Musical program explores roots of bluegrass

Posted on March 31, 2016 by Jennifer McManamay

The Rose Ensemble The Rose Ensemble will perform a program exploring the origins of bluegrass on April 7 at Sweet Briar College.

The Rose Ensemble, an internationally renowned early American music group with a mission to “unite virtuosic vocal artistry with scholarly research” will perform Thursday, April 7, at Sweet Briar College. The Babcock Season presentation of “The Roots of Bluegrass: A Journey Through America’s Folk, Old-time and Gospel Traditions” starts at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. There is no charge for admission.

An online description of “The Roots of Bluegrass” notes it offers “some of [the ensemble’s] most popular music in this joyful program featuring ballads, dances, hymns and anthems.”

Listeners are invited to “[w]itness a musical evolution as our singers and instrumentalists journey through the dance halls of Boston, to Shaker villages and the hills of Appalachia, exploring the harmonies that gave birth to bluegrass.”

Eleven musicians will perform the program. It starts with the melodies of America’s first musicians, an improvisation by bass singer Mark Dietrich, who also plays the guitar and the Native American flute.

From there, the program wends its way through the decades, exploring the influences of hymns, country dancing and vocal traditions such as “shape note singing” — all giving rise to what we know today as a quintessential American music form.

Artistic director Jordan Sramek founded the company in 1996 with the idea of bringing rarely heard repertoire to modern audiences based on “research from the world’s manuscript libraries and fresh perspectives on history, culture, politics and spirituality from around the globe,” according to the website,

The Rose Ensemble is the recipient of numerous honors, including the 2005 Chorus America Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and first prize in both sacred and secular music categories at the 2012 Tolosa Choral Contest in Spain — which is part of the European Choral Grand Prix. Sramek received the 2010 Louis Botto Award from Chorus America “for entrepreneurial zeal.”

Recent performances include appearances at Early Music Now in Milwaukee, the University of Vermont Lane Series, St. Quirinus Cathedral in Neuss, Germany, and the Misiones De Chiquitos Choral Festival in Bolivia.

For more information, contact Mark Magruder at (434) 381-6150 or