“He is the greatest living bass player in the world easily, and arguably the greatest for all time.” That’s how Johnny Hamil describes Francois Rabbath, the Syrian-born Parisian who is in Mission this week for an extraordinary bass workshop. For one week, Mission becomes the most important city on the continent — if you play the double bass.
Bass players from all over North America descend on SM North High School today through Friday for the KC Bass Workshop. And the reason they are here is Hamil, the workshop founder who happens to live and teach in Mission. This is a special year for the workshop not only because it has expanded to a sold-out 70 students, but also because the faculty includes Rabbath, 82, a pioneer of the upright bass who is known around the world as one of the great virtuosos of the time. “I study with him every chance I get,” Hamil said. “People just want to be near Francois.”
Hamil, who has lived in Mission for 13 years, started the workshop in memory of his mentor, George Vance, who created methods of teaching the bass to younger students. Besides the 70 students who range from five years old to nearly 70, members of the public can get a glimpse of the world of the bass with free concerts this week at SM North.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, free concerts will be held at 7 p.m. at the SM North theater. On Thursday, Rabbath will perform at Park University and tickets will be on sale online through Wednesday. On Monday, Hamil will play with his daughter and nephew in a concert that will include other workshop faculty. Wednesday’s concert will feature faculty member Lloyd Goldstein with Ray Belanger on hammered dulcimer. Friday will feature students and faculty in a final performance with 80 upright basses. Tuesday night, faculty member Hans Sturm plays with Jackie Allen at the Green Lady Lounge in Kansas City.
Hamil, who performs in several styles with different groups, also teaches electric and double bass to all ages — starting as young as 3 — at his Mission home studio. He composes as well as performing and teaching. “I find if I don’t create, I go a little crazy,” Hamil says.
Sunday night, Hamil’s Mission home was the gathering place for the star-studded faculty with Rabbath at the center of attention as he prepared his instrument. Rabbath’s son, Sylvain, travels and performs with his father. Sylvain plays piano but describes the bass players as a “friendly community, less competitive” than other instruments.
Information about all of the workshop faculty can be found here.
Check out Rabbath in action below: