Jamming old time blues: A way to meet new people

thumbThe Foothills Bluegrass Society is a community of Calgary musicians who share a collective passion for Bluegrass, old time country, western, jazz and folk music.

On Thursday night, during one of the group’s jam sessions at the Irish Cultural Society in Bowness, a group of about 15 members sat in a circle with their guitars and belted out old time Bluegrass songs in unison. 

“Oh, it’s a good outing, eh,” said Del Benko, an older gentleman who has been a member of the Bluegrass Society for 10 years.

“Like, I live on my own now because a friend of mine who I hung out with for 13 or 14 years, she passed away two years ago of cancer, so I don’t have much to do.”

Benko explained that once a month the Bluegrass Society have an event where they host a band of honour from anywhere in North America to come play music with them.

“We have a special group that comes in once a month, so we play bluegrass, folk, ballads, whatever strikes your fancy,” Benko said. “We had a band called The Chapmans in from Missouri last month, we always get a good turn out.”

My favourite music to play is some of the old Bob Wills, “Faded Love,” “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” stuff like that.” Benko added. “When you come here it’s not about who’s better than who. We just come to have fun.”

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The Bluegrass always accepts new members at a price of $20.00 a year. The Calgary Bluegrass Society practice playing guitar and singing every Thursday night at The Irish Cultural Society.
Photo by: Conor Mahoney 

“When I was growing up in Saskatchewan, all the people would gather up and play music all night,” member Diana Stanford said.

“Bluegrass society is the same thing, people coming together to sing and play.”

Stanford said she lives for music and practices both playing her guitar and singing about three or four times a day.

At the moment she is perfecting a song by Norman Blake called “Church Street Blues” and is determined to nail it before the summer is over.

New member Shirley Ewert said she is excited to be a part of the musical community and share her love for playing her guitar with other members.

Ewert travels from the far south of the city to the northwest every Thursday to jam with other members.

“It’s easy to play with these folks, it’s a great way to meet new people and to improve your playing,” Ewert said.

The Bluegrass Society has a board of directors of 13 and a membership of approximately 200 people.

They also have two venues for jam sessions. Monday sessions are held downtown and Thursdays at the Irish Cultural Society. Once a month a regional, national, or international guest comes or the group has a night of fun and music.

Every year the Bluegrass Society hosts a festival called Shady Grove. This year it is held here in Calgary on August 19-21. For any further information you can visit their website.

“The festival is loads of fun and a great opportunity to hear from both local and non-local musicians.” Ewert added.


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