The Manitou Music Festival might be one of the region’s best-kept secrets. Its musical smorgasbord brings together folk, blues, traditional favorites, and Celtic music all over Glen Arbor.
This year’s festival includes familiar fare like Trina Hamilton and Mulebone, local favorites the Northport Community Band and Billy Strings & Don Julin, and Irish bands Girsa and Full Set, among others.
“It’s kind of a casual thing,” said Jack Conners, who took over the festival last year. A veteran musical engineer and musician, Conners also is on staff at Interlochen Public Radio and Northwestern Michigan College.
“People can walk in knowing there’s going to be something [nearly] every Sunday and Wednesday,” he said. “It’s nice to have a $15 ticket, and 18 and under are free. It encourages people to bring their kids out.”
Conners says securing the artists depends on who is touring and available. He works with local promoter/agent Seamus Shinners to book the acts. If the talent is a good fit musically and financially, they book it.
“That’s where Seamus comes in,” Conners said. “He knows the performers and who’s touring. We have to find someone at a reasonable cost.”
The rootsy acoustic blues of Mulebone, which is Hugh Pool on guitar and vocals and John Ragusa on flutes, whistles, cornet, and vocals, always draws a crowd. The duo has been a mainstay of the festival for the past several years.
Pool says the audience’s appreciation of the group goes both ways.
“We’ve been treated really well,” he said. “There’s great energy. There have been no bad gigs.”
What started out as a single show several years ago has become a series of concerts across the region and across the state.
Pool gives credit to Shinners and the Manitou Music Festival.
“Two shows became three became five became nine. Now it’s two weeks, 12 shows in Michigan,” Pool said. “We just jumped on the Seamus bandwagon.”
Pool said he values the long-term relationship he’s had with the festival.
“It’s not that often you can go back year after year,” he said. “Manitou has become the end of our Michigan tour. Who wouldn’t want to go there?”
THE COMPLETE 2014 SCHEDULE:
Northport Community Band 7pm July 3, the old school house, Glen Arbor (free)
The Moxie Strings and percussionist Fritz Mc- Girr, 7pm July 13, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Dune Climb on M-109 (free)
Mulebone, 8pm July 20, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
Guitarist Ronald Radford, 7pm July 24, the Homestead Resort, Glen Arbor
The Wilenes, 8pm July 27, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
Full Set, 8pm July 30, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
Billy Strings & Don Julin, 8pm Aug. 3, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
Girsa, 8pm Aug. 6, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
Peter, Paul and Mary Remembered, 8pm Aug. 10, Studio Stage at Lake Street Studio, Glen Arbor
The Summer Singers, 7pm Aug. 12, Glen Lake Community Church (free)
Trina Hamlin & Annie Gallup, 8pm Aug. 13, The Leelanau School, Glen Arbor
For tickets, rain locations and additional details, visit glenarborart.org and click on “Manitou Music Festival.”
MANITOU MUSIC FESTIVAL A Brief History
The Manitou Music Festival actually began under another name and a different genre altogether.
Music Around the Lakes was the brainchild of Crispin Campbell of Interlochen and the late Richard Luby of North Carolina. The two classical musicians started a chamber music series more than 20 years ago in various churches and town halls.
As it morphed over the years, it took on a new name and broadened its appeal.
From 2007 to 2013, Harry Fried helmed the series, now renamed the Manitou Music Festival, building on the tradition and incorporating new styles into the mix. He also oversaw improvements in the stage area behind Lake Street Studios, upgrades in sound and lighting, and a new stage monitoring system.
After Fried retired last year, Jack Conners took over. A veteran musical engineer and musician, Conners also is on staff at Interlochen Public Radio and Northwestern Michigan College.
Conners said the mix of genres, the carefree summer attitude of the audiences, and the relative affordability of the shows makes for a formula that “works.”
“The festival has developed a formula that works over the years,” he said.