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Concertinas at the Lake Genero Old-Time Festival

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I just got back from the Fiddlin’ Bear - Lake Genero Old-Time festival.


What fun we all had... just like the before times. This music gathering in Pennsylvania has been going on for quite awhile, but I started going in 2010. That was back when I first started playing Old-Time music on the Anglo concertina as a serious avocation.


Since the covid pandemic shut everything down, this was the first big players festival I’ve attended (proof of vaccination required). It was great to play again with my old friends and make some new ones.


The setting is beautiful. 150 musicians camping by a small lake in the woods. No stage, no headliners, no workshops or concerts. We just informally play tunes together in small groups all day and late into the night. It’s a big party.


What I like is to hop from session to session and play with a variety of amazing musicians. I never saw a piece of sheet music the whole three days. It’s all done by ear. Half of the tunes that I played this weekend I learned on the spot, having never heard them before. Picking up tunes on the fly is a knack that can be learned.


For those that don’t know, Old-Time music (in this context) is mostly an American Southern fiddle tunes tradition with guitar and banjo backup. It’s not Bluegrass, though we do share some tunes in common. It’s not Country, though some of us do sing old Country songs. The core of the repertoire are great tunes that have been passed down from a few dozen great fiddlers, living and dead. Many of the tunes have been learned from old 78’s that were recorded in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Back then, folks called it Hillbilly music.


So when I take out the Anglo concertina at Lake Genero, I run the risk of upsetting some purists. At this point though, most of them have gotten used to me and I have learned how to play concertina without making folks unhappy. I’ve learned the genre.


This year, I was not the only concertina player there. English player Rachel Hall made a surprise appearance. What fun to play again with her and her Philly friends!

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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