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Taking the Banjo to the Concert Hall

Updated on November 27, 2011

The Banjo is now an Orchestra Instrument

About 12 years ago I was in the small town of Waynesville, NC at a music store where my son had gone to purchase a vintage mandolin. It was a beautiful fall day and the drive from our home near Hendersonville afforded us an opportunity to see the fall colors at their peak. We had just finished our purchase at Strains of Music and had gotten into our car to drive back home. The radio was tuned as it is every Saturday to 88.7 FM a station on the campus of Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC to a program called Going Across the Mountains, a regular broadcast of nothing but pure bluegrass music. The DJ commented the Kruger Brothers would be in Brevard that afternoon for an in store concert at Celestial Mountain Music in Brevard, a town in Transylvania County and just over the mountain from where we were in Waynesville about a 45 minute drive.

I asked my family, What do you think, want to go on into Brevard and catch this free concert?" All agreed and soon we were crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and soon descended into Pisgah Forest and on to US 64 into downtown Brevard. We went directly to the music store and arrived just as the concert started. A small crowd had gathered and we stood around and listened to a brother duo who had come to this country from Switzerland. The Kruger Brothers had only been in the states for only a short period of time appearing at Merlefest with Doc Watson and others. They and their music ability had already won the hearts of bluegrass fans. The concert that day in Brevard was traditional bluegrass and designed as a promotion for D'Addario strings. We stood in awe as we watched these two brothers who have mastered their instruments the banjo and guitar, creating a unique sound like no others in the business.

From that day in Brevard, The Krueger Brothers, along with bass player Joel Lansberg (spelling may be wrong) have become favorites all across the US but make their home in Wilkes County. What is unique about his band is they have now become innovators using the five string banjo as an orchsteral instrument and brother Jens is a genius in writing music which now includes an ensemble of tow violins, a viola, a cello along with the bajo, bass, and guitar played by older brother Uwe. Jens plays a Deering banjo that has a special bell bronze tone ring designed in collaboration and built by Greg Deering. The Tenbrooks manufactured for the general public is comparable with awesome tones

We had the privilege to be in Brevard once again at the Brevard College Porter Center to enjoy a concert with this new orchestral arrangement.Appalachian Concerto is the brain child of Jens and a tribute to those coming to America. The inspiration and music are magnificent to say the least and was played to a crowd of around two thousand who sat wide eyed and awed by the music and the skills of the performers. Having these great innovators coming from the bluegrass world to the concert halls is a novel idea but one that is appreciated by musicians and those who enjoy music The thoughts of a five string banjo as a orchestral piece is mind boggling but the Kruegers have made it happen.


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