It was incredibly satisfying to load into a taxi and ride downtown to hear the latter half of the Inaugural Bluegrass in the Park at Madison Square Park today. The Saroyan family rode the 1 train home. When my son Joseph, who turns three this Thursday, found out we were going to a bluegrass festival he asked, “Are we staying in a hotel?” But there was no need for a long car ride and overnight. The boys are sleeping in their own beds.
Joseph and I got some very special time with members of the Nashville Bluegrass Band before their set. Stuart Duncan took a look at Joseph’s fiddle and bow and talked with him. Alan O’Bryant picked Cripple Creek for him backstage with Roland White, who was substituting for Mike Compton. NBB’s set featured several dedications to Bill Monroe in honor of the 100th anniversary of Big Mon’s birthday.
Many bluegrass musicians were in attendance: Bill Christophersen, Gene Yellin, Mark Farrel, Ben Fraker, Arnie Fleischer, Gene Lowinger, Noam Pikelny, and Gabe Witcher were the ones that I saw. The event’s performers and location brought them together to listen. While many people rightfully think of New York City as being the residence of choice for classical, jazz, opera and other musicians, I think that gatherings like the one today show that accomplished bluegrass artists make their home here, too.