Who is the banjo player who has played before the largest single audience ever? And what was the occasion?
I reckon I know the answer to this and it might surprise you.
Some banjo pickers have played before millions of people in their lifetime careers, but I'm talking about a single performance, playing to a huge audience ...
Who do you think?
I'm willing to have someone give me a better answer, (let me know if you can think of a bigger audience) but I reckon the banjo picker with the biggest audience in history is Peter Somerville. He's an Australian picker from Melbourne, who has played around the Australian music scene for decades. He's known to Aussie audiences as the 5-string player with the now defunct Uncle Bill. They had huge recognition in Australia by touring the country with singer/songwriter Paul Kelly, one of Australia's biggest acts. Peter has a busy schedule, and is always involved in many projects, including teaching bluegrass banjo, and one of his current activities is playing with his band, The Somervilles.
His gigantic performance was to a billion people. That's Billion with a "B"! There were 110,000 wildly enthusiastic fans at the venue, and the rest watching around the world on television live to a record 220 countries.
I'm sure most of you watched on tv on 15th September 2000 as the Sydney 2000 Olympics opened in true Australian style, a lone horseman entered the stadium to the tune of the Man from Snowy River and was followed by a legion of 120 horse riders carrying the Olympic flag. Who could ever forget 13 year old Nikki Webster being hoisted aloft to soar a hundred feet above the other performers below, and in the phase of the presentation called the Tin Symphony, where the arrival of Europeans and development of agriculture was depicted, showing them erecting corrugated iron structures, windmills, starting to farm the land, added to the symphony orchestra came the unmistakable sounds of Peter Somerville on his 5-string.
I asked him once how he felt about playing in such an important event, before such a gigantic audience, and he said "well yes it's a bit bigger than the pubs I normally play in."
A BIT bigger???!!