A little gem of a festival returns for its 21st year this weekend in Seldovia. The Seldovia Solstice Festival starts at 11 a.m. today, June 16, with a music jam on the Seldovia Bay Ferry. Sponsored by the Seldovia Arts Council, the weekend features national and local acts performing in the intimate setting of the historic community.
An opening reception at 9 a.m. Friday at the Gateway Pavilion also kicks off the seventh year of Higgy’s En Plein Air art festival with artists Valadimir Zhikhartsev and Jenifer Cameron. Workshops will be held 11 a.m. Friday at the SVT conference center for adults and children followed by en plein air — open air — painting in the scenic town. At 2 p.m. Friday is a children’s en plein air workshop at the conference center. The art festival closes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday with Higgy’s En Plein Air exhibit and silent auction at the Gateway Pavilion.
Musical genres include Western swing, jazz, folk, contemporary instrumental, bluegrass, pop and rock. Thursday night an open mic is 8 p.m. at Susan B. English School. Headline performers on Friday are the Western Flyers and Alaska musicians Yngvil Vatn Guttu and Rick Zelinsky starting at 6:30 p.m. at the school. During the day, music will be played from 1-3 p.m. Friday around town. On Saturday a song circle is at 10 a.m. at Jack and Alva’s Cafe, with a free workshop 1-4 p.m. at the school, and main stage concerts at 6:30 p.m. at the school.
The weekend ends with a barbecue at Schooner’s Beach. Meet at the harbor for the boat-accessible only event.
“If you’re intrigued by all that we have planned, we invite you to come to our quaint community by the sea that can only be reached by boat or plane — tucked away from the highway system, traffic lights, crowds, and the bustle of the rest of the world,” the event organizers wrote in a press release. “Enjoy the pristine waters where otters and eagles abound, where snow-capped mountains provide the backdrop to this unique setting for four days of music, art, and opportunities to relax and make new friends. While the dense forest invites you to explore its winding paths and breathtaking views, the long beaches offer hours of discovery of sea glass, shells, treasures from days gone by, and surprises that reveal themselves at minus tides (a camera is essential).”
For more information, visit the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SeldoviaSolsticeFestival.
The Western Flyers: Dubbed “The Biggest Little Band in the Land,” powerhouse western swing trio The Western Flyers serve up an irresistibly hot, unmistakably Texas-style sound popularized by Bob Wills in the 1940s with an electrifying energy all their own. Featuring a fresh, all-star lineup led by western swing master Joey McKenzie on rhythm guitar and vocals, champion fiddler Ridge Roberts, upright jazz bassist, Matthew Mefford, the 2019 Ameripolitan Western Swing Group of the Year, is guaranteed to have even the shyest of wallflowers swinging on the dance floor.
Yngvil Vatn Guttu and Richard Zelinsky: Yngvil and Rick are composers, multi-instrumentalists, dedicated professional teachers, workshop leaders and presenters. When they join forces, you get a blend of groovy jazz, folk, world and electronic contemporary music traditions with heart, guts, sensitivity, fun and love for music and for all things living. Given the energy and richness of the music, you’d think you were listening to a whole band.
Vatn Guttu, a native of Oslo, Norway, relocated to Alaska from New York City in 2002. Recently, she became a 2022 Jazz Hero recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association. She has single-handedly built a musical empire in the far north for independent Alaskan musicians. As a jazz trumpet player, creator and director for Anchorage’s most beloved jazz festival, the Spenard Jazz Fest, and the founding director for numerous nonprofit initiatives dedicated to amplifying Alaskan music, her mark on Alaska’s music scene is indelible and vibrant.
Rick Zelinsky is a woodwind artist, an electronic music professional and also teaches band and jazz band for the Anchorage School District. Rick received full saxophone scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and he received a B.A. in Music Performance from Cleveland State University and a Master of Music in Saxophone Performance from the University of Akron. He performs regularly in Alaska and is founder and director of the state’s popular summer band program, Alaska Band, celebrating its 20th anniversary (2020). Rick regularly plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, bass and alto clarinets, flutes, MIDI wind controller and enjoys playing both jazz and classical music.
Five Letter Word: Mix three singer-songwriters, several stringed instruments, and a variety of percussive techniques, and you get Five Letter Word. This Portland, Oregon-based band of powerful women includes Leigh Jones (guitar, percussion), Megan Alder (guitar) and Audra Nemir (bass), blending their signature harmonies into songs from folk to bluegrass to blues and beyond. Recent winners of the 2018 Northwest String Summit Band Competition, Five Letter Word takes inspiration from the harmonic tradition of groups like the Wailin’ Jennys, Dixie Chicks, and The Wood Brothers, and add their own special flair to create a sound that is “uniquely infectious” and a show that is “delightful, with a few unexpected twists.”
Wings to Fly: Wings to Fly is an Anchorage-based band that began as a duo in the early 1980s with Shonti Elder, fiddle and Elsa Aegerter, flute and guitar. Later multi-instrumentalist Karl Wilhelmi joined and more recently Marianne See added her talents. They’ve played as a quartet now for years, and love to sing four-part harmonies, originals, and some of our favorite contemporary songwriters. They perform yearly at the Anchorage Folk Festival and the Alaska State Fair, though they love to play other concerts, and festivals across Alaska. Wings to Fly is happy to perform at the festival this year.
Will Putnam and Trudy Heffernan: Will Putman and Trudy Heffernan live outside Fairbanks somewhere near the edge of the middle of nowhere. Will works as a forester in Fairbanks and Trudy has served Fairbanks for many years as an acoustic music concert promoter and as a producer of a popular local bluegrass radio show, “Banjo Signal” on KUAC-FM. She accompanies Will on bass and harmony vocals. They both have been active in the Fairbanks music scene for many years, forming and reforming any number of local bands with other Fairbanks musicians, and writing, performing and recording original music. Will’s songs cover a wide range of styles and subjects, from bluegrass to pop/rock influences, from humorous social commentary to observations of life in interior Alaska: homebrewing, saunas, the great recession, nostalgic Alaskan history; it’s all fair game.
Higgy’s En Plein Air
Each year the organizing committee selects two artists to be the Higgy’s En Plein Air Headliners. The headliners this year will be Vladimir Zhikhartsev and Jenifer Cameron. Vladimir will give a Headliner Artist’s Presentation for adults on Friday, followed by a workshop for children by Jenifer Cameron. Vladimir will also give a watercolor class for adults and interested youth M-W, June 20-22. Friday’s events are free, and Vladimir’s class fee will be $125 (SAC members) or $150 (non-members) for three days of instruction.
Vladimir Zikhartsev is a Fairbanks watercolor artist and world-renowned ice carver. He came to Fairbanks from Russia in 1996 as an ice sculpture instructor. Vladimir received his fine arts education in Russia with formal training in sculpture, watercolor, oil, and acrylic painting. He has been teaching art in Alaska for about 20 years, has had numerous exhibitions in Russia and Alaska, and received a 2008 Rasmuson Foundation Artist Fellowship Grant. Landscapes are Valdimir’s passion. Painting the landscape “en plein air” gives him an opportunity to study the lay of the land and observe the nature, while composing a painting with the colors that he sees. He believes that painting on location is a must for every landscape painter, so that they feel the place, smell the fresh air and observe all the life around them.
Jenifer Cameron is a retired art teacher from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District who now resides year-round in Seldovia. In Fairbanks, she was also a co-owner of the 2 Street Gallery as well as being a continuing professional artist. Her workshop will entice children of all ages to use their artistic sense of adventure to look closely at the natural world around them. Join us in exploring your creative “eye” and you might discover your inner poet, artist or scientist.