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Big Top Chautauqua kicks off exciting, eclectic 2018 season

Jun 15, 2018 10:22AM ● By Editor

Tent Show Radio host Michael Perry will host New First Night Friday, June 15 at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. Perry will be joined by the Blue Canvas Orchestra and the Twin Cities jazz trio The New Standards.  Photo:  Lee Butterworth

By CLAIRE DUQUETTE for The Ashland Daily Press  - June 15,, 2018

From June 15 to Sept. 15, music lovers can see and hear an amazing array of talent under the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua tent. Anchored by the Blue Canvas Orchestra and the historical musical house shows that are the Big Top foundation, this year's lineup is punctuated by shows from Buddy Guy, Kenny G, Vince Gill and The Temptations, to name a few.

“I think it's one of our most exciting seasons ever,” said Big Top Executive Director Terry Meyer Matier. “We have big names, we have new artists, we have younger artists and we have iconic artists.”

Meyer Matier has the daunting task of assembling the season – trying to find a little something for everyone, while staying true to the Big Top mission.

“We ask for input and survey ticket buyers,” Meyer Matier said. “That's often how I find out about new artists. We also like to have popular artists return. And we do like to step outside the comfort zone and push boundaries.”

Meyer Matier says Big Top is opening with “a really big first weekend.”

This year's new first night will be a live recording for Tent Show Radio hosted by Michael Perry. Perry will be joined by the Big Top house band, the Blue Canvas Orchestra, and The New Standards, a jazz trio from the Twin Cities that consistently sells out the annual holiday shows in the Twin Cities.

Saturday features a return visit from singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who is touring the following the release of her newest album, “By the Way, I Forgive You.” Big Top has seen Carlile's career evolve from being an opening act for The Indigo Girls to becoming a huge draw in her own right.

The weekend keeps going with a June 17 performance of Jan Lee's original musical, “Superior! Songs and Stories of the Big Lake.” The ode to Lake Superior debuted last summer and will be featured in four performances throughout the summer.

The opening weekend just keeps rolling through Monday, with a performance by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne.

As packed as the first four days of the Big Top season may be, that is just the beginning.
Meyer Matier said in addition to “Superior!” regional musicians will be featured in “Best of Big Top Opry,” “Riding the Wind,” “Warren Nelson and Friends,” “Belfast to Bluegrass,” “Big Top Does the Beatles,” and a new house show, “All Aboard: Songs of the Railroad.” The new show will feature some of the songs from the original musical “On the Velvet,” plus new songs.
Local musicians will be doubling as clinicians for this year's Bluegrass Day Camp for kids, June 23-25. Headed by Tom Draughon of Ashland, students have the opportunity to study and learn from professional musicians.

The Essentia Health Free Family series is happening again this year, offering a series of eight matinee concerts, mostly on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Meyer Matier said that the Native American Community Connection series of events is also taking place in 2018. Many of the events are free, featuring concerts, lectures, and even a dreamcatcher making workshop.

As far as big names go, Meyer Matier said Big Top was extremely lucky to book country legend Vince Gill on Aug. 3, as Gill is only touring one week this year. Other big acts include Kenny G, Ronnie Milsap, The Temptations, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band and Arlo Guthrie.

“We went all out this year,” Meyer Matier said. “There is something for everyone here, from a free show to a big band to original shows.”
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