By SEAN HICKEY
For 21st Century Media
The sweet strains of bluegrass music will be echoing through the hills and hollows of Northern Chester County this weekend with the inaugural Wyebrook Farm Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, April 26.
The festival will be held at the picturesque Wyebrook Farm in Honeybrook. Wyebrook Farm owner Dean Carlson will serve as host for the day which will begin aroud noon and run until 7 p.m. Several musical guests will perform on the lawn between the pond and The Cafe at the farm throughout the day with the culminating performance coming from Grand Ole Opry member and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor inductee Jesse McReynolds.
Ticket holders will enjoy seven hours of live music and will be able to take advantage of the farm-fresh eats from The Cafe at Wyebrook Farm serving poultry, pork, and beef alongside artisanal cheeses and sustainably raised produce from other farmers in the area. In addition, there will be several food stands set up for the day around the property offering additional food choices that will include a barbecue cart and char-grilled burgers. The entire event will be BYOB, allowing guests to enjoy their favorite local wines or craft beers along with the food and non-alcoholic beverages available for purchase on site. Wyebrook Farm’s expansive, bucolic pastures will be open to festival goers throughout the day, allowing them to leisurely explore the grounds on foot. There will also be educational, interactive hayride tours of the farm where young and old alike can visit with the farm’s heritage-breed cows, pigs, and chickens, all while they enjoy the fresh air and live bluegrass tunes.
While the festivities begin at noon, the music will start up at about 1 p.m. with East Side Dave Klein and Mountain Folk. Dave Klein is a life-long musician who also hosts several radio shows in this area. He also writes for several bluegrass magazines, as well as being a contributor for the Reading Eagle newspaper. The Mountain Folk Band will be joining him for his set. They have been performing all around this area since 1989 as a five-piece bluegrass band, a duo, or any other configuration, and the band’s repertoire includes original material, sing-a-long material, as well as traditional bluegrass and music from Appalachian to Alpine music styles. At 2 p.m. the Travis Wetzel Trio takes to the stage. Wetzel is originally from Norristown, and is sometimes referred to as the “mad fiddler.” He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn. where he plays and records with some the best musicians in the country. He was also recently called “one the greatest to ever set foot on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry” by the Country Music Hall of Fame — high praise indeed. Wetzel will be followed by the Frog Holler Bluegrass Band at 3 p.m. Frog Holler is a local band that hails from the Reading area and has been playing all types of acoustic music for more than 15 years. They’ll be bringing their unique talents as a bluegrass band to Wyebrook for this occasion.
At 4 p.m., mandolin maestro Jesse McReynolds will begin his first of two sets of music. The 83-year-old McReynolds is currently celebrating his 50th anniversary on the Grand Ole Opry and is also widely known in the music world for pioneering a technique called flat picking on his mandolin. After performing for over 65 years, McReynolds has certainly earned his title as the Ironman of Bluegrass. Some readers might remember McReynolds from years past when he and his late brother, Jim, hosted a bluegrass radio show out of Lancaster County. That radio show went on for several years and was only silenced when Jim and Jesse decided to move south to Nashville. In a recent telephone interview, McReynolds said he was “extremely anxious and excited to be returning to the Pennsylvania area and reconnect with the many fans of his music that he has gathered over the years.” His first set will be strictly a bluegrass affair and McReynolds said he has recruited the famed mountain music duo the Crowe Brothers to come up and assist him. Both Wayne and Josh Crowe will be filling out the five-piece ensemble that McReynolds has put together for his first set.
McReynolds’ second set will have a decidedly “Dead” flair to it as he will offer his take on several classic Grateful Dead tunes. For this set, McReynold’s has enlisted another musical legend, Aaron Hurwitz (aka “Professor Louie”), from Woodstock, N.Y., to assist. For more than 15 years, Professor Louie collaborated with The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame group The Band up in the Empire State and certainly knows his way around the Grateful Dead catalog while adding his own signature work on Hammond Organ, keyboards, vocals, and accordion. This plugged-in set should be the perfect way to wrap up a wonderful day of music and family fun.
The festival is the brain-child of Dennis Sadler and will serve as a fundraiser for his Songwriters Conspiracy website (songwritersconspiracy.com) where both artists and music promoters can meet and coordinate recording projects as well as performance opportunities. Musicians who are members of the Songwriters Conspiracy benefit by gaining exclusive access to venues in which they can perform in addition to access to some of the best services available in the music industry today.
Tickets for the Wyebrook Farm Bluegrass Festival will be available for $35 in advance or $40 the day of the show (children under 12 are free). Advance tickets can be purchased through Sadler’s website www.songwritersconspiracy.com, or by contacting Wyebrook Farm directly at either 610-942-7480, or at www.wyebrookfarm.com/bluegrass-festival. The farm is located at 150 Wyebrook Rd, in Honey Brook, Pa. Bring a blanket or a chair. This event will be held rain or shine.