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.