WASHBURN – The co-founder of Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua is continuing a new concert series started in 2017 with a Jan. 20 performance at the Harbor View Event Center in Washburn. Warren Nelson will be jointed by Bruce Bowers, Ric Gilman, Jack Gunderson and Ed Willett for a show titled simply “Warren Nelson and Friends.”
Nelson said recently that meeting Bruce Bowers in 1976 was “a huge miracle.” Nelson and his partner, Betty Ferris, of the Nelson-Ferris Concert Company, were staging their first historical musical, “A Martin County Hornpipe” in Fairmont, Minn. And they needed a fiddler.
Nelson's brother-in-law, the late Don Pavel, happened to see Bowers performing in a bar in Colorado and connected the two.
“The rest is history,” Nelson said.
Bowers has been a a part of all the Nelson-Ferris historical musicals, a founding member of the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua Blue Canvas Orchestra, and he plays with a variety of other musicians, including guitarist Ric Gilman, the other have of the Bowers-Gilman duo known as “Barefoot Wonder.” (The name comes from a characteristic lack of footwear on stage.)
The first half of the Jan. 20 show will showcase Barefoot Wonder. In the second half Nelson takes the stage to play a number of his original works – joined by Bowers, vocalist Jack Gunderson and cellist Ed Willett. Some of the songs Nelson plans on performing include “Little Town on the Big Lake” from Souvenir Views, “Autumn Fancy,” “Up and Down the River, and the “South Wind Waltz,” featuring Jack Gunderson.
Nelson said he and Gunderson have been sharing a stage for 50 years, first performing together in 1967.
“It's been a privilege to work with such talented musicians,” he said.
It has also been a privilege to have a new concert venue in Washburn, he said. He noted the Event Center has invested in a stage and sound system, making it an intimate venue that offers a pleasing listening experience.
Future concerts include “So Many Years, So Many Songs,” a musical retrospective, on Feb. 10.
In March, the Event Center will be home to the debut of a new historical musical, “South Shore Chronicles,” on March 10-11.
The new show is a series of six vignettes about Lake Superior places and people told in drama and song. This new show, supported by a grant from the Chequamegon Bay Arts Council, will bring lake stories to life, Nelson said.
In April, Otis McLennon of Otis and the Alligators is coordinating a two-day blues festival, the first “Washburn Brokedown Blues Festival.”