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Folk Alliance conference returns with a feast of music, art, film and expert instruction

The Folk Alliance festival will feature five films, including “The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music,” (above) and “Kansas City Jazz and Blues: Past, Present and Future.” For a schedule, go to
The Folk Alliance festival will feature five films, including “The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music,” (above) and “Kansas City Jazz and Blues: Past, Present and Future.” For a schedule, go to

The Folk Alliance International Conference returns to Crown Center this week, a year after its successful relocation in Kansas City.

This year’s festival will take place in both Crown Center hotels, the Westin and the Sheraton. As it did last year, the conference will offer four days of music, panel discussions and lessons from some of the best musicians in the world.

The music showcases in the Sheraton from Thursday through Saturday night are open to the public. Admission is $25 per evening session. Admission to the daytime conference and music camps from Thursday through Sunday is $25 a day. A $125 pass provides admission to daytime and evening events.

The conference opens Wednesday night, when dozens of local musicians will perform at a Kansas City music showcase at the Sheraton and in the former Benton’s location at the Westin.

Acts include Grisly Hand, Victor & Penny, John Velghe & the Prodigal Sons, Howard Iceberg, Maria the Mexican, the Blackbird Revue, the Project H, Bob and Diana Suckiel, the Latenight Callers and two songwriting circles. Admission is $20.

Here’s a look at two of the more ambitious shows at the Kansas City showcase on Wednesday night. Look for more coverage later this week on and in the FYI and Preview sections of The Star.

The Barclay Martin Ensemble: Madagascar

8 p.m. in the Century C Ballroom

If you missed the stunning premiere of “Unbound Presents Hemispheres: Sound Photographs from Madagascar” at the Living Room in November, here’s your chance to see and hear it.

It’s a multimedia presentation of images and music recorded by Barclay Martin and Giuliano Mingucci during a 24-day trip to Madagascar in July. More than 200 musicians in Madagascar participated.

Wednesday night Martin, Mingucci, Lindsey Jones and Rick Willoughby will perform a selection of songs from “Voices of Unbound: Madagascar,” the recording that resulted from the trip.

Proceeds from the sale of “Voices of Unbound: Madagascar” recordings go to scholarships for young people in the 21 countries where Unbound works. Martin works for Unbound, a nonprofit organization.

The Wednesday performance blends projections from the recording sessions in Madagascar with live music. Some of the songs will be performed with instruments Martin and Mingucci acquired in Madagascar; all songs will be sung in Malagasy, the native language.

The performance will be enhanced by projections and lighting designed by Quixotic, including images compiled during recording sessions in Madagascar.

“The musicians are all a part of the Unbound program in Madagascar, and proudly gave their songs and performances to be part of this record as their gift to the community,” Martin said. “The students who will receive these scholarships will likely never meet these musicians. Such is the power of music.”

Johnny Hamil’s Gav7d (Gawd)

8 to 11 p.m. in the Penn Valley Ballroom

This project, which has been years in the making, is an offspring of Mr. Marco’s V7 (thus the v7 in Gav7d). Hamil, who composed the music for Gav7d, has assembled dozens of local musicians. The core band: Hamil on bass, Mark Southerland on saxophone, Beau Bledsoe on oud, Kent Burnham on drums, Mike Stover on mantar and lap steel and Kyle Dahlquist on trombone and accordion. Guests will include guitarists Chris Tady, Chad Meise and Marco Pascolini.

Performances will include “Eastwood Got Skinny, Travolta Got Fat,” with Kasey Rausch on vocals; “Polyester Rehab Scenario,” with Matt Tady on vocals; “Study Chemical Emotional Physical Realignment,” with Erin Bopp on vocals, followed by a free-jazz reinterpretation; a performance by the five-piece Punk Funk Polka Band; a performance by the Noir Cartoon Jazz Band, with Jeff Freling, Nick Howell and Kent Burnham; and vocal performances by Jason Beers, Elaine McMillian, Mark Stevenson, David Regnier, Cody Wyoming, Howard Iceberg, Steve Tulipana and Anna Cole. Other song titles include “Don’t Call Me Mr. Smartie Pants,” “The Difference Between Art and Sadness” and “For Those Who Breathe.”

“I have kept many of the pieces a bit open so we can improvise a lot this night,” Hamil said. “It is my hope to do vocal numbers and then an instrumental interpretation of the same piece back-to-back, so people can start to understand the undertaking of the whole event.”

Other events

Performers at the public showcases include Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Tim Easton, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sam Baker, Jimmy LaFave, Jon Dee Graham, Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert, Chuck Mead plus Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter.

The Rural Grit Allstars will take over the Art Gallery Stage from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday. At midnight Friday in the Empire Ballroom, the Hillbenders will debut their bluegrass rendition of the Who’s rock opera “Tommy.” At midnight Saturday in the Chicago Ballroom, the Elders will close out the public showcases.

For a complete schedule, go to and click on “public music showcases.”

Watch it online

Performances will be broadcast live at For $25, viewers can watch performances from all stages, all days.

Kids Show

11 a.m. Saturday in the Atlanta Ballroom

This free event includes performances by Trout Fishing In America, Dan Bern and Chad Elliott. It will include a presentation of songs and poetry from the CD and companion book “Wildflowers: Original Songs and Poems For And About Children,” a project created by Kristie Stremel. Performers will include Stremel, Mark Manning, Fred Wickham, David George, Ron Megee and Greg Wickham.

The Winter Music Camp

Music instruction from beginner to master classes is available for $25 a day. Sessions start at 12:30 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday through Sunday. More than 80 sessions have been scheduled.


The festival will feature five film screenings, including “The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music,” and “Kansas City Jazz and Blues: Past, Present and Future.” For a schedule, go


To buy tickets or for more information on the daytime panels, the music camps, the music showcases and the art and film components of the Folk Alliance International Conference, go to