ashland.news
July 24, 2024

Grassroots concert series highlights music, cultures around the globe

The instrumental acoustic quartet band Hawktail's tour with the Swedish folk duo Väsen makes a stop in Ashland on Feb. 19 at Grizzly Peak Winery as part of the Cage Free Concert Series.
January 22, 2024

‘Nashville-meets-Nordic’ show set for Feb. 19 in Ashland

By James Sloan, Rogue Valley Times

Ashland resident and professional musician Kris Yenney has been building a concert series of top-notch talent in the acoustic, folk and traditional spaces over the last few years.

Named after Yenney’s fondness of organic produce and aversion to conformity, the Cage Free Concert Series started in 2019 as an opportunity to introduce Rogue Valley residents to talented performers from as far as the British Isles and Sweden.

The series provides world-class musicians on intimate stages in the area such as Grizzly Peak Winery, Laughing Lady Farm and even Yenney’s home in Ashland.

“It just evolved almost by itself into a monthly appearance by touring musicians mostly in Ashland, with it being a halfway hub of Portland and Seattle,” Yenney said. “We have been an ideal place for mid-week gigs for these pretty amazing international acts; they all approached me.”

In mid-February, the concert series will host Nashville-based acoustic outfit Hawktail collaborating with Swedish folk group Väsen for a Nashville-meets-Nordic combination.

“They just take traditional Swedish music built mostly on a form called Polska and they turn it on its head; it’s innovative and captivating and still built around those traditional tunes,” Yenney said of Väsen.

Reservations for the show, set from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at Grizzly Peak Winery, can be purchased at cagefreeconcerts.com/up-coming-events.

Part of the reason Yenney’s able to provide high-caliber artists for the series comes from her career as a professional cellist, conductor, composer and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“There’s a family of musicians and they know me because I’m also a musician,” she said.

Yenney previously served as director of orchestras with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, Woodside Priory School in Portola Valley and other groups, along with being a founding member of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in San Francisco. The virtuoso has backed up artists including Rod Stewart, Lyle Lovett and Smokey Robinson along with a wide range of accomplishments in the world of music.

In 2019, after Ashland resident Phil Kavanagh moved on from booking numerous Celtic artists and folk singers, Yenney took over the reins after her recent move to Ashland.

“Ashland seems particularly open minded and also leans toward similar (music) tastes as mine, which was one of the reasons I picked Ashland as my place in the corner of town,” she said.

Yenny hopes the Cage Free Concert Series will provide a trade of ideas and cultures for the Rogue Valley community.

“Any exchange of ideas and cultural differences is great … Like Mark Twain says, travel is the antidote for prejudice and I can’t afford to travel the world but I can bring bits of it with me,” she said.

Yenney aims to cultivate a collection of musicians with traditional and folk roots, with the concert series organizer bringing in traditional Scottish and Irish fiddlers, Nordic folk players, experts in Argentinian Tango and more.

“It leans into my personal taste, string oriented and acoustic as much as possible,” Yenney said of what she looks for in artists to book.

Looking at the potential future for the Cage Free Concert Series, Yenney doesn’t have any big plans of expanding the number of concerts per month or heading to larger venues, but to let the series grow naturally.

“It’s grown so much all by itself organically that I might want to see where it takes me,” she said. “The best way (to help grow the series) as of this moment is to keep track of us and to go to as many concerts as you can and tell your friends.”

At the end of the day, Yenney’s outside-the-box vision for the concert series remains.

“Cage Free feels outside the box; there’s no container it has to conform to,” she said.

To learn more about the concert series, visit cagefreeconcerts.com.

For more information on Yenney, go to cellosopher.com.

Reach reporter James Sloan at jsloan@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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