Author Archives: Lindsey Bridwell


B’more Bluegrass

Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival co-founders Philip Chorney (left) and Jordan August (right) pose with multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien at last year’s festival. (provided)

Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival co-founders Philip Chorney (left) and Jordan August (right) pose with multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien at last year’s festival.

With a new location and an almost entirely new lineup of artists, the founders of the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival are ready to make this year’s event even bigger than last year’s sold-out show.

The second annual festival, on April 26, will move from last year’s location, Union Craft Brewing near Hampden, to the area surrounding the Conservatory and botanical gardens in Druid Hill Park, a change City Councilman Nick Mosby helped to facilitate. The change in location will allow for more people to attend, said co-founders Phil Chorney and Jordan August. Last year, all 1,600 tickets sold out a month before the event.

“I am humbled by the response the community has shown to folk, roots and bluegrass music,” said Chorney, a Reisterstown native. “This festival was founded on the idea that songwriting and timeless melodies can bring people together to celebrate our culture, heritage and great city.”

Like last year, the festival will feature a mix of local and national talent. Highlights include Grammy Award-winning dobro player Jerry Douglas, who will close the event, along with Punch Brothers banjo player Noam Pikelny & Friends, young mandolin player Sierra Hull, bluegrass guitarist Audie Blaylock and Redline, father-and-son banjo-dulcimer duo Ken and Brad Kolodner and guitar duo Chris Eldridge (of Punch Brothers) and Julian Lage.

“Jerry Douglas, he’s something else,” said August, whose band Trace Friends Mucho will take the stage as part of the festival. “He is the best at what he does — 13 Grammy [awards], the most recorded musician of all time, he’s been on over 14,000 different [recordings], he’s a session player in Nashville — he is the best of best in the bluegrass world.”

The event will also feature an open bluegrass jam, reminiscent of how the festival came to be in the first place.

Years ago, August and Chorney, who lived three blocks from one another in Hampden, used to get together in the evenings after work and play bluegrass. In time, more friends joined, and the pair realized there was a market for folksy music in Charm City.

“We realized there was a niche for bluegrass in at least our community here, so we came up with the idea of doing a show,” said August. “Then one concert turned into a one-day event.”

Baltimore’s bluegrass roots trace back decades to the 1940s and 1950s, August said, when Nashville and Baltimore were the only hotbeds for the string-heavy style of music.

“Baltimore is an old city where we were the hub for Western Maryland, kind of the Appalachians, before a lot of the other cities popped up,” said August, noting that the audience for folk and bluegrass is still strong in the Mid-Atlantic, as evident by the success of DelFest (over Memorial Day weekend) in Cumberland.

With no shortage of bluegrass festivals just a road trip away later in the spring and summer, August hopes Charm City is beginning to re-establish itself as a bluegrass breeding ground. The late April date is scheduled as a kickoff to the festival season.

“My slogan that I always say is, ‘Get your bluegrass shoes out, get them dusted off and warmed up with us and then go blow them out at DelFest,’” August said.

Tickets are now on sale for $65. Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., when the entertainment heads downtown with a show at The 8×10 featuring The Everyone Orchestra.

Freedom Doesn’t End With Exodus

I recently participated in an evening of learning at a local Lutheran church where a local imam and I were asked to discuss the ways our respective faiths were most often misunderstood. This church and their pastor sought to spend time during Lent learning about other faiths in order to help strengthen their own faith. During the question and answer period, a member of the church asked if I thought that the story of the Israelite exodus from Egyptian slavery had been misunderstood.

It was an insightful question — one that compels me to think more deeply about the Exodus and our celebration of Pesach. We’ve just gathered around Seder tables to once again remember going out from Egyptian slavery. There is little doubt that every Seder differed in some way, great or small, from other Seders taking place those nights.

One of the great benefits Seders being held primarily at home is that they yield more creativity and variation than many other synagogue-based Jewish rituals. That said, I worry that the narrative told around the table often emphasizes the freedom from slavery, the liberation from the shackles of Pharaoh, without posing the question: “What follows freedom?”

A side note. Headlines in recent months and years have been dominated by the story of one regime after another being toppled in North Africa, the Middle East and in other parts of the world as well. In virtually every example, it is a strong-man or dictator who has ruled by fear and held on to power despite the wishes of his people who yearn to breathe free. The downfall of a despot is a cause for celebration, to be sure.

Without reading too much into current events, I have to say that while approaching Passover, the image in my head is of Moses and Aaron facing down Pharaoh, declaring: “Thus says the Lord, God of the Hebrews: Let My people go that they may worship Me in the wilderness!” In the ancient case of Pharaoh over Egypt and in the modern cases around the world, the refusal of the tyrant to listen to the voice of the people brings destruction (often undeserved suffering of the general population) and ultimately downfall.

But an additional aspect should also be considered. The freedom our ancestors sought from the rule of Pharaoh was not intended to be a freedom from responsibility. The opposite is true. Our ancestors went from servitude to Pharaoh to being in covenant with God — being partners with mutual responsibility towards the ethical system embodied by the Torah they would receive 50 days later at Mount Sinai.

We can hope and pray that the people who have and will throw off the rule of tyrants around the world today will see it as an opportunity to take control of their future with the principle of ethical responsibility as their first aspiration. Rabbi Allen Maller writes: “Freedom without commitment leads to social breakdown and anarchy in our society and self-centeredness and egoism in our personal lives. We cannot value freedom without valuing commitment and duty even more.”

What is the greatest misunderstanding of the Exouds story? The false belief that it concludes with the physical liberation from slavery to Pharaoh.

Wishing you a zissen (sweet) and meaningful Passover!

Rabbi Craig Axler is spiritual leader of Temple Isaiah in Fulton.


Maller Honored By Lincoln Financial



Peter Maller, founder and president of Maller Wealth Advisors, and registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors (LFA), was named LFA Planner of the Year for 2013. Planner of the Year is awarded each year to the three leading advisors among thousands affiliated with Lincoln Financial.

“Planner of the Year is the highest acknowledgement our company bestows on a financial planner,” said John DiMonda, head of LFA. “It is a direct reflection of Peter’s commitment to his clients and a testament to his professionalism and loyalty to our company.”

Maller has been named LFA Planner of the Year six times in the last seven years. With more than 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry, Maller founded Maller Wealth Advisors in January 2014. The firm, headquartered in Hunt Valley, is a wealth management firm providing sophisticated investment strategies, comprehensive financial planning, risk-management services, business succession planning and employee benefits to successful business owners, accomplished professionals and high-net-worth individuals.

Israeli Arab lawyer indicted for aiding Hamas

The Haifa District prosecution has indicted Mohammed Abed, a 42-year-old attorney from the village of Baana near the northern Israeli city of Acre, for a series of security offenses concerning his contacts with senior Hamas operatives.

A gag order placed on the case was partially lifted Monday, revealing that Abed was arrested Feb. 24 in a joint Israeli police, Shin Bet security agency and Israel Defense Forces operation.

Abed was charged with multiple counts of contacting a foreign agent and providing services to an illegal association. The indictment alleged that for years, while legally representing Hamas members jailed in Israel, Abed has been a go-between for several senior Hamas operatives — including Abbas al-Sayed, who planned the 2002 Passover bombing at Netanya’s Park Hotel — and Hamas officials in Gaza and the West Bank.

China’s ancient Jewish community returning to its roots

China’s ancient Jewish community in Kaifeng is set to celebrate a traditional Passover Seder for what may be the first time in centuries.

The Seder is being sponsored by Shavei Israel, an Israeli organization that helps “Lost Tribes” and other forgotten Jewish communities return to their roots. The Seder will be conducted by Tzuri Shi, a Kaifeng Jew who formally converted and immigrated to Israel a few years ago.

“We are proud and excited to organize this historic event,” Shavei Israel chairman and founder Michael Freund stated. “Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover.”

Persian or Iraqi Jewish traders first arrived in Kaifeng, one of China’s imperial capitals, during the Middle Ages. At its height, the Jewish community there likely numbered around 5,000 people.