Interview with Russell Gusetti, executive director of the Blackstone River Theatre (BRT), and founder of the Summer Solstice Festival taking place on Saturday, June 18, at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, RI.
You're launching a new Summer Solstice Festival this weekend with some great traditional music. How did you come up with the name?
The name was actually suggested by Robbie O'Connell who is on BRT's Board. As we sought to plan a big event to commemorate Blackstone River Theatre's 10th anniversary season, he suggested the Solstice name when he found I was looking to move our festival from July to third week in June. While it is still very much a Celtic music festival with an emphasis on Irish culture (Robbie O'Connell, Aoife Clancy, Burning Bridget Cleary, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Pendragon, Annalivia), it gave me the opportunity to seek out some groups offering an additional world music perspective like The Gnomes, Triple Spiral and of course Genticorum from Quebec. And after this winter, it was great talking about and planning something with the word "summer" in it to look forward to!
Blackstone River Theatre has a great track record of promoting traditional Irish and Celtic bands year round. Why is the audience in RI/ southern NE so strong for Irish music?
I'd like to think Blackstone River Theatre has played a part in having created such a strong audience for Celtic music because of our emphasis on not only presenting the very best of both international and local regional acts but also by offering classes in areas such as Irish step dance, fiddle and whistle, Celtic stone carving and more which allows audience to also become participants in this rich culture. And of course, geographically speaking, both Rhode Island and nearby Mass. including Boston have a very strong Irish makeup. By adding Scottish and Quebecois and world music, I hope to reach out to other ethnic groups as well as music lovers in general.
Are you hoping to make Summer Solstice Festival an annual event?
Absolutely! We wanted the Celtic Fest we produced in 2007 and 2008 to become annual events, an outdoor extension of BRT's normal programming, but sadly the bad weather in 2008 followed by the region's recession ruined that possibility. But if we do well June 18, the BRT Summer Solstice Fest will indeed become an annual event and highlight of Blackstone River Theatre's programming
For a year round schedule of concerts at Blackstone River Theatre, click here.
For Irish cultural activities in New England, visit IrishMassachusetts.com.