'Roots in the Park' goes virtual this June

A stage with lights and a backdrop reading roots in the park

Tune in for a toe-tappin' good time on Thursday nights this June as the popular "Roots in the Park" summer series goes virtual!

May 24, 2021

Roots in the Park is a summer tradition at Washington state parks. 

Families, couples and friends gather to flatfoot, tap, swing dance or listen quietly as musicians play banjos, fiddles, acoustic guitars and smooth jazz.

While the State Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program plans to resume live concerts in July, the June series will be virtual. But that doesn’t mean you can’t flatfoot or tap in your yard or your living room...

Roots in the Park features four episodes, at 7 p.m. every Thursday in June, on State Parks’ YouTube, Folk and Traditional Arts playlist.

Each episode will last around 45 minutes. After each session, viewers can find individual songs from the events on this channel.

Through the virtual programs, performers will share the stories and traditions behind their tunes and teach techniques to those seeking a deeper dive.

June 3: Ben Hunter & Joe SeamonsA person holding a guitar standing next to another person holding a banjo

Seattle songsters Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons give life to voices that have long been silenced in American culture. Their award-winning folk, dance, acoustic blues and prison ballads are highlighted by storytelling that, rather than bringing the past to life, vividly shows how the past still lives in the present. 

Ben and Joe bounce from fiddle and banjo breakdowns to a cappella field hollers. They sing early jazz and gospel songs featuring Piedmont and Rattlin’ Bones guitar styles. 

With the same versatility that won them the International Blues Challenge in 2016 and led them to record with National Heritage Fellow Phil Wiggins, the duo celebrates Americans’ triumph over oppression through the vitality of their art. 

Audiences walk away from Ben and Joe’s concerts and workshops inspired to learn more of their own heritage and engage more deeply with their communities

Photo: Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons

June 10: Neftalí Rivera & Trío BorikuasPeople sitting on chairs and playing acoustic instruments

Neftalí Rivera, Ramón Cancel and Martín Vélez play Puerto Rican, Cuban and Afro-Caribbean tunes with a focus on the traditional music styles familiar to all Puertoriqueños. This Roots in the Park favorite will play bombas and plenas from communities with African roots. They also play danzas and aguinaldos from Rivera's hometown of Morovis. During this workshop, the group will take a a closer look at bombas and plenas rhythms.

You can also catch Neftalí Rivera & Trío during our Waikiki Beach Concert Series 7 -  8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at Cape Disappointment State Park.

Photo: Neftalí Rivera & Trío Borikuas

June 17: BriarA person sitting on a chair and smiling

Briar sings vintage jazz, blues and original music. By blending a powerful voice with stories about the history and origins of her music, she shines a light on singers and tales that have been forgotten by the country that created them. 

Raised in Chimacum, Wash., Briar uses music to explore her unique background as a Black woman from the rural Pacific Northwest. 

Briar and her partner Joe Seamons will present a discussion on heritage, music and identity.

Briar and Joe will also play live at Deception Pass State Park for the American Roots Concert Series on July 24 or at Cape Disappointment’s Waikiki Beach Concert Series on Aug. 28.

Photo: Briar.

June 24: Squirrel ButterA person being kissed on the cheek by another person

Husband and wife duo Charlie Beck and Charmaine Slaven have been performing together since 2005.  

In their Roots performance, Squirrel Butter explores old-time, early bluegrass, blues, country and Cajun, threading these influences into their original compositions.  

Multi-instrumentalists, they play banjo, guitar, fiddle, steel guitar, step-dance and sing in harmony. 

Charlie will present a workshop on clawhammer banjo, and Charmaine teaches flatfoot dance in this episode.

Photo: Charlie Beck and Charmaine Slaven of Squirrel Butter.

But wait ... there's more!

To add to the virtual fun, artist and musician Sue Truman has crafted the crankie (see feature photo at top of blog) for the Roots in the Park series introduction and closing  She also recorded the series’ accompanying fiddle tune. In past years, she has performed and led crankie workshops at state parks like Cama Beach.

The Roots in the Park series is made possible by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Washington State Parks Foundation

Find out about all the exciting events coming up from the Folk and Traditional Arts Program.