Centrum welcomes summer with live and in-person concerts starting in July

Posted 6/10/21

This summer, Centrum’s biggest programs, Fiddle Tunes, Jazz Port Townsend, and Acoustic Blues, will return to Fort Worden. With a mix of in-person and online performances, the organization is …

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Centrum welcomes summer with live and in-person concerts starting in July

This summer, Centrum is bringing live and in-person concerts to the community for the first time in more than a year.
This summer, Centrum is bringing live and in-person concerts to the community for the first time in more than a year.
Photo courtesy of Centrum

This summer, Centrum’s biggest programs, Fiddle Tunes, Jazz Port Townsend, and Acoustic Blues, will return to Fort Worden. With a mix of in-person and online performances, the organization is bringing live music back.

Audiences can expect to experience what they’re used to from Centrum, said Centrum’s marketing manager Joe Gillard, with two in-person concerts: one of jazz and one of blues.

They can also expect to get a taste of the virtual Centrum experience with four online Fiddle Tunes concerts that will be broadcasted with new, state-of-the-art technology.

“A little bit of the old and a little bit of the new,” is how Gillard described this summer at Centrum.

The summer season will open with four online concerts from Fiddle Tunes beginning on Friday, July 2 and running through Monday, July 5. The same talent will just be presented in a virtual format, Gillard said.

After its workshop, Jazz Port Townsend will host a closing in-person concert held on Saturday, July 31. The Acoustic Blues workshop will also close with an in-person concert Saturday, Aug. 7.

The in-person performances will both be held at 1:30 p.m. on the grass outside the McCurdy Pavilion, where organizers said distance guidelines will be practiced and COVID regulations followed.

“Other than that, it should be exactly like one should expect at a big outdoor concert,” Gillard added.

“It will be a really profound experience for Port Townsend,” he said, noting the past year’s lack of live music.

The performances will mark some of the first live and in-person concerts in more than a year.

“I think it will be kind of an emotional experience for people,” he said. “I think there will be an overwhelming sense of return to kind of the magic of Centrum performances.”

Fiddle Tunes concert tickets can be purchased individually for $5 or as package for $15.

Jazz and blues tickets are $25 and admission is free to ages 18 and under. Purchase tickets online at centrum.org, or call 360-385-3102.

For further information, email Gillard at jgillard@centrum.org.


Fiddle Tunes will take place online again this summer. From Friday, July 2 until Monday, July 5, the all-virtual event will consist of learning from and playing music with master musicians, with a variety of styles.

“It will be five concurrent workshops, three times each day,” said Peter McCracken, the Fiddle Tunes program manager.

“People from all over the world, really, a lot of people in the Eastern Time Zone will be teaching,” he explained.

Each of the faculty will teach a workshop every day and then participate in a concert.

“There’s an awful lot I’ll be looking forward to,” McCracken added, reeling off the performances he’s been anticipating.

While the main teaching emphasis is on fiddle play, Fiddle Tunes provides participants with more than that with examples of banjo, guitar, and mandolin techniques sprinkled throughout the workshop. There will even be instruction on how to care for your instruments and equipment.

The workshop provides an opportunity to commune with other players and the keepers of fiddle traditions. It allows participants to discover culture through music and to build relationships in and around a music community.

Generally, the annual event would attract hundreds of people, gathering fanatics for intensive workshops. In the past, Fiddle Tunes even included children’s programs.

Online, it’s certainly not the same, the program manager said.

“It’s the best we’ve got, but it falls way short of meeting in person.”

McCracken said it’s the people involved that makes the event what it is.

“What makes it special is the faculty, the quality of the faculty, and the kind of music they’re presenting,” he said.


Centrum’s 2021 Jazz Port Townsend workshop will be online Monday, July 26 until Friday, July 30.

With daily activities, classes, performances, and more, the online Jazz Port Townsend will uphold the tradition of connecting participants with a faculty of world-class performers and educators, according to organizers.

A few adjustments have been made in order to accommodate the online format. For 2021, participants can expect a five-day workshop, instead of the normal seven days.

Each day will be filled with special topic sessions along with instrumental and vocal master classes. The workshop will be intensive with a wide variety of topics covered.

A live and in-person faculty performance will follow the workshop on Saturday, July 31.

“We’re going to put on the first in-person concert that Centrum has done in over a year and a half,” said Gregg Miller, Centrum’s program manager of Jazz Port Townsend.

“We’re really deeply excited about that,” he said.

“It just feels so good to actually be presenting live music again after such a long absence… I’m probably going to get a little emotional about it and I think some other people probably will, too.”

The performance will include two sets of jazz music performed by some of the top faculty from all over the country.

Miller said he is most looking forward to the moment after introducing the live performers, stepping off stage, and hearing those first notes.

“I’m going to look out and see a bunch of happy people and that’s going to feel really good.”

Even though he is personally grateful for things like Zoom, Miller said nothing beats the prospect of presenting a live concert again, believing live music is an almost spiritual endeavor.

“It’s why those of us who work at Centrum do this job … We believe in it really deeply. It keeps us going,” he said.


The Port Townsend Acoustic Blues workshop will begin virtually Tuesday, Aug. 3.

This year, Acoustic Blues will consist of daily intimate sessions and classroom instruction in traditional acoustic blues, including lessons in its history, songs, styles, and technical skills. Panel discussions will take place in the afternoons and the evenings will showcase faculty concerts celebrating various blues styles.

The goal of the workshop is to dig deep into the music and the traditions, the roots, the contributors, and the stories of African American folk blues.

Or as Centrum says: “As we learn how to play some of this music, we acknowledge and honor the past and the extraordinary Black people from whom this music arose. We seek to understand more deeply the difference between appreciation and appropriation as we learn this music, so generously shared with us.”

The sessions will be intensive with conversational instruction. Delta, Piedmont, Hill Country, and Ragtime styles will all be discussed. Lessons in blues guitar, fingerpicking, slide guitar, harmonica, violin, mandolin, banjo, piano, bass, accordion, ukulele, singing, will be taught by experts.

A faculty consisting of 30 of the country’s best acoustic blues musicians will teach classes meant to build skills and inspire new traditions, while honoring the firsts.

An intensive three-day workshop will close with a celebration, a live and in-person performance, on Saturday, Aug. 7.

“It is exciting after this whole year plus and not really knowing when things were going clear up,” said Mary Hilts, program manager of Acoustic Blues.

Hilts said it was refreshing to plan something, even in these uncertain times.

“The community needs something and we feel like that’s why we’re here is to bring this,” Hilts said.

Being out on the greens and thinking about live music, she described feeling “a joy that we hadn’t in a really long time.”

“There’s a lightness of being that comes through sound waves and the reverberation when you’re actually there with them,” she said.

“The energy of the day and all of that joy that music brings to humanity, it crosses over language, spoken word…”

“Being together in community and seeing people smile – one of the most delightful things after doing the work of putting together a concert is to walk into the space and feel the joy,” she added.


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