Bashaw Festival of Stars set for long weekend

Having become a popular May long weekend musical event, the ninth annual Bashaw Festival of Stars runs May 18-20 on the Bashaw Agricultural grounds.

Audiences will enjoy everything from bluegrass to country classics to gospel-oriented styles. Things kick off Friday at 1 p.m. Hours for Saturday and Sunday entertainment are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Folks are encouraged to bring along their lawn chairs and camping is available.

Among the highlights this year is award-winning Calgary accordion player Michael Bridge who finished fourth in the world at both the 2011 Junior Coupe Mondiale and in the 2011 Roland Digital World Accordion Championships.

He has also performed with the Boston Pops for the hit NPR radio show From the Top. Recognized for his versatility, Bridge, 18, is equally at home performing works by classical giants such as Bach and Haydn plus a range of contemporary works, polkas, waltzes, jazz standards and pop hits.

He certainly had an early start, having began piano lessons at age four and accordion lessons at age seven.

“We had a family friend who was going to stay with us for six months but ended up staying for eight years,” he says with a laugh. It’s a good thing she did, because she was an essential part of Bridge discovering the magic of the accordion, which she also played.

She purchased him a $5 toy accordion at a garage sale when he was five, and he was pretty much hooked from that time forward.

“I loved it right from the start,” he said. That Christmas, he performed half of Jingle Bells for his family and that was pretty much the starting point of what would prove the ideal career path for the talented young musician.

Bridge describes the accordion as an incredibly versatile and sensitive instrument – it’s not merely a ‘polka box’ as some people think. Plenty of sounds can be replicated, and sure it’s ideal for old-time dance music, but it’s also played in a number of genres from classical, country, Celtic and jazz to pop and the blues.

Meanwhile, Bridge went on to complete the Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 10 curriculum on both piano and accordion. He also recently wrapped up his first year of studies at the University of Toronto, studying classical accordion under the world-renowned pedagogue Joseph Macerollo.

The city offers all kinds of opportunities for his to broaden his musical horizons, he said.

“Toronto has a mind-blowing music scene – the accordion is much more well-known there than it is here.” In fact, Canada kinds of lags behind other nations when it comes to having a strong appreciation of the instrument, which is enormously popular across Europe and Asia. Reflecting that popularity, May 6 was actually World Accordion Day, he said.

Countries ranging from Finland and France to Germany and Russia also have a flourishing appreciation for the accordion.

At the age of 14, Bridge released his first CD of original compositions entitled My Stuff followed by a book of sheet music to match the CD. His second CD of original works, Sharon’s Song was released in 2009.

In 2010, he released Old Time Favourites as a tribute to the hundreds of traditional dance pieces he has learned over time. He is now gearing up to release his fourth disc this year which will see him merge pop, old time and classical genres.

Meanwhile, other performers set to hit the stage at the Bashaw Festival of Stars include Marj and Friends, Henry Ohl, The Jeskes, Sentimental Journey, Randy Smith, Amanda Shaw, Judy Mazurek and Top Secret Bluegrass among others.

Admission to the Bashaw Festival of Stars is as follows – Friday ($20), Saturday and Sunday ($25). The weekend special price is $55.

For more information, call coordinator Ron Shantz at 780-372-3087.

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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