SILVER SPRING,MD (March 22, 2012) - Don't be surprised if you visit Riderwood retirement community and are met with the sounds of down home bluegrass music. That's because a group of residents hold frequent, improvised bluegrass jam sessions.
The bluegrass jam sessions have been going strong for the past eight years where they began in a classroom on the Silver Spring, MD, campus. Residents passing by would sit-in and listen. The classroom soon overflowed with an audience. The bluegrass jams tried moving to one of the Riderwood lobby areas in search of more space, but this venue also proved too small because so many residents brought chairs to listen to the music.
Today the "Riderwood Ol' Opry Bluegrass/Country/Old-Timey Music Jams" are held in the Performance Hall in a stage show format, where the audience numbers as many as 200 people. The bluegrass jams take place every two-to-three months. The Lonesome Pine Band provides accompaniment, playing a wide selection of bluegrass, country, western swing, and novelty songs
"We invite and encourage any and all Riderwood residents, relatives and friends to come up on the stage to perform this style of music, backed by the band," said resident Bruce Clark, a band member and one of the bluegrass jam's organizers who plays banjo and guitar and who is also a vocalist during the sessions. " It has been an unbelievably surprising success"
Regular performers include resident Henry Plotkin on fiddle, resident Glen Lesher and his sons on guitar and resident Walter Krauss on bass. Family members of residents who perform are Ron Davies on guitar and vocals and Doris Justis on guitar and vocals. The Lonesome Pine Band, in addition to Clark, consists of resident Pat Kral on autoharp and vocals, Barb Diederich on bass and vocals, Allan Oresky on fiddle and mandolin, and Eddie Schaeffer on guitar and vocals.
The biggest preparations for the bluegrass jams are promoting the sessions in seemingly impromptu fashion. Notices are sent to email lists and a resident-operated telephone tree is put into action to alert people of new bluegrass jams. Also, announcements are posted on Riderwood bulletin boards and aired on closed circuit TV. Finally, the sound system has to be quickly set up on the day of each bluegrass jam.
"We don't really rehearse the music we intend to perform at the jam," said Clark. "It's all spontaneous and improvised on the spot. Whoever thought this kind of music would be such a hit at Riderwood?"