Bill and the Belles — from left, Kalia Yeagle, Kris Truelsen and Helena Hunt of Johnson City, Tenn. — are among the performers in Port Townsend for this week’s Voice Works festival. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

Bill and the Belles — from left, Kalia Yeagle, Kris Truelsen and Helena Hunt of Johnson City, Tenn. — are among the performers in Port Townsend for this week’s Voice Works festival. (Diane Urbani de la Paz)

Respect, zen bluegrass, reggae at Voice Works

PORT TOWNSEND — Voice Works, five days of singing songs from everywhere and everybody, is well underway with showcase concerts, a dance and a flock of songbirds making music born in Motown, Ireland, Louisiana and beyond.

They’ve alighted at Fort Worden State Park to teach workshops and to perform: Bill and the Belles, the Mighty Singing Pals, reggae master Clinton Fearon, bluegrass legend Peter Rowan and Vancouver, B.C., soul singer Dawn Pemberton, to give a sample.

“We’re all made of the same things,” said Mara Kaye, a blues singer from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We all feel the same things … blues is the connective tissue,” she told the packed Wheeler Theater during the Voice Works orientation Monday night.

Voice Works opens to the public on three occasions. First up is Wednesday’s “Vintage Vocals” concert at 7:30 in the Wheeler Theater at Fort Worden, 200 Battery Way.

The show ranges from Americana to Eastern European to folk, soul and “zen bluegrass” with Peter Rowan, Pharis and Jason Romero, Jefferson Hamer, Dawn Pemberton, Robert Sarazin Blake and Eva Salina Primack.

Tickets for this concert and the one Friday night are $30 via 800-746-1982 or Centrum.org.

Thursday’s 8 p.m. Polka Dot Dance, with all tickets sold at the USO Hall door for $10, is all about early country and honky-tonk with Bill and the Belles, Drew Simon, Kelli Jones and Friends. Polka-dotted attire is strongly encouraged.

Finally, Friday’s 7:30 p.m. show, titled “Essential Traditions,” spreads out a showcase of early jazz, blues, reggae, bluegrass, indie folk and Irish music with Fearon, Kaye, Ernie Vega, Kathy Kallick, Emily Millard and Brian Ó hAirt.

Pemberton, teacher of singing workshops titled “Get Lifted” and “Soul Sessions,” calls gospel, rhythm and blues and soul “music that heals people.” In these songs, she said, we find our own medicine.

Then Pemberton encouraged her students to join her in a pledge about rhythm.

“I promise to respect the groove,” she recited.

“I promise to keep it light and bouncy.

“I will respect the rests. And I will keep it funky.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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