PORT TOWNSEND — With the arrival of Red Hot Strings, the vintage jazz and swing workshop presented by Centrum, music lovers’ thoughts can turn to that thing known as live performance.
Summer was once the time when the Fort Worden State Park campus filled up with jamming, singing and playing for crowds of people, while artists from across the country came to stay in the fort’s quarters.
Red Hot Strings, the global gathering running this Friday through Sunday, is like Fiddle Tunes, Jazz Port Townsend and the Acoustic Blues workshops: It’ll be open to online participants only this year.
Spaces are still open in Red Hot Strings, whose tuition is $200 for adults and $100 for musicians 18 and younger — with scholarships available. There is no application for the scholarships, said program manager Mary Hilts; attendees simply request financial aid by contacting her at [email protected] or 360-385-3102, ext. 116. Registration will continue till Friday at centrum.org under “Music.”
While Red Hot Strings won’t have an in-person show this year, its two older siblings, Jazz Port Townsend and the Acoustic Blues festival, will come with one public concert each, Centrum Executive Director Robert Birman said Monday.
The jazz event, set for the afternoon of July 31, will star seven to 12 of the artists on the Jazz Port Townsend faculty; the blues show slated for Aug. 7 will bring another band of similar size. Both concerts will take place on the McCurdy Pavilion stage, which will open up to the audience on Littlefield Green, Birman said.
“Based on the mapping we’ve done, we can have 160 to 200 people,” he estimated, adding the Centrum crew will paint spaces on the lawn for small groups to stay socially distanced.
“It will be such a release to do something” out in the summer sun, Birman said.
Tickets will go on sale for these shows by June 1, he said.
In the meantime, musicians hungry for jazz, Western swing and kindred spirits are invited to a Red Hot Strings workshop like none before.
Hilts emphasized that, for the price of admission, participants can meet players from Japan, New York City, Nashville, Texas and San Francisco while exploring vintage music on guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar and bass.
Hilts and Matt Munisteri, the New York-based artistic curator, took advantage of the fact that they didn’t have to worry about airfare, hotels or visas for any of the teaching artists.
“So we have this buffet,” Hilts said.
The laying out of dishes starts Friday evening with an orientation to the various Zoom rooms and lounges and a live session with the Sweet Hollywaiians of Osaka, Japan. Then eight faculty members plus eight special presentation guests will fill Saturday and Sunday with sessions such as “The Language of Louis: Learn to Play Pops (on the guitar!),” with Albanie Falletta, “Solo Stride Guitar” with Joel Paterson, “Trad Bass Toolkit” with Matt Weiner and “Spring Training” with Munisteri.
“We put 15-minute breaks in,” Hilts said, “but we kept it pretty solid.”
Come Saturday evening, it’s time for concerts by the instructors — “some of my absolute favorite players anywhere,” Munisteri said in his invitation letter.
“We’ll have rooms for everyone in attendance to share some tunes, show-and-tell favorite instruments, host a listening session, or just gather together, chat and catch up,” he added.
“Perhaps best of all, every minute will be recorded and archived by Centrum and will then be made available to everyone in attendance — no more ‘which class to attend’ dilemmas,” Munisteri noted, adding participants will have access to the workshop content for a year.
“To be honest, I am actually kind of thrilled,” Munisteri wrote, “because we’ll be doing lots that would not be possible in the ‘real world.’”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]