Summertime blues offered during Centrum festival

Throughout the week, blues musicians from around the nation have flocked to Port Townsend to participate in a weeklong music workshop that culminates with live performances open to the public.

PORT TOWNSEND — Organizers urge visitors and residents to catch a serious case of the summertime blues this weekend at Fort Worden during the Centrum Acoustic Blues Festival.

Throughout the week, blues musicians from around the nation have flocked to Port Townsend to participate in a weeklong music workshop that culminates with live performances open to the public.

Performances will be Saturday at Fort Worden State Park, 200 Battery Way, and on both today, Aug. 5, and Saturday at various venues throughout downtown Port Townsend as part of Blues in the Clubs.

“We have a full week of participatory blues workshops in which people spend the week on Fort Worden learning from masters of the acoustic blues,” said Mary Hilts, Acoustic Blues Festival program manager, this week.

“There are also public festival performances [today] and Saturday — all in various different styles of acoustic blues.”

With a primary core of acoustic 1920s- and 1930s-era blues, the Centrum Acoustic Blues Festival and Workshop honors tradition-bearers from across the United States, according to a news release.

“We are focusing on the prewar era of blues before it went to Chicago and plugged in,” Hilts said.

“We feel strongly about the importance of honoring and preserving the roots of the blues.”

Beautiful music

Blues “is the most beautiful music in America, and it has the power to draw in all people, young and old,” said Jerron Paxton, festival artistic director.

“I want those who come to Centrum to hear that music played by the best and to play with the best so that they can build that admiration and take that love and that music home with them.”

Steeped in the rich music and culture of communities of the Southern USA, this workshop gives attention to styles typified by the different players from various regions such as the Piedmont region of the southeastern coast and the Mississippi Delta, Paxton said.

Paxton is part of an African-American Jewish family with mixed Creole and Choctaw ancestry who moved to south-central Los Angeles when he was a child. He is a multi-instrumentalist who picks banjo and guitar, and plays harmonica, piano and other instruments, including the fiddle, his first instrument.

“The workshops focus not only on learning technique and songs, but also immersing yourself in the culture and history of the music as well as creating warm community gathering — the feeling of old country blues where music was played in communities, not just on stage with separation between performers and audience,” Hilts said.

“The caliber of musicianship is incredible as always,” Hilts said.

“It’s the second year of Jerron Paxton’s artistic directorship, and they’ve put together another amazing lineup of musicians.”

The Gospel Choir’s “Make a Joyful Noise” with Dr. Raymond Wise will perform at 11 a.m. at Fort Worden Chapel. This event is free and open to the public.

Then at 1:30 p.m., Fort Worden’s McCurdy Pavilion hosts the Acoustic Blues Showcase, featuring Paxton, The Fairfield Four, Guy Davis, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Pat Donohue, Orville Johnson, Tim Williams, Mark Graham, Clay Swafford and Phil Wiggins

Reserved seating tickets are $45, $35 or $25, depending on seating, and can be purchased by phone at 800-746-1982 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Tickets also are sold at the Centrum office, 223 Battery Way, between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Performance schedules may limit same-day sales hours.

For more information, call 360-385-3102, ext 110.

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Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or cmcdaniel@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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