*** Published Wed, Sept 15 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
Before Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs and Doyle Lawson performed for Rhythm & Roots Reunion crowds expected in the thousands, each was scheduled to appear in a more intimate setting.
The three bluegrass music legends are among more than 20 artists of all musical genres on the list to present programs at the festival's Virginia Folklife Workshops. Events were scheduled throughout the weekend, from Friday through Sunday afternoon.
"This is an opportunity for folks to see a lot of headline artists in a sit-down, casual setting. We call it a workshop, but it's really a convocation and music," said Jon Lohman, the state folklorist who oversees a number of similar programs. "This is our second year working with Rhythm & Roots and this year we have an awesome lineup."
Artists typically appear alone or with one or two others and spend time answering audience questions and explaining facets of their music, in addition to playing a few tunes. Most last about 45 minutes.
Lohman said this series is nearly a microcosm of the larger festival featuring musical styles from bluegrass to Piedmont blues, from rock and folk to country and old-time string band.
"It will be different than last year. This year, we've broadened it a little bit to include a wider variety of music," Lohman said.
Festival Executive Director Leah Ross said the program was well received last year.
"It was really popular and Jon Lohman just does an awesome job conducting those," Ross said. "We're scheduled to move into the former H.P. King building so they'll have more room."
The H.P. King building is at 620 State St., next door to where the workshops were held in 2009.
Doyle Lawson is scheduled to present a Sunday afternoon program about gospel music.
Performing with his group Quicksilver, Lawson's latest CD "Light on My Feet, Ready to Fly" and a collaboration with lifelong friends J.D. Crowe and Paul Williams, titled "Old Friends Get Together," both feature exclusively gospel music.
"They've been my friends my whole music career," Lawson said in a phone interview about Crowe and Williams. "They got together and wanted to know if I would play guitar and sing lead paying tribute to Jimmy Martin's gospel music. I jumped at the chance to do that. That was a labor of love."
Like Lawson, McCoury said he looks forward to presenting information about his craft and connecting with fans.
"I just found out I'm doing that," McCoury said in a Monday phone interview. "That's great. I enjoy doing those kinds of things."
Many of the 2009 workshops attracted overflow crowds.
"Last year was an adventure. It was our first year in Bristol and I learned a lot about the festival and I think the festival learned a lot about us," Lohman said.
As a result, the events have been shifted to a larger venue and expanded from 10 to 18 programs.
Among the other presenters are:
* Nate Leath, who won the Galax Fiddler's Convention at age 11.
* Blues harmonica legend Phil Wiggins, who headlines a blues showcase with Rick Franklin and Eleanor Ellis.
* The Rev. Frank Newsome, a Baptist minister.
* Rock singer Michelle Malone, who is scheduled to discuss songwriting.
* Instrument-makers Wayne Henderson and Gerald Anderson.
* Adam Larkey, Ty Edwards and Carson Peters, who will present a kids music showcase.