11th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree

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A performance by two of the founding members of the New Lost City Ramblers — the highly influential string band that jump-started the folk music revival (some called it the “folk scare”) in the 1950s — will be one of the highlights of the 11th annual Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree when it returns September 12-14.

John Cohen and Tom Paley, along with Mike Seeger, started the New Lost City Ramblers in 1958 and inspired a generation of musicians to take up instruments and explore American roots music. Cohen and Paley will perform separately and together on the second day of the Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree.

Each year, Park Slope becomes the focal point of bluegrass and old-time music when the Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree, now in its 11th year, takes place. The sounds of banjos, fiddles, mandolins, guitars and big upright basses echo through the “hills and hollers” of Brooklyn in this celebration of American traditional music.

The Jamboree, held each year at the historic meeting house and surrounding gardens of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on Prospect Park West near Second Street, starts off with a bluegrass concert on Friday night by James Reams & The Barnstormers.

This internationally known bluegrass band plays bluegrass music the old-fashioned way, reminiscent of the way the founders of the genre played it — Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and other “pioneers” of the music. James Reams — whose voice has been compared with that of Del McCoury by bluegrass and country music magazines — fronts a band that has garnered nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association and critical acclaim from every major bluegrass and roots-music publication.

The next day’s schedule includes a full day of activities, including workshops in banjo, fiddle, harmony singing, and more, plus all-day jamming and an evening concert featuring many fine performers. This year, an additional day has been added, in a different location.

While Friday and Saturday celebrate the “roots” of traditional American music, Sunday’s activities explore the “branches” — with workshops and performances by musicians who combine the traditional styles with more contemporary elements.

The music on Sunday takes place at the club Jalopy in Red Hook. Musicians from all over the Northeast convene at the Jamboree each year to play and enjoy the music that originated with the earliest immigrants to this country. The settlers from Scotland, England and Ireland combined the ballads and instruments of their tradition with the music and instruments of the slaves (the American “banjo” was originally the African “mbanza”) to produce this country’s first “fusion” music.

Each year, the Jamboree attracts more than 700 musicians and fans of old-time and bluegrass music. The Jamboree is sponsored by several arts organizations, civic associations and community businesses.

The Friday night concert by James Reams & The Barnstormers starts at 8 p.m. (admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children). Saturday’s activities run from 12:30 to 10:30 p.m. (admission is only $4) and feature workshops, all-day jamming (with acoustic instruments only: acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolins, banjos, Dobros, upright basses, dulcimers, autoharps, harmonicas, etc.), and evening concerts.

This year’s Saturday evening concerts include performances by influential and accomplished musicians including John Cohen, Tom Paley, New Lost City Ramblers Anniversary Celebration, David & Linda Lay, Bust Down, The Haywire Gang, American Flyer, Lightning in the East.

In addition to the workshops, jamming and concerts, there will be the presentation of the “Brown Jug” award — given each year to a person who has made a significant and continuing contribution to old-time or bluegrass music in the Northeast.

Special Events

This year’s Jamboree includes several special events, including:

· an old-time and bluegrass film festival (with interviews and rare archival film footage), from film archivists Russell Scholl and Chad Hunter;

· a “slow jam,” specially tailored to be a non-intimidating musical performance experience.

This year, a third day has been added to the Jamboree at a different location. With the collaboration of the Virginia Folklife Program, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, September 14, several performers will conduct workshops in the afternoon ($25 each or all four for $80) in instrument building, flatpick guitar playing and more. The events will take place at Jalopy, a music school and venue in Red Hook.

In addition, at 7 p.m., a performance called “Best of Virginia,” will include concerts by finger-picking guitarist Wayne Henderson; fiddle-competition winner Jimmy Edmonds, Gerald Anderson (guitar) and Spencer Strickland (mandolin); and progressive bluegrass band No Speed Limit.

Jalopy is at 315 Columbia Street. Tickets are $15 for the evening performances. For information, visit or call 718-395-3214.

Friday and Saturday’s events are held at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture Meeting House, 53 Prospect Park West at Second Street in Park Slope. For information, call 718-768-2972, 718-965-8490 or email

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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