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Paul Camfield (right) Executive Director of the Gillespie County Historical Society and founder of the “Fredericksburg Saturday Night” roots concert series, prepares for a recent show with accordionist Fritz Morquecho. Photo by Phil Houseal

The next “Fredericksburg Saturday Night: American Music in the Texas Hill Country” is at the Pioneer Museum, 309 W. Main Street in Fredericksburg, this Saturday, August 13, 2005. Blues acts performing include the Lonely Knights, Spencer Thomas, Rob Roy Parnell, Rusty Martin, and Will Owen-Gage. Information is available at 997-2835 and www.pioneermuseum.net.

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Fredericksburg Saturday Night

by Phil Houseal
August 10, 2005


What if a museum held an exhibit you couldn’t see, hold, or touch, yet 500 people at a time turned out to enjoy it?

That was the dream of Paul Camfield, Executive Directory of the Gillespie County Historical Society. In the summer of 2002, the Fort Worth native was looking for ways to inspire the Society while raising some funds.

From his keen interest in history, Camfield was aware of the broad cultural template of Wolf Trap, which uses performance and education to connect current music to its historical roots. So he decided to try two bluegrass concerts in the summer. Why bluegrass?

“Because I liked it,” he admitted. “It had also never been the focus of any event in Fredericksburg.”

The first concerts were well received.

“We expected 100, but we had 300 for the first show and 500 for the second,” he said.

The Society expanded the series to seven shows in the following years, including some indoor concerts early each season. The musical styles still included bluegrass, but Camfield has since experimented with blues, gospel, jazz, and something not heard much in the Hill Country: Cajun/Zydeco.

He christened it “Fredericksburg Saturday Night: American Music in the Texas Hill Country.” The emphasis is on American roots music - the original acoustic music, which gave birth to jazz, swing, blues, bluegrass, folk, and country.

Camfield has worked with Central Texas Bluegrass Association, the San Antonio Blues Society, and the Gospel According to Austin, always seeking historical accuracy. Musicians have flourished in central Texas. San Antonio was a stop on the early blues “chitlin” circuit, and regulars in the dance halls included Hank Williams, Bob Wills, and Elvis Presley.

“People in the hill country might have been geographically remote, but they were not isolated from culture,” Camfield said. “Live music, fun and fellowship were an integral part in the lives of those who settled the hill country, and we want to preserve that.”

The series has a stated mission of seeking out emerging talent or seasoned veterans who might not be household names. But Camfield may have helped develop some future stars.

Sarah Jarosz was a 10-year-old playing her mandolin in one of the first jam sessions in 2002. Someone noticed her and pulled her up on stage for a song. She has been asked back each year, and has since played with Ricky Scaggs and Alison Krauss, and been featured on the ABC television broadcast of the CMA Music Festival.

So why should we as a community support this?

“Ultimately the series is about the kinds of memories we create,” Camfield said. “We’ve seen it happen, as families sit back under a full moon on a summer night, listening or singing along. That makes a lasting impression.”

“Besides,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun.”