BERLIN — The Berlin Fiddlers Convention returns to Main Street for its 27th year this weekend, featuring bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, Irish and Cajun musicians from all over the country competing for thousands in prize money.
Hundreds of attendees of all ages turn out each year to cheer on their favorite competitors in full band, fiddle, banjo and mandolin categories and the Maryland State Flatpicking Guitar Championship. Renowned performers, accomplished youth and adult contestants, fantastic regional food and drink and artisans make this one of Maryland’s most fun occasions. The event is free.
Kicking off the weekend’s festivities on Friday, Sept. 20 will be a headline performance from the Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, hailing from western Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers draw freely from old time, bluegrass, rockabilly and swing music to create their own brand of high energy, Appalachian Bluegrass. Gary Antol (guitar/vocals) and Libby Eddy (fiddle/vocals) founded the band in 2014 with a simple goal — write good songs, honor the music and take it to the road. In the time since, the band has appeared at festivals and clubs all across the country.
“The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers are a daring and talented young bunch, and I can only hope that they manage to reach out and unite the bluegrass and old-time communities as easily as their music does,” according to Bluegrass Unlimited.
Opening the show from West Virginia’s eastern panhandle is Robert Mabe’s Irish Banjo at 7 p.m. at the north end of Berlin’s Main Street. Rain location is the Berlin Intermediate School Auditorium.
Robert Mabe grew up surrounded by many of bluegrass music’s great performers. Building his foundation on the styles of Earl Scruggs and a young Bela Fleck, Mabe began to dig deeper into the banjo’s place in other genres such as jazz, blues, and bluegrass’ primary predecessor, Irish music. He will be joined by Virginia-based fiddler and Berklee College of Music alum, Ben Walters. Over the years, he has performed thousands of shows across the USA and Canada — from honkey tonks to Carnegie Hall. His latest release entitled “Somewhere in the Middle” features stand out performances from an all-star lineup of pickers. “Somewhere in the Middle” also caught the attention of trade publications, Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited, who both published high praise of the project.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, registration for the competition begins at 10 a.m. for youth and adult contestants. New for this year is a miscellaneous category, which will be open to bluegrass and old-time musicians to perform on instruments other than the “standard.” Competition begins at noon. Encore performances from Friday’s headlining and opening bands will also be included. Parking shuttle service will be available from Berlin Intermediate School. Rain location is the Berlin Intermediate School Auditorium.
To round out the weekend on Sunday, Sept. 22 is the Gospel Bluegrass Jam, hosted by members of locally-based bluegrass and country pickers, Stevenson’s Crossroads and Blue Crab Crossing on the lawn of the Taylor House Museum at noon. Rain location is the Masonic Lodge on Main Street.