Inspiration Weekend features Ricky Skaggs, much more


Following a very successful Inspiration Weekend 2009, In Touch Ministries and Charles Stanley will bring the spiritual awakening back this year, for a five-day, June 4 through 8, open-air event at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.

Featuring inspirational teaching from Mr. Stanley, the weekend is also about entertainment: there’s a range of musical acts — from Ricky Skaggs to American Idol finalist Mandisa (who finished ninth in 2006) to comedians and summer residents Squire Rushnell and Louise DuArt, who return for an evening of Inspirational Comedy.

Dr. Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta and founder of In Touch Ministries, will speak all five days, giving inspirational messages and a worship service on Sunday morning.

Preceding his message on Friday evening is a musical concert with Mandisa. Comedy starts Saturday evening’s schedule of events, followed by a performance by Mara Getz, a vocalist from Los Angeles whose claims to fame include opening for entertainers such as Bill Cosby and Joan Rivers, and playing the lead role in the 1988 musical “Mail” on Broadway.

On Sunday, worship begins at 11 am. Following is the picnic, a book signing, and an inspirational message from historian David Barton.

Monday night starts with Ricky Skaggs, and concludes with Dr. Stanley. The last day, Tuesday, features music by Avalon before the concluding message. Made up of four musicians, Avalon is one of Christian music’s premiere vocal group, with three Grammy nominations and an American Music Award.

Ricky Skaggs brings bluegrass to Oak Bluffs

In 1997, Ricky Skaggs was fast-tracking his way through the country pop music marketplace; a record contract, a series of country hits, awards galore, touring with megastars. Then he stopped. Changed direction.

“My recording contract was up for renewal and I made a list of all the things I had to do to be successful, to compete in the country music business. I couldn’t find anything on that list that I was wanting to do,” the 14-time Grammy award winner said from his Nashville home last week.

Mr. Skaggs instead went back to bluegrass, the music of his eastern Kentucky home. Generally an acoustical form favoring stringed instruments, bluegrass is rooted in several hundred years of Celtic and English reels and roundelays brought to the new world by immigrants and made uniquely American with African-American jazz and blues influences.

Along his own way, Mr. Skaggs has become the official touchstone of acoustic bluegrass music, receiving an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music. Mr. Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, will perform June 7 at the Tabernacle at Oak Bluffs.

He’s looking forward to another Island visit. “My wife and I were in the area about 10 years ago. We knew about Martha’s Vineyard so we took the ferry over, rented a couple of those little motorbikes and toured the Island.

“When we got to the Tabernacle, I looked at it and said ‘Wouldn’t this be a great place to play some day?'” he said.

Mr. Skaggs, 55, got his first guitar from his father at three years old, a mandolin at five, and made his professional debut several years later. Today he is still on a musical roll, marked by his own record label and 10 consecutive years of Grammy nominations.

He will include songs from his latest CD, “Songs My Father Loved” and a few cuts from his next album “Mosaic,” a blend of spiritual and natural music “real different from anything I’ve done,” he said.

“Songs My Father Loved” is a tribute album to his dad that includes spirituals, up-tempo fiddle reels, and lonesome and whimsical songs that originated in the “hollers” — the dells and glades of eastern Kentucky.

Now, sharing in the roots revival for all things authentic in this country, bluegrass is part of the larger stage, but the genre was more fragile in the American music hierarchy when Mr. Skaggs committed himself to it.

“When I was growing up, bluegrass was just a part of country music, didn’t have its own identity,” he said, “but then a man named Ralph Rinzler, a folklorist and curator at the Smithsonian Institution, gave it a name, bluegrass, after Kentucky’s state motto, ‘The Bluegrass State,'” he said.

Mr. Skaggs recalled a moment of change. “I didn’t really understand my musical roots but I remember touring the U.K. with Emmylou Harris in 1978. We were playing in Ireland and were invited to a Ceilidh (kay-lee), a community party with kids, food, music, and drink. I had never seen anything like it, didn’t know anyone, but when the music started, I was at home, part of it,” he recalled.

Mr. Skaggs has been at the music business, man and boy, for 55 years and has some perspective on changes he’s seeing in the American music and social landscape.

“The internet has changed the music business. You know, CD sales for all music are down 75 per cent from 10 years ago. That’s the Internet. Downloads. Burning CDs and pirating. I feel worst for the songwriters. They’ve always been the last to get paid even before the Internet,” he said.

But the Internet is also a blessing, he believes. “In the old days, marketing was centrally controlled and you did tours, personal appearances, trying to get radio airplay, whatever you had to do to sell records,” he said.

“Those things are still important but the Internet opens the whole world to your music. I am seeing very different audiences than we saw 10 years ago. People looking for roots and authenticity who have discovered bluegrass and our music,” as a result of the viral nature of the medium, he said.

Mr. Skaggs also has some disquiet about the causes of our culture’s renewed search for its roots.

“The way things are now, the tragedies, political fallout in Washington, the squeezing of America politically and geophysically. I believe people are fed up with the way things are. I wouldn’t call it a revolution yet but it’s trending that way. People are willing to stand up for the values they believe in and defend and fight for them,” he says. “Acoustic and bluegrass are pure and authentic music with heart, soul, and passion gives hope.”

Cards of hope and comfort

All are invited to write words of inspiration to those who are in need on Sunday, June 6, 12 noon to 3 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Bible Church table, during Inspiration Weekend at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.

Only the first names of those receiving the cards will be written on the cards. Last names and addresses will not be available to public.

For more information, contact Martha’s Vineyard Bible Church at or 508-693-3832.

Please provide us your loved one’s first and last name and mailing address.

For complete information regarding Inspiration Weekend, see the listings on page 10 in Calendar or visit