Daily Sitka Sentinel

Sitka Songwriters to Stage Their Art

    One of the musicians scheduled to play at Saturday night’s Songwriters Concert Extravaganza compared modern day singer-songwriters to the beat poets of the 1960s.
    “I think it’s helpful that people understand performing songwriters are like coffee-house poets,” said Jim Shepard, one of about 10 acts on the program. “It’s more like a reading. The performance is secondary to the writing.” {mosimage}
    The 1st Annual Artigras Songwriters Concert Extravaganza is 7 p.m. Saturday at the Performing Arts Center.
    Vern Culp, one of the organizers of the event, said in previous years the songwriters night has been held in a less formal setting at the Larkspur Cafe. But now it’s time to move to a larger, more formal venue, he said.
    “I’ve personally been interested in songwriting as an expression of art ever since I moved to Sitka,” Culp said. “It’s so incredible. There are so many songwriters in town but no venue for them to come out and do their thing.”
    A singer-songwriter himself, Culp will not play on Saturday in order to give more musicians the chance to perform.
    “There were so many people I wanted to be in the show,” he said. “We were trying to get people up there that haven’t played a lot and mix that up with people that have.”
    He’s particularly pleased to have high school kids in the show, including members of the Sitka High drama, debate and forensics team, SHS musicians Niles Wilbur and Ethan Vastola, and musicians from Mt. Edgecumbe High School. Zak Wright, a Blatchley Middle School seventh-grader, is also performing.
    “It’s rewarding for me to foster that, and provide a venue for them to be recognized,” Culp said.
    Other performers include Dan Palof, M.C. Drewnick, Shawn Oles, Joe Montagna, Jen Reid and J. Bradley, Ted Howard and Ernie Eggleston, Kirsten Stockel, Nathaniel Bean and Dave Galanin.
    The audience should be hearing premiere performances of songs, Culp said.
    Montagna, another one of the organizers of the event, said he’s looking forward to sharing original music.
    “I’m used to playing covers,” Montagna said of his band, Slack Tide. He, Reid and Bradley will be making their debut performance on Saturday as the Holland Tunnel Orchestra, which plays original compositions.
    “This is great in order to start playing original material,” Montagna said. “This is the first time playing original songs in public – our first performance ever.”    
    A few of the songwriters will be writing music around the common theme “Stormy.”
    “It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that,” Culp said.
    One advantage of staging the event at the Performing Arts Center is the chance to make audio and video recordings of the performances, and perhaps put them up on YouTube or the performers’ own websites. Shepard said he believes that’s a great way to connect Sitka’s music with people around the world, and particularly young people.
    “Sitka has a voice,” he said. “It’s a world voice now.”
    Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults at Old Harbor Books and Fishermen’s Eye Gallery. Tickets for adults are $15 at the door.
    The concert is one of the first events in the annual ArtiGras Festival, which runs this year through March 18. The event features visual art shows and classes, concerts, films and other arts-related events.
    Over the next week, the events are as follows:
    7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 – Haunted Windchimes concert, Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi.
    Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 – Haunted Windchimes workshop, Blatchley.
    7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 – Songwriters concert, Sitka Performing Arts Center.
    Noon Sunday, Feb. 26 – Windchimes at the Larkspur
    7 p.m. March 2 and 3 – Wearable Art Show, Centennial Hall.
    More information, including ticket prices and workshop costs, is available at artigras.info.

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