With the usual Wheatland festival canceled due to COVID-19, organizers have assembled three days of performance videos by a slew of familiar artists. See the full schedule for the September event.
Wheatland is going worldwide for 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic scuttling the much-beloved, in-person Wheatland Music Festival held outside Remus, Michigan, the September event is now poised to go online for an unprecedented virtual edition of the celebration of traditional arts.
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For three days, starting Sept. 11, Wheatland Worldwide will present online video and audio performances by a bevy of familiar folk and roots music artists, including Jill Jack, Chris Smither, Sweet Water Warblers, Lunasa, Frank Youngman and Seth Bernard.
The free video and audio presentations broadcast on YouTube and elsewhere aim to give “attendees” an entertaining glimpse into Wheatland from their own homes or backyards across the globe.
“The goal of the Wheatland Worldwide event is to give the festival faithful a ‘Wheatland experience’ wherever they are in the world,” said J. Oscar Bittinger, social media coordinator for the event.
“The event is also a chance to offer a taste of the Wheatland gumbo of Americana roots music: blues, bluegrass, cajun, Celtic, folk (and music for folk dancing), gospel, kids’ music, old-time and zydeco to those who’ve never been to Wheatland or are just now hearing about the festival.”
Two dozen well-known artists – many from Michigan – will be featured as part of Wheatland’s three-day, online showcase, with some of the videos and audio presentations reflecting previous performances at Wheatland. Others feature new material recorded by performers for the virtual event.
That includes new videos of Andrew Brown’s Djangophonique at 7 p.m. Friday, a Michigan Songwriters in the Round session featuring Sam Cooper, Kyle Rasche, Kaitlin Rose and Mike Ward at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the traditional 11 a.m. Sunday gospel hour.
In addition, “Wheatsongs,” airing at 2 p.m. Sunday, will feature new songs written by Wheatland writers (including Sean Miller, John Sanger, Shawn Butzin, Kathy Wieland and a dozen others).
Organizers also recently added a “warmup” event at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 with highlights of Wheatland’s traditional arts weekend, a dance performance movie and a John Hartford program “with exclusive material.”
Wheatland board member Greg Hoff said he’s hopeful Wheatland regulars will “get together with family and friends” to listen to the online performances.
“We have 40-plus years of recorded festival performances to choose from for the audio portion of the show,” he said. “We also wanted to provide some work for the Michigan performers who had been hired for the 2020 fest. They provided the videos for the show.”
Although the multiple-day online presentation is free to viewers, there will be “opportunities to donate” to the Wheatland Music Organization, Bittinger said.
He also noted that the performers are being paid, and that “the tradition of multiple-genre roots music” is reflected in the Wheatland Worldwide broadcasts which will be available for replay on Facebook and YouTube after the event.
As for Wheatland 2021? “We have already contacted all the performers booked for this year’s fest and locked them in for 2021,” Hoff said.
Revisit Wheatland 2019 in words and photos at Local Spins: Good vibes, wistful music, fun community, fall-like weather
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