Beverly Smith, a fabulous guitarist who also plays the mandolin.”
Concertinas (free-reed musical instrument similar to accordions and the harmonica) also are included in the festival, having their own headliner, instructor and performer. Kirrane and Hanley are two of the concertina performers.
“The concertinas have their own festival built into our festival,” Margaret Wright said.
The schedule for Friday and Saturday will be as follows: 9 to 10:15 a.m., workshops and jams; 10:45 a.m. to noon, workshops and jams; noon to 1:15 p.m., break for lunch; 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., day concerts; 2:45 to 4 p.m., workshops and jams; 4 to 6:45 p.m., free time and dinner; 6:45 to 10:05 p.m., evening concerts; 10:05 until, jamming.
Pre-registration is not required. Cost for participants is $75 for all three days, which includes five concerts, workshops and jamming for participants.
Cost for the three days without workshops is $55 (five workshops and jamming).
Single-day cost is $35 for everything (two concerts, workshops and jamming) or single-day without workshops, $25 (includes two concerts and jamming).
For the public (those not participating in the workshops and other events), evening concert tickets are $15 per person or $45 for the family. Day concert tickets are $10 each.
For the complete package for a large family (mom, dad and the kids), the cost is $150.
“We have package prices for people depending on what they are wanting to do — whether it's just attend the concert, or to participate in the workshops and jamming,” Margaret Wright said.
A reception desk for those wanting to attend the festival or concerts is set up in the main entrance of the museum.
The museum is located at 400 Micheaux St. in Palestine, behind Reagan Park. For detailed information about the festival, visit www.oldpalmusic.com