On September 8, 9, and 10, 2011, a prestigious assortment of the globe’s greatest musicians will gather for ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival, situated in the vibrant micro-urban setting of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The biennial event provides an unparalleled mixed-genre experience that features performances from many of today’s most distinguished music-makers in a diverse array already being emulated by other festivals.
The internationally recognized event, which in recent years has emerged as a favorite destination for musicians and true guitar fans from around the world, will feature more than 30 performers drawing from guitar traditions rooted in the US, England, Canada, China, Spain, and Mali.
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, located on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, incorporates seven distinctive performance spaces uniquely suited to showcase the event’s impressive array of talent. This year’s festival incorporates nine individually ticketed events, along with twelve free shows and more events being planned.
This year, ELLNORA’s artist roster is headed by Luther Dickinson: member of the North Mississippi Allstars and The Black Crowes and one of Rolling Stone’s “new guitar gods.” Dickinson has been selected to serve as the festival’s artist-in-residence and will collaborate on stage with Grammy Award/W.C. Handy Award-winning contemporary bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart and influential pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph. Dickinson will also interact with festival-goers and read passages from the soon-to-be-published memoirs of his father, Jim Dickinson.
Robert Randolph is one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, as are English folk-rock legend Richard Thompson and Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo, who will also grace ELLNORA’s stages. The festival will also feature two of DownBeat magazine’s 75 Great Guitarists, who’ll build on the festival’s commitment to film-based projects: Bill Frisell, who’ll perform the stirring score to Bill Morrison’s film in The Great Flood, and Marc Ribot, who’ll accompany the bittersweet 1921 Charlie Chaplin film The Kid. Ribot will also lead a Cuban music tribute in a free set with his band Los Cubanos Postizos.
ELLNORA 2011’s expansive musical palette also includes roots legend Taj Mahal, noted producer/recording artist Daniel Lanois, veteran rock adventurist Adrian Belew, bluegrass/jazz innovator Tony Rice, alt-rock explorers Calexico, noted Malian singer/guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, family music guru Dan Zanes, bluegrass renegades Chris Thile and Michael Daves, contemporary acoustic favorites the Russ Barenberg Trio, string band revivalists the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the experimental sounds of Noveller, and the ambient band Redhooker.
ELLNORA, which bears the name of its venue’s visionary founder, Ellnora Krannert, also provides a vital showcase for some of today’s most prominent female artists, including the incomparable classical guitarist Sharon Isbin; peerless jazz guitarist Sheryl Bailey; Toshi Reagon, Judith Casselberry, and Catherine Russell of BIGLovely; festival favorites Cindy Cashdollar and Rory Block; flamenco guitar virtuoso Marija Temo; and Meng Su and Yameng Wang of the Beijing Guitar Duo.
Originally known as the Wall to Wall Guitar Festival before being rechristened ELLNORA in 2009, the event is organized by Krannert Center’s director, Mike Ross, and his staff, in collaboration with curator and artistic advisor David Spelman, who is also founder/director of the world-renowned New York Guitar Festival. In the years since its debut, ELLNORA has served as a model for other events in the US and around the world.
ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival 2011 Scheduled Events
Opening Night Party
Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely
Vieux Farka Touré
Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub
Russ Barenberg Trio
Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 6pm
The Opening Night Party features a quadruple bill of Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely, Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub, and Vieux Farka Touré throwing down in the Center’s expansive Lobby and the Russ Barenberg Trio entertaining crowds in the outdoor Amphitheatre. Tented areas, food vendors, interactive digital displays from eDream (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute), and family-friendly activities complete the first night of the three-day festival.
Lobby and Amphitheatre, $5
The Tony Rice Unit
Friday, September 9, 2011 at noon
The “Jimi Hendrix of bluegrass” helms this riveting acoustic jazz band (Guitar Magazine).
Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 4pm
Dickinson is one of Rolling Stone’s New Top 20 Guitar Gods, and Hart is the self-described “cosmic American love child of Howlin’ Wolf and Link Wray.”
Chris Thile and Michael Daves
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 5pm
Thile and Daves are bluegrass renegades upholding the catharsis Bill Monroe shot into the music as they pepper tunes with rock chords and classical finesse.
Cops with live music by Lee Ranaldo and The Kid with live music by Marc Ribot
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 6:30pm
The classic chase scenes in Buster Keaton’s short film Cops are given textured licks by Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, and the free-wheeling Marc Ribot provides live accompaniment for Charlie Chaplin’s breakthrough 1921 film featuring a charming tramp who bonds with an abandoned child.
Colwell Playhouse, $5-$10
The Sheryl Bailey 3
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 8pm
Sheryl Bailey kicks it off with “blisteringly precise leads,” Gary Versace’s organ urges, and Ian Froman’s drum licks usher this trio on a “communal musical journey” (All about Jazz).
Taj Mahal with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Alvin Youngblood Hart
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 9pm
Taj Mahal’s 50 years behind a fret board, a decades-long string band legacy animated by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and the fierce tradition bred by Alvin Youngblood Hart converge in a jubilant dance with history.
Tryon Festival Theatre, $10-$45
Sonic Garden: Redhooker
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10pm
With a Baroque spirit and an experimenter’s daring, Stephen Griesgraber of Slow Six eases Redhooker into a conversation underpinned with patience and hope.
Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos
Friday, September 9, 2011 at 11pm
Arsenio Rodriguez—a Cuban guitarist, tres player, and bandleader who died in 1972—left a wealth of tunes for Marc Ribot of Rootless Cosmopolitans and Spiritual Unity to bend into a singular tribute.
Beijing Guitar Duo
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10am
These Peabody Conservatory of Music students have a breadth that encompasses Chinese folk music, classics, and premieres of works by Sergio Assad and Tan Dun.
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 11am
Marija Temo unspools the full essence of flamenco—an art designated by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity—from her hybrid classical-flamenco guitar.
Dan Zanes with the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra
Kevin Kelly, music director
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at noon
Former rock star Dan Zanes gets the whole crowd singing along at a “dance-party hootenanny” with the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra (Los Angeles Times).
Tryon Festival Theatre, $5-$12
Bill Frisell with film by Bill Morrison: The Great Flood
Ron Miles, trumpet
Tony Scherr, bass
Kenny Wollesen, drums
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 1:30pm
In its world premiere, this work co-commissioned by Krannert Center touches history and nature through documentary footage of the 1927 Mississippi River deluge and Bill Frisell’s songs that follow the displaced citizens and their music northward through roots music, down-home blues, and R&B.
Colwell Playhouse, $10-$30
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 3pm
Sharon Isbin’s life is one of firsts—the first classical guitarist to receive a Grammy in 28 years, the first guitarist to record with the New York Philharmonic, the first head of the guitar department at the Juilliard School of Music—and she plays with “the precision of a diamond” (Wall Street Journal).
Foellinger Great Hall, $10-$34
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 4:30pm
Calexico summons the drama of a sprawling western landscape in music that crosses the borders from indie to country to Latin to jazz.
Tryon Festival Theatre, $10-$30
Rory Block and Cindy Cashdollar
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 5:45pm
Rory Block’s haunting music is just one step removed from the birth of the Delta blues, and Cindy Cashdollar has elegant, contemporary roots slides.
Richard Thompson and My Brightest Diamond
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 7pm
My Brightest Diamond roars on songs “personal, reachable, and earthen” (Stylus) as the opener for a solo acoustic performance by the folk-rocking top 20 guitar god Richard Thompson.
Colwell Playhouse, $10-$45
Adrian Belew: Painting with Guitar
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 8:30pm
Frank Zappa says it all about the impressionistic playing of this guitarist with King Crimson, the Talking Heads, David Bowie, Joe Cocker, Nine Inch Nails, and Robert Palmer: “Adrian Belew reinvented the electric guitar.”
Robert Randolph and the Family Band with guest Luther Dickinson
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10pm
One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, Robert Randolph will whip his band plus jam guest Luther Dickinson into “an innovative fusion of refried boogie, Hendrix wahwah rock, and traditional, Pentecostal ‘sacred steel’ exaltation” (Vibe).
Tryon Festival Theatre, $10-$25
Sonic Garden: Noveller
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10pm
“An orchestra of one,” Noveller wields feedback, pedals, scissors, an electric bow, and a stadium-size assembly of axe-shredding sounds (NPR).
Kevin Breit’s Folkalarm
Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 11:30pm
Kevin Breit and Folkalarm rip into ecstatic bluegrass rock to send ELLNORA 2011 off the charts.
SPECIAL FESTIVAL FEATURES
Intermezzo cafe at the north end of the Center’s Lobby will be transformed into a coffeehouse for this year’s festival. Guests can unwind and recharge with the Center’s signature coffee blends, Carnegie deli cheesecake, and daily organic food specials.
Outdoor Food Vendors
Local food vendors will offer everything from appetizers to full meals to desserts in a large tented food area on the west terrace for the Opening Night Party.
The Studio Store
The Studio Theatre, located at the north end of the Center, will become the official festival store, featuring merchandise, sponsor tables, special displays of unusual guitars, digital art by eDREAM, and meet-and-greets with artists.
Refresh in an outdoor, tented performance space on the west terrace of the Center. This newly imagined space will resonate with a casual atmosphere for mingling, refueling, and experiencing experimental sounds.
TICKETS AND INFORMATION
Single tickets go on sale July 9 at 10am.
Festival Pass (includes all nine ticketed events):
General 208 / Senior Citizen 170 / Student 105 / University of Illinois Student & Youth 75
Ticket Office Information
Phone: 217/333-6280 or 800/KCPATIX (527-2849)
TTY: 217/333-9714 (for patrons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-impaired)
Online: KrannertCenter.com and EllnoraGuitarFestival.com
Mail: Krannert Center Ticket Office
500 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61801-3788
In person: Krannert Center Ticket Office, 500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois, from 10am to 6pm every day.