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Sunset Concert Cruises News Items

Throughout the concert season, news releases regarding the cruises are posted to this web site.

News Release

Sunset Concert Cruises have operated out of Gills Rock for the past 26 years and became popular by providing narrated scenic cruises with a buffet dinner and top-notch live entertainment in an informal setting. For many Door County visitors it has become a tradition to take a concert cruise as part of their annual Door County vacation.

The very first Sunset Concert Cruise in 1981 was an add-on to the Door County Folk Festival and was meant to be only a one-time event. However, the idea of "dinner and music on a boat" quickly developed into a viable Door County business. It also became a welcome addition to the Door County entertainment scene enjoyed annually by thousands of Door County visitors as well as local residents.

Since 1981 Gerhard Bernhard has had a joint venture with Captain Charlie Voight of Gills Rock whose boats were used for these excursions. After nearly 850 cruises and serving over 80,000 guests, both talked about retiring from the concert cruises. At first they were going to retire after the 2005 season. When a rumor of retirement floated in the air, they received many calls and emails from people urging them to do the dinner/concert cruises at least for one more season. Bernhard and Voight decided to do another season for 2006 but with a reduced schedule. Definite plans were made to retire at the end of the 2006 season.

Grace & GerhardPlans changed, at least for Bernhard and his wife Grace, when they were contacted by Dan Mathein, coordinator of the new boat service between Sturgeon Bay and Marinette. Mathein found out about the concert cruise project and expressed interest in possibly working together. The two parties negotiated terms for a new joint venture, in which Sunset Concert Cruises will plan, promote and manage the cruises, and the Spirit of LaSalle Company will provide and run the boat out of Sturgeon Bay. Bernhard: "Many of our loyal customers will be happy that we are back in business, and we are excited about having a new challenge".

Arrangements have been worked out with the Stone Harbor Resort to cater a fine buffet dinner which will be served aboard during the first hour of the cruise.

Bernhard: "Cruising out of Sturgeon Bay has at least one distinct advantage over Gills Rock. The canal will allow us to cruise either on Green Bay or the Lake Michigan side, whichever has calm waters on a given evening. Canceling a cruise due to high winds and waves was a challenge we often faced in Gills Rock. Since we had to make a decision concerning going out or canceling at least five hours before departure, we occasionally made a bad decision which always proved to be costly and frustrating."

There will be about 35 Sunset Concert Cruises for the 2007 season starting on Tuesday, June 19 and running through mid September.

Bernhard: "Since the beginning of our project we have always taken pride in presenting only top quality musical entertainment as the main feature of our cruises, and that is not going to change." Entertainment for this summer will be provided by several popular bands such as Le Jazz Hot, the River City Six Dixieland Band, Julian Hagen and Friends, Blarney of Milwaukee, Todd Buffa Quartet of Green Bay, and others. More details about the entertainment will be announced later.

The new Sunset Concert Cruise brochure showing the schedule will be out late May and displayed throughout the county. It is also possible to download the brochure from the web For questions or more information you may call 920-854-2986, or email


Triada Farewell Concert Monday, August 15, 2005

Triada, the guitar trio formerly known as BG Brothers, will present a free concert for the Door County community at Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church in Ellison Bay on Monday, August 15 at 7:30 pm. It is the brothers' way of saying thank you and good bye to the people of Door County who have loved and admired them over the past four summers. They are leaving for Southern California to continue graduate studies at CSUF (California State University Fullerton) under the guidance of guitar master, professor David Grimes with whom they have taken master classes in Bulgaria.

At the concert the three brothers Nikola, Vasil and Petar Chekardzhikova will showcase their virtuosity and musicality with classical and romance favorites along with exciting bossa novas, ragtimes and light jazz. It is not only a special treat to listen to the trio's brilliantly performed music, but also to experience their charming stage presence.

The concert will also include two or three arias performed by soprano Sofiya Chekardzhikova (wife of Vasil) who majored in voice and piano in Bulgaria. Earlier this year Sofiya was chosen for the lead role in Francis Poulenc's opera "Les Dialogues des Carmélites", a production at CSUF.

Having studied with the very best teachers in Europe, the three brothers are former members of the guitar quartet "Four of a Kind", an ensemble which included their equally talented sister Petya. An extensive schedule of concerts, radio and TV appearances in Bulgaria led to several concert tours in Europe under professional management.

In the US Triada has presented concerts throughout the upper Midwest as well as Colorado, Texas, California and Hawaii. In Door County the brothers have performed regularly aboard Sunset Concert Cruises, at Inn At Kristofer's, and given concerts at Birch Creek Performance Center and at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

The world renowned, Grammy Award winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet recently conducted master classes in West Hollywood in which Triada participated. These master classes were organized and sponsored by the Grammy Foundation. Triada participated in the class with great success, receiving high praise and compliments from both the teachers and the Grammy officials.

Last January the trio returned briefly to Door County to record their new CD at Sister Bay's state of the art Allemande Studio which is operated by Hans Christian, an accomplished recording engineer. Music critic Erik Eriksson, publisher/editor of "Northeast Wisconsin Music Review", has written the "liner notes" for the new CD.

The new mostly classical CD has just been released and will be available for purchase at the concert. The CD is also sold at Handverks Music and Harp Center in Sister Bay or by mail (920-854-2986).

Again, the concert will take place at Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church in Ellison Bay on Monday, August 15 at 7:30 pm. A freewill offering will be taken which will go towards the trio's educational expenses.

(May, 2005)

Here are a few notes for the fans of TRIADA (formerly BG Brothers* ) who have heard the guitar trio perform at venues in Door County and around the Midwest during the past three summers. If you wish to read more about their earlier career, there is a brief history at a website which was part of a recent California concert performance

* The brothers (Nikola, Vasil and Petar Chekardzhikov) have taken the new name "TRIADA", a name likely to be more appropriate than BG Brothers which some people have mistaken for the pop group "BEE GEES".

Below is a brief update of what has gone on in the lives and careers of the three Bulgarian brothers since they left Door County in August of 2004. They left for Southern California to continue their advanced studies at CSUF (California State University Fullerton) under the guidance of guitar master David Grimes, with whom they have already taken master classes in Bulgaria.

After immersing themselves studying a wide range of music-related subjects and doing many concerts in California, the brothers returned briefly to Door County over the holidays for two reasons - to record a new CD and to give a concert. The concert took place at Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church in Ellison Bay where the trio charmed over 300 fans with Latin, Spanish and classical music.

The trio decided to record their new CD at the Allemande Recording Studio in Sister Bay. Studio owner and recording engineer Hans Christian made his state of the art recording studio available, and the brothers had productive recording sessions with Hans. The new CD is scheduled to be released this summer. Noted music critic Erik Ericksson, publisher/editor of "Northeast Wisconsin Music Review" has graciously agreed to write the "liner notes" for the CD. A CD release concert is intended to be scheduled for this summer in Door County. If you would like to receive a notice about this concert date please call 920-854-2986 or email

The three brothers' lives became even more busy with studies, concerts, other work, etc. after their return to California. Here are a few items of interest:

  • The trio is awaiting completion of the score of a concerto for three guitars and Symphony orchestra by a famous Bulgarian composer - Rossen Balkanski. The world premier of this work will be next year by the Huntington Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kimo Furumoto in West Virginia.

  • Some or all members of the trio have participated in the world premiere or a variety of new compositions. Following is a list of pieces recently premiered:

  • February 2005: Fantasia for three Guitars "Far away from Homeland", a new composition by the young Bulgarian composer Stanislav Hvartchilkov who is currently studying guitar at the Royal Academy of Music-London.

  • March 2005: Sonata for Guitar and Flute" by the young Bulgarian composer Vladimir Vlaev.

  • April 2005: Two pieces for solo guitar by the American composer Ryan McSweeney.

  • April 2005: "Love Songs for a Mediterranean God", consisting of a cycle of twelve songs for voice, guitar, flute and cello by the American composer Ken Walicki, a Fulbright Scholar in Germany where he studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen . Walicki has also been commissioned to compose for the world famous Kronos Quartet and other premier ensembles.

  • April 2005: As members of the CSUF Guitar Orchestra, the trio traveled to Hawaii for a seven day concert tour. Members of the trio also participated at a Guitar Festival in Honolulu, working with the Festival Orchestra consisting of 45 students from different high schools and University of Hawaii. The following is an excerpt of a concert review in the Hawaiian press: "An added treat was the appearance of "Triada," a brilliant guitar trio composed of three brothers from Bulgaria, Nikola, Petar and Vasil Chekardzhikov, who are mainstays of the orchestra as well. They played some arrangements, showing their grasp of their musicality and virtuosity". More details and pictures here:

  • Vasil was chosen to be a soloist with the CSUF Symphony Orchestra on May 21st 2005.

  • Among many of the concerts Triada is giving while in California is a full recital for the Long Beach Guitar Society.

  • The world renowned, Grammy Award winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet ( ) recently conducted master classes at the Gibson and Baldwin Showroom in West Hollywood in which Triada participated. These master classes were organized and sponsored by the Grammy Foundation. The trio participated in the class with great success, receiving compliments from both the teachers and organizers of the master classes. A member of LAGQ, Bill Kanengiser, agreed to coach Triada in the future.

  • This summer you will be able to hear Sofiya (Vasil's wife) in different venues in Door County . Sofiya majored in voice and piano in Bulgaria and recently was chosen for the lead role in Francis Poulenc's opera " Les Dialogues des Carmélites", a production at CSUF, Orange County, CA.

  • Triada will travel back to Door County in June to perform this summer at a variety of venues including nine concerts aboard Sunset Concert Cruises; details including sound samples of the new cd .

  • If you would like to have Triada perform at your upcoming event please contact Gerhard Bernhard at 920-854-2986 or email

More news to come as it happens. If you would like to receive TRIADA NEWS in the future, please click below and send this along with your name and email address: NEWS.

( The above was compiled and condensed by Gerhard Bernhard from various emails and telephone conversations with Vasil! )

Reprint from Resorter Reporter 9/16/2004

Two more Cruises with Julian Hagen and Friends

Washington Island entertainer Julian Hagen, along with some of his musically talented friends, is scheduled for two more Sunset Concert Cruise perforances aboard the Island Clipper; dates are Saturday, September 18 and Wednesday, September 22. This represents a change in entertainment because these two dates were originally reserved for Le Jazz Hot.

Through his past performances aboard Sunset Concert Cruises, Julian Hagen has built a loyal following among countless cruise customers. Attracted by Julian's magnetic personality and stage presence, fans come back year after year to enjoy his show.

One of Julian's friends is Lynn Gudmundsen who hails from the Island of Maui. Lynn is a professional violinist but will be featured as "fiddler extraordinaire" and vocalist in Julian's band. She performs frequently with big-name bands including the Willy Nelson Band for which she has "opened" many concerts.

Hans Christian, an exceptional performer on bass and cello, is part of Julian's band this year. Christian's improvisational skill and musicality is a great addition to the ensemble. He has performed and recorded music professionally for over 20 years. He tours nationally with his band RASA and is also active as a music producer and sound engineer at his own recording studio in Sister Bay.

Completing the quartet will be Ryan Thompson who will add vocal solos and harmonies on guitar and mandolin. Ryan has performed and toured with Lee Greenwood and other nationally known entertainers. He has also worked as studio musician in Nashville where he put his considerable skills on the fretboard to good use.

Taking a Sunset Concert Cruise out of Gills Rock has been a popular way to spend an evening for Door County visitors and residents alike. A cruise aboard the Island Clipper will provide a memorable, fun-filled adventure, often complemented by a spectacular sunset over the waters of Green Bay. The excursions feature narrated cruising, a buffet supper and top-notch musical entertainment.

For the remainder of the 2004 season cruises are scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with September 25 being be the last concert of the season. Find details check the boxed ad and "To-Do-List" in the calendar of events in the Resorter Reporter.

The three-hour dinner/entertainment cruises leave from the Gills Rock Harbor at 5:00 pm. Call 854-2986 for further information or reservations.


Reprint from Resorter Reporter, July 9, 2003

Music from around the world 

On Saturday, July 12 at 8:30 pm the Ephraim Village Hall will be the scene of a concert with an international theme presented by the Door County Folk Festival (DCFF). Admission is $12.00. This "Celebrebration of Music from around the World" has a lineup of six groups which will present a variety of ethnic music which by some standards may be considered "slightly out of the mainstream". Here's the lineup of performers for this event:

Mazurka Wojciehowska of Chicago, IL is a vocalist, accordionist and dulcimist who graduated from the American Conservatory of Music with a degree in vocal performance. She has sung with The Lira Ensemble, a professional arts organization promoting Polish song, music and dance; the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and several small independent opera companies. She is a member of the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Global Roots program, bringing Slavic music to Chicago’s inner city public schools and is in the Illinois Arts Council’s Arts Tour Roster as a solo performer. She has been researching and performing Slavic music for over 25 years and her repertoire also includes non Slavic material: Romanian, German, Austrian and Yiddish. 

Tri Bratovchedki, of Madison, WI is a trio of Cousins - Nancy Yugo, Debbie Kmetz, Dan Garvin who specialize in Eastern European village music, and have been a popular addition to DCFF. The trio’s singing is characterized by dissonant harmonies and complex rhythms. Themes of love, grief, national pride, folk tales, legends, and deep religious faith give this music an energetic and intense quality. The trio's current repertoire includes Macedonian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, and Ukrainian songs.

The Silvertones, of Chicago, IL are one of the newest string bands to come out of the "Chicago String Band Tradition". They play an energetic mix of old-timey music with innovative rhythm and musicianship. The band has played for dances in Chicago, Valparaiso, Milwaukee and at the DCFF since 2000. 

Ljupco Milenkovski, originally from Dracevo, Macedonia, made and learned to play his first wooden flute as a child. He became an expert on the very difficult to play kaval (open-ended flute) while studying with the famed Macedonian musician, Mile Kolarov. After having mastered playing kaval, he also started learning to play the Gajda, a Balkan bagpipe. 

The BG Brothers have been known to Door County residents and visitors through their performing aboard Sunset Concert Cruises, Inn At Kristophers and numerous other events. The classical guitar trio is comprised of three brothers (Nikola, Vasil and Petar Chekardzhikov) from Varna, Bulgaria who are virtuosos as individuals and stunning as an ensemble. All three were trained in classical guitar in Bulgaria and have since conquered American audiences. They have been laureates of over a dozen international guitar competitions and guitar festivals and have performed in over 500 concerts throughout Europe as well as numerous TV and radio appearances. The brothers are graduates of the Dobri Hristov College of Fine Arts in Bulgaria and have acquired a remarkable proficiency in technique, touch and musicianship. Although their standard repertoire consists of classical, Spanish and Latin items, they have mastered traditional and contemporary Bulgarian folk music which they will perform at this concert.

Gerhard Bernhard (recorders ocarinas, folk harp) and Tammy Naze (concert harp) will perform a set of mostly Irish music. 

Gerhard is a local Door County musician and entrepreneur who operates Handverks Music & Harp Center and Sunset Concert Cruises and is founder and co-director of the DCFF ( ), which he runs together with his longtime friend and partner Paul Collins. Although trained in classical music and in traditional instruments (piano, violin), he has gathered a large collection of folk instruments and plays many of them.

Tammy began playing the harp at age 12. She pursued a harp performance degree in college and graduated with a music business degree from DePaul University, Chicago. She resides near Algoma, WI where she teaches private lessons in harp and piano from her studio. Tammy performs regularly with various symphony orchestras in Northeast Wisconsin and has worked solo or as accompanist for many different musicians and venues. She also plays regularly for wedding ceremonies, receptions, church events and special occasions. She is not only a great sight reader but also an enthusiastic performer who is familiar with many different styles of music: Baroque, classical, jazz, folk and pops. 

To find out more about the 24th annual Door County Folk Festival please log on to the website at . There are about 50 different events scheduled for the four day "folk dance" festival, featuring a multitude of activities too numerous to mention here in detail. Most activities are centered around the Sister Bay Village Hall where the opening dance party will start at 8:30 pm Thursday, July 10. Anyone interested in square and round dance workshops is encouraged to attend any of the 8:00 am sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Sister Bay Village Hall. These early morning workshops are taught by Paul Collins, well known square dance caller (Chicago) and DCFF co-director.

BG Brothers worth seeing this summer

By Erik Eriksson - Door County Resorter Reporter Friday, May 16, 2003

With a full evening's worth of fine music and astute presentation, the BG Brothers (three young Bulgarian classical guitarists), charmed their audience at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County last Saturday. Originally scheduled for the Door Community Auditorium, the event had to be switched to another venue and concert manager Gerhard Bernhard was pleased to find the Sister Bay facility available and welcoming.

The three brothers, Nikola, Petar and Vasil Chekardzhikov, were trained in classical guitar in their homeland and have since conquered American audiences in Door County and elsewhere in the country. They plan to enter the University of California to study further with guitar master David Grimes, with whom they have already taken master classes in Bulgaria.

The brothers are graduates of the Dobri Hristov College of Fine Arts in their native country and have a remarkable proficiency in technic, touch and musicianship. Their repertory consists of classical items, most of them transcriptions of works by such composers as Bach, Vivaldi, Granados, Rodrigo and Villa-Lobos. Adapting complex scores for just three guitars is no simple matter, but the arrangements are full, well-textured and provide an authentic feel. Invariably they are beautifully played, with both lovely sound and lively pacing. Quiet, languid movements hang magically in the air. The brothers are not afraid to play very softly, or use the fullest array of colors. 

Last weekend the better part of the program was classical, but other sweetmeats were offered as well. Some Bulgarian folksongs (including a fervent tribute to their hometown), Latin pieces, a go-for-broke "Volare," and their signature theme "La Bamba" were other welcome components to the evening. They sing on many of the lighter items - with joy and infectious zest that has to bring a smile to any face, theirs included.

Actor Bob Thompson, who knows a thing or two about the subject,spoke out to encourage them to never lose their charm. I think it's a safe bet they won't. This summer, the BG Brothers will be featured regularly on Sunset Concert Cruises. and weekends at the Inn at Kristofer's. Those who haven't yet heard them should remedy the situation; those who have will certainly continue to hear and applaud them.

New Location for BG Brothers Concert Saturday, May 10th, 2003

The concert by the classical guitar trio, originally scheduled for the Door County Auditorium in Fish Creek, WI, has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 10th, 8:15 pm at the Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship, 267 Koessl Lane, Sister Bay. Directions: Take highway 42 north to Sister Bay, turn right at Country Walk Dr (at BP Gas Station), then turn right unto Koessl Rd; church is on your right.

(Click image to enlarge)

The guitar trio is comprised of three brothers (Nikola, Vasil and Petar Chekardzhikovi) from Bulgaria who are virtuosos as individuals and stunning as an ensemble. The brothers, only in their early 20's, have studied their chosen instrument since early childhood and have taken master classes with the very best guitar teachers in Europe and the US.

They have been laureates of over a dozen international guitar competitions and guitar festivals and have performed in over 500 concerts throughout Europe as well as numerous TV and radio appearances. During the early days of their remarkable carrier the brothers, along with their slightly older sister, performed as a quartet known as "Four of a Kind". When only in their early teens the ensemble recorded their first CD while under international management of "Master Productions" in Belgium. 

At their concert this Saturday at the Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship the group will present an exciting program of classical, Latin, Spanish, and popular music. A medley of haunting folk songs and dances with unusual, unbalanced rhythms from their native Bulgaria is always a highlight of their performance. 

On a recent concert the trio showed their versatility by playing a variety of pieces ranging from a delightful slow movement of a Vivaldi concerto to an exciting version of La Bamba that kept listeners "dancing in their seats".

The Saturday concert will be sponsored by the "Inn At Kristofer's" and "Sunset Concert Cruises", both of Sister Bay. Throughout this summer season the BG Brothers will be performing aboard the Sunset Concert Cruises which will start on June 14th; details to be posted soon at

You can also hear the trio perform on weekends at the Inn At Kristofer's from now through the fall. Reservations at the restaurant are recommended by calling 920-854-9419. For question about the Saturday concert or Sunset Concert Cruises call 920-854-2986. 

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