In midst of the midsummer excitement about the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF), Winonans will also have the chance to enjoy world-class music performances for no charge during Concerts on the Green series, which has been running congruently to GRSF performances since its inaugural year.
. Vanessa Trouble, aka Vanessa Gernes, will perform during GRSF's Concert on the Green series.
“Number one, [GRSF] is a festival, and we wanted it to have a festival feel, so we thought, ‘let’s have music as well as theater,’” explained Will Kitchen, director of development for GRSF. “People from the community can enjoy being outside on a summer day and listen to free music and if they decide to, they can go to a play. It’s a way to give back to the community.”
On Friday, June 27, the Annie Mack Band will kick off the Concerts on the Green (CotG) series with a performance at 5:30 p.m. at Levee Park. For all other performances — except for the closing event, which will also take place at Levee Park — the lawn at Winona State University’s Performing Arts Center will be the venue. “[All of the concerts] will be at 6 p.m. except for the kick off event and the Friday, July 4, concert with Turkey Creek, Elsa Va, and Jake Ilika & Friends, which will be at 4:30 p.m., so people can have time to go to fireworks and whatnot,” said Diane Stevens, member of GRSF’s Friends of Will Steering Committee.
The 12 days of CotG, which take place on Friday and Saturday evenings, will include an array of artists that range from local talent to recognized regional and national bands. “We try to have a real variety of music here,” Stevens explained. “This year we have jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock, folk and more.”
To make the most of your CotG experience, both Stevens and Kitchen suggest bringing a chair or blanket so sit on. “People can come at any time, and they can also bring food for a picnic,” Stevens said. “There will also be food for purchase, and it will be good!”
Vanessa Trouble, who might be known to locals by her real name, Vanessa Gernes, is a Winona native, who is now a musician in New York City. She will perform classic jazz standards with the Larry Price Trio on Saturday, July 5. “I am very much looking forward to performing at [CotG],” said Gernes, who recently released an album from which she will be performing songs. “I grew up in Winona, my parents are both Winona natives — my dad went to Cotter and my mom went to Winona [Senior High School].”
Gernes herself graduated from Winona Senior High School, where she was involved in choir and orchestra. (She played the violin.) “I love coming back for performances,” she explained. “I’m excited to be staying part-time at the Briggs farm, which is owned by Steve Briggs, a childhood friend. I am from Winona and I feel very connected to Winona. I am the person I am today because I am from Winona.”
For Stevens, one of the greatest parts of CotG, besides the quality and quantity of music, is the experience and community-building that is evidenced by the people who show up each year to every performance. “There is a lot of great stuff coming out of the theater, but it doesn’t create community to the extent that CotG does,” Stevens said of the appeal of CotG. “I love it.”
Visit http://grsf.org/festival-events/free-events/free-concerts/ for a full lineup and event details.