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Lady Luck Smiled on Sutter Creek’s 13th Annual Ragtime Festival
by Chris Bradshaw

Lady Luck didn’t just smile. Her grin was ear to ear. From the very first notes through to the last chords of the festival finale concert, the 2011 Sutter Creek Festival was a resounding success. A nice blending of the old with the new made for a really fresh take.

For starters, this year’s Thursday night pre-festival gathering for all the early arrivers was held at Chip Lusby’s Skunk Hollow Victorian home, right in Sutter Creek. Revelers were treated to a night with four pianos going — sometimes all at once — while enjoying some “Wine & Nibbles.”

As tradition dictates, the festival officially began on Friday the 12th, promptly at 4:00 p.m., with Keith Taylor holding forth in the Ice Cream Emporium and Monty Suffern in the American Exchange Hotel. With that auspicious beginning, three glorious days of non-stop music followed that included some very tasty classic and contemporary ragtime plus all the first cousins — novelty, blues, boogie and stride, with even a little trad jazz thrown in. One might describe it as a smorgasbord of musical delights for an audience of mixed and discerning appetites. Simply put, there was something for everyone!

Always a hit at the festival are the silent movie showings. This year Frederick Hodges and Keith Taylor kept good company to the action on the silent silver screen for Friday night’s offerings. Squeek Steele held forth on Sunday morning as the silver screen came alive once again. And by the way, her Gershwin tribute set on Saturday was classy.

One of the most popular events at the festival was the “3 Pianos on Fire” featuring Pat Aranda, Tom Brier and Carl Sonny Leyland with Frederick Hodges himself pouring on the fuel, leading the brigade as emcee and fire chief all rolled into one. Three pianos! Four performers! Judging from the lively standing-room-only and floor-sitting crowd, this three-alarm event was well received — a few piano keys may have needed some reviving but we are happy to report that the crowd survived intact. We advise you not to attempt this at home!

The youth performers, each showcasing their unique and complementary niches, were again a huge hit. With Vincent Johnson’s sparkling novelty numbers, Will Perkins’ polished stride performances, and Tim Rotolo promoting the Disney-esque tradition, who could ask for more? And yet, there was more. One more! Diego Bustamante, a 12-year-old affectionately nicknamed “The Kid” by the Sutter Creek Festival directors, wowed audiences with his playing of “The Cascades” by Scott Joplin on several Saturday sets.

Several groups also found their way into the spotlight throughout the course of the festival. The Crown SyncopatorsMarty Eggers, Frederick Hodges and Virginia Tichenor — played as a group and also on their own solo sets, with Marty and Virginia performing on several instruments. The Raspberry Jam Band, Ragnolia Ragtette, the Drivons and Sullivans, The Ragtime Skeddadlers, the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio and the Town Square Harmonizers all added welcomed musical textures to a primarily piano ragtime festival.

Paul Stewart, new to the festival this year, not only performed but also gave a well-received seminar workshop on Classic Ragtime — a first for this festival. Mike Lipskin’s luscious stride playing graced the festival, while Larisa Migachyov’s very lyrical playing brought a graceful and gentler ragtime. John Remmers was in great form with some interesting new classic ragtime repertoire. Also, performing mostly classic ragtime pieces were the Bradshaws, Jack and Chris, often joined by Robyn Drivon.

Saving the best for last, the two theater concerts, under the direction of the multi-talented Stevens Price (pianist, vocalist, emcee extraordinaire) were real crowd pleasers, which very nicely showcased all the various musical styles of the ragtime era.

The festival ran smoothly under the very capable hands of Marilyn Norton and Dan Lucas. Thanks Marilyn and Dan for a really wonderful festival; your hard work was greatly appreciated. And guess what? They are willing to do it again, next year. So, save the dates August 10-12, 2012, for the 14th Annual Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival. Hope to see you there!


Acknowledgments from the Festival Directors

We would like to thank the many volunteers for their tireless work on the 13th Annual Sutter Creek Festival. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you Ilah Blauvelt, Helen Lucas, Stevens Price, Ron O'Dell, and Kathy Berg (and all the other volunteers). Special thanks to Lewis Motisher for creating a handsome and very professional-looking program, as well as the T-shirt design, and all the technical stuff it takes to produce our Sampler CD No. 2. Special thanks also to Joe Bellamy for loaning us two wonderful pianos used in the American Exchange; and let’s not forget Leggett Piano Service for supplying, moving, and taking care of the pianos.

Sponsors for the festival included the Sutter Creek Promotions Committee, John Plut, Bub and Petra Sullivan, Robyn Drivon and the Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium. Raffle prizes were donated generously by the West Coast Ragtime Society, Staples, Scott Harvey Wines, Sutter Creek Wine Tasting and CINQUE. Many thanks to you all.

Thank you John and Nadine Mottoros, Chip and Bonnie Lusby, Gary and Diane Nelson, and Mara French for housing musicians.

Also many thanks to Pat Crosby for his work on the Sutter Creek website, Maureen Funk of the Amador Council of Tourism, and Lisa Klosowski, Director of the Sutter Creek Visitors Center. In addition, many newspapers, magazines and individuals helped publicize the festival. Thanks also John Mottoros and Chip Lusby for their help all year long publicizing the festival, and to Chris Bradshaw for all her publicity and work with youth performers.

Thanks to Monique Graziadei of The Foxes for elegantly hosting us, Aimee Peterson of The Antique Gardener for letting us invade her beautiful garden, and Sara Hock for letting us use the Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium. In addition, thanks to Dennis and Julie Griffin and the American Exchange, and Byron and Laura Damiani of the Sutter Creek Theatre.

Special thanks to all the Sutter Creek merchants who bought advertising in our program. And, of course, thanks to the wonderful musicians who came to share a weekend of their fantastic music! Our apologies to those whose names we may have missed.

—Marilyn Norton and Dan Lucas
Festival Directors



 



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