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Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet to Open
Artists Series at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Aug. 10, 2006

Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet
Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet

EAU CLAIRE — The Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet, an acoustic ensemble dedicated to the performance of classic bluegrass music, traditional country songs and American fiddle tunes, will open this season's Artists Series at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Schofield Auditorium.

The Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet knows, understands and loves the sound that Bill Monroe invented nearly 50 years ago. In addition to bluegrass, the group draws on other styles of traditional American music, including music from early country music stars such as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, Western swing, gospel, blues, fiddle music and even polkas.

Founded in 1984 by Paul Kovac, the quartet has backed up legendary musicians Chubby Wise and Mac Wiseman. Kovac, who has performed with Bill Monroe, sings and plays guitar and mandolin and emcees the show. Jim Metz is a tenor whose banjo playing is clean and hard-driving. Bill Watson is a rock-solid acoustic bass player, adept at playing all American roots music styles. Fiddler Ray Sponaugle brings more than 40 years of experience to the band. Southern Bluegrass News commends their "solid musicianship and singing, well-constructed arrangements and above all, thoughtful material."

Veterans of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," the band brings the music of the mountains to a new generation of listeners.

"Not everyone was lucky enough to have grown up in the mountains listening to bluegrass and country music on the Grand Old Opry," Kovac says. "Our job is to make them wish they had!"

The concert is the first of nine Artists Series presentations comprising the 2006-07 season. Additional performances will include:

  • Burning River Brass — An Ensemble On Fire; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, Gantner Concert Hall. The Horn Call, the official journal of the International Horn Society, described Burning River Brass as "an ensemble on fire," praising its "superb blend, refined sound, sparkling technique and exceptional musicianship." The group is consistently applauded for its command of musical styles, its camaraderie and the infectious joy of its performance.
  • L'Ensemble Pennetier — Music for Two Pianos and Percussion; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, Gantner Concert Hall. This unique two-piano/percussion ensemble from France is made up of the Pennetier family of world-class musicians. They will be joined by American percussionist Chris Thompson for the stunning and seldom heard Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion by Bela Bartok, a tour de force for all players.
  • James Sewell Ballet — Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors"; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, Zorn Arena. A one-act opera composed for NBC-TV in 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti's quintessential story of a Christmas miracle is given a new dimension through the simple, direct choreography of James Sewell. The dancers translate the libretto into American Sign Language as they present the story of a young boy and his mother whose lives are changed forever by a visit from the three wise men on their journey to Bethlehem.
  • Colcannon — Celtic Holidays; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Nov. 28-29, Schofield Auditorium. Described by Westword as "one of the country's most impressive acts working in the Celtic tradition," Colcannon fuses the old and the new, playing music that embraces tradition and engages a new generation of listeners.
  • Evidence Dance Company — Dance Stories by Ronald K. Brown; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, Zorn Arena. Choreographer Ronald K. Brown blends African, modern, ballet and hip-hop dance styles to tell stories about the human experience and provides a unique view of human struggles, tragedies and triumphs. "This isn't boy-meets-girl stuff," wrote "This has to do with values and the society in which we live."
  • The Montana Rep — Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers"; 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 12, Gantner Concert Hall. The Montana Repertory Theatre is touring with this Neil Simon classic, a funny but deeply heartfelt tale of a dysfunctional family in 1940s New York. Returning to the Artists Series, Montana Rep has a stellar history, traveling with beautiful sets and prestigious principal actors.
  • William Bolcom and Joan Morris — A Cabaret Evening; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, Gantner Concert Hall. Pianist William Bolcom, possibly America's most important living composer of songs, and soprano Joan Morris, his wife and consummate interpreter of his songs, present a not-to-be-missed evening of American song. As noted by The Boston Globe, the "clear stream of [Morris'] voice throws back reflections of every gradation of human feeling; she comes at a song from within and thereby proves its worth. Bolcom's ingenuity in creating rhythmically lively and harmonically rich accompaniment seems to be limitless."
  • Wood & Strings Theatre — "Out of the Mist A Dragon"; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, Schofield Auditorium. This romantic drama uses elegant reproductions of the classic Bunraku puppets of Japan as well as folk puppets from North America, England and Indonesia. "Adults bring their children because of the word 'puppet,'" says puppet creator Clarissa Lega. "But when they bring their children and this is the great part for us they are just as amazed as their children."

Season subscription information is available at the Service Center in the east lobby of Davies Center, 715-836-3727. Subscription packages include the "Works" package at a 25 percent discount or a build-your-own-season package of six or more Artists Series and Forum events at a 20 percent discount.

Tickets for individual Artists Series events are $15 for the public, $13 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, and $5 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Window sales begin Monday, August 21.

Patrons may also charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call 715-836-3727 or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free 800-949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.

The Artists Series is supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and from the Chippewa Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. Evidence Dance Company is also supported by a grant from the University of Wisconsin System Institute on Race and Ethnicity. Montana Rep's performance is supported by the Heartland Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest funded by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional contributions from General Mills Foundation, Land O' Lakes Foundation, Sprint Corporation and the Wisconsin Arts Board. Wisconsin Public Radio and Community Television have contributed generous promotional support. Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites (715-838-9989) at 3340 Mondovi Road is the exclusive accommodations partner for the Artists Series.

Funded by the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the Artists Series is administered by the Activities and Programs office.



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