By Kevin Ralph and Chelsea Winebrener, Special to the Denisonian
The annual Denison Bluegrass Festival took place on Feb. 14 and 15 in Swasey Chapel, showcasing both campus talent and performances from renowned bluegrass musicians.
The first night featured an enthusiastic and booming performance by the Denison University Suzuki Program Fiddlers and ended with a passionate and beautiful performance by the Andy Carlson Band and the Dappled Grays.
Alumni from Denison’s bluegrass program came back to the Hill and to open for the Andy Carlson Band. Rob Flax ‘10 gave a particularly inspired fiddle performance. Also worth noting was the beautiful singing from Emily Baker ‘04. Her voice had real soul that reverberated throughout the chapel.
The Andy Carlson Band and the Dappled Grays covered many songs from previous festival artists. Bluegrass guitar instructor Casey Cook was incredible, delivering powerful, crowd-pleasing solos.
The second performance took place on a day completely devoted to bluegrass, with workshops running all day, culminating with a concert by the April Verch Band and IIIrd Tyme Out, filling Swasey with both Denison students and Granville area residents. “It was a blast! My brother and dad came up especially for it,” said Elizabeth Rosenkranz ‘17, a cinema major from Dayton, Ohio.
The April Verch Band, consisting of vocalist and fiddle-player Verch, upright bassist Cody Walters, and Hayes Griffin ‘10 on guitar, opened the show. The energy of the band members was palpable, and Verch surprised the audience when she incorporated step-dancing into the songs.
At the end of the set, Verch wowed the audience when she played the fiddle while dancing at the same time without missing a beat.
Walters kept a constant steady beat on the bass, while Griffin’s remarkable talent on the guitar was demonstrated in his picking. The set ended with raucous applause and a standing ovation.
The headliner of the evening was IIIrd Tyme Out, led by vocalist and guitarist Russell Moore, who co-founded the group in 1991. IIIrd Tyme Out has won several awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association for Vocal Group of the Year. Moore’s clear baritone and the group’s tight harmonies rang throughout the chapel, and their set included old favorites from some of their older albums. More than once, the audience couldn’t resist singing along.