One of northern Michigan’s most popular festivals canceled its in-person event near Harbor Springs due to COVID, so Thornetta Davis, Desmond Jones, Rainbow Girls and others will instead perform online.
To experience Bliss this year, festival fans will have to celebrate online.
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After canceling the 40th annual Blissfest near Harbor Springs due to COVID-19, festival organizers today announced a “virtual” replacement festival, with live-stream performances this weekend by more than a dozen artists, including Thornetta Davis, Desmond Jones, Rosier and Rainbow Girls.
The online “festival” kicks off with an artist showcase at 8 p.m. Thursday, followed by a weekend “of virtual performances, workshops, master classes and more.”
“It’s a talented lineup across many genres like the festival, including a silent disco stream to end your evenings,” noted Blissfest director Cindy McSurely.
The online version of Blissfest — available on the Blissfest Music Organization Facebook page and on the blissfest.org website — takes place the same weekend that the 40th edition of the festival would have rolled out on the festival grounds in northern Michigan, with online performances “spanning the traditional Blissfest diaspora” with “sounds of folk, blues, American and more.”
“Maintaining the longstanding Blissfest tradition and mission to promote innovators of folk and roots music, we have acts that span and blend genres from outlaw Americana with Alex & Erin to Rosier from Quebec, presenting their acoustic trio with interpretations of traditional Quebec folk,” Blissfest talent buyer Caroline Barlow said in a prepared statement.
The virtual festival will feature master classes and workshops in the morning, and performances at night. Blissfest will also pay tribute to outgoing festival founder Jim Gillespie with a Sunday evening performance by Dr. Goodhart, fronted by Gillespie to “help celebrate his retirement.”
‘MORE ARTISTS TO BRING INTO THE BLISSFEST FAMILY’
Thursday’s opening artist showcase is curated by Springfed Arts director John D. Lamb, who has hosted second stage open-mics and songwriters-in-the-round sessions at Blissfest for years.
“John’s work in bringing world-class songwriters to the area has cultivated an appreciation for the craft and the people behind it for decades,” said Barlow. “We can always count on him and Springfed Arts to leave us with moving moments and memories.”
Many of the showcase performers have shared their music with Blissfest patrons in the past and have been featured guests of Springfed Arts’ annual Lamb’s Retreat for Songwriters. And current events have popularized a song by one of the featured performers — Tom Prasado-Rao’s poignant “$20 Bill.”
The bulk of the online festival is free, though some master classes will require fees, with details at blissfest.org.
McSurely said the organization will host “a virtual tip jar for the weekend” with proceeds split with the performing artists. She noted that some devoted festivalgoers are hosting their own “homefests” to watch the live-streams.
“What you’ll find most this weekend is more artists to bring into our Blissfest family and love for years to come,” Barlow said. “We hope you enjoy it wherever you may find yourselves.”
Blissfest’s virtual event is sponsored in part by Great Lakes Energy People Fund and Arts Midwest in collaboration with Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Emergency Relief Fund, is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act.
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