Author: Varner, Mark


Dear friends,

I hope you had a happy Easter, what ever that means to you. We are fortunate to have bluegrass friends of many faiths here in CBA land. Me, I went to the little church here in Boulder Creek. The modern one with the rock band and the video screens. Having been brought up in the Methodist Church, with those lovely old hymns and the beautiful antique stained glass windows, it’s hard for me to make that leap. But my wife loves it and so that was my Easter service.

There’s still a Methodist Church in Boulder Creek, but it had dwindled to a bare bones congregation last time I was there. We used to play live bluegrass music for the services, years ago. Ten years ago? More, maybe. We had jams at the church and Gail Reese and Billy Moore and the Bean Creek gang – a bunch of others used to come. Funny how things change. Time moves on.

The CBA has been around for 39 years. What keeps it going on? What keeps it alive all these years? Is it the music itself, pulsing like blood through some Jungian vascular system – sending life-bringing oxygen into the muscles of our intertwined lives? Jamming lives. Picking lives. Could be. It is powerful and one does not have to look far to witness its power. Witness today’s hipster music – you know the names of these young bands; they are very popular - the watered down versions of the big bang bluegrass and how still-powerful the ancient tones are, even when they are wrapped in gauzy modernity. See it in the faces of their young fans and feel it in the enthusiasm of whatever passes for a “music industry” these days. Not to say that there are not some fine representatives of the original flame burning up our ears with some real-deal bluegrass, of course. More testament to the power of the music we have chosen to champion.

Is it habit? Maybe. Staking out your usual spot under the Ponderosa Pines for the Father’s Day Festival. Seeing the friends you only see once a year. Or bringing your children for the yearly camping excursion. We have second, soon third, generation Kids On Bluegrass performers. My kids have come to every Grass Valley since they were born and could never imagine that experience not being part of their Summer.

Can our long lifespan be attributed in part to the fine monthly publication, the Bluegrass Breakdown? Carl Pagter, CBA member numero uno says the bifurcated backbone of the association is represented by the tandem team of the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and the Bluegrass Breakdown. The Breakdown served from the very beginning as the glue that held the California fans and pickers of bluegrass and old time music together – letting folks know where they could find like minded people, a jam, a festival or a concert.

Lately as I watch the Powers That Be begin preparation for the 2013 Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival I am struck with the time and energy some people dedicate to making this whole CBA thing go. The leadership and the festival coordinators, the Music Camp staff have monumental tasks upcoming and they are now buzzing like a hive of bees. Preparing for hard work, the “payday” of which can only be showing a few thousand folks a good time at our festival and continuing the worthwhile year-round projects at the CBA.

I think the reason we are such a long-lived association is the people. They keep stepping up. I would not even start mentioning people who are kickin’ it today for fear of not including half a dozen or more super vols worthy of note. I think I might start with Darby Brandli, but there would be a goodly list of heroes.

Years ago, as I was coming into my post as editor, it was the Denisons, and other good people, of course, but the Denisons were being the super volunteers of that time. Don was a leader on the Board and Suzanne was the association’s editor (and so much more). I’m pleased to say that we will have a celebration of our much missed Suzanne at this year’s Father’s Day Festival. We will get you the where and when info as soon as we have that resolved, so please plan to join us.

And while we’re at it, let’s celebrate ALL the amazing volunteers who make the California Bluegrass Association the wonderful achievement it is. Long may it live.

Your pal,
Mark Varner
Posted:  4/1/2013

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