AUSTRALIASIA’S peak bluegrass and old-time music festival, Mountaingrass, will relocate from Harrietville to Beechworth in November – adding to Indigo Shire’s store of major events and delivering to the community an economic benefit valued at about $400,000.
The five-year-old Mountaingrass Festival is to be staged at Mayday Hills on the same weekend – November 9-11 – as Beechworth’s annual, longstanding Celtic Festival, but Australian Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association president Evan Webb believes the two events won’t clash.
He said Mountaingrass, which is hosted by the association, usually attracts about 600 participants, including major acts from the United States and players, ‘pickers’ and listeners from Australia and some from New Zealand.
Most of them are musicians who are learning and playing American bluegrass and Appalachian Old-Time music.
Mr Webb said Mountaingrass was designed as the peak event in Australasia for aficionados of these particular musical traditions and styles and includes concerts, ‘jam sessions’ and workshop tuition to build players’ musical skills and expose association members to the best Australasian acts and visiting American performers.
“It’s been a difficult decision (to relocate) but the festival’s become too large for Harrietville,” Mr Webb said.
“We’ve previously run it at Feathertop Chalet in the town but it’s been purchased by a youth organisation using it for camps and outdoor education, so it will no longer be available to us.”
Mr Webb said Mountaingrass had already engaged two major acts from the US for the inaugural Beechworth festival, this year, and there was the possibility of a third principal solo act.
The festival in its current form features a mix of workshops, including guided slow jams, as well as concerts in the evening and afternoons, all of which will take place within Mayday Hills – using George Kerferd Hotel’s function rooms and former chapel and the old Mayday asylum theatre for performance and other requirements.
The Mountaingrass festival, before 2013, was preceded by the Harrietville National Bluegrass and Traditional Country Music Convention, which ran for 28 years.
It was organised by the Bluegrass and Traditional Country Music Society of Australia.
Mr Webb said Mountaingrass provided traditional bluegrass and old-time music to a “very keen gathering” of people who loved and played these styles and came from all parts of Australia, New Zealand, and more recently, Japan.
Beechworth also hosts the highly successful Kelly Country Pick, which is in its 20th year and will be staged August 17-19 with a lead-in music camp from August 13.
The ‘Great Alpine Pick’ – hosted by a Melbourne-based music organisation known as the Mountain Pickers’ Association – is also migrating to Beechworth from Harrietville.
The ‘GAP’, as it’s known, will be held March 16-18 at Beechworth’s Old Priory.
Yackandandah singer-songwriter and ‘Golden Guitar’ recipient Pete Denahy told the Ovens and Murray Advertiser that Mountaingrass had been “great at Harrietville”.
“You can’t get a much prettier place to drive to,” he said.
“But Mayday Hills is pretty damned good, and there’s no doubt Beechworth will benefit.”.