Imagine Tom Lehrer meeting Woody Guthrie in a bar one night and deciding to get together to write some songs, and you’d have a sense of Peter Alsop’s compositions. Peter is, above all else, a topical songwriter, not so much in the sense that he writes about things you read in the newspapers, but rather he deals with issues that are of concern to a large part of North America. These issues encompass everything from homophobia to child rearing to the government. His material is at once funny and very, very serious. If you are cynical about contemporary songwriters we think Peter will restore your faith in the type. Peter is a veteran of past Festivals and we’re looking forward to hearing the songs he’s written in the last couple of years.
Frankie Armstrong, from Cumberland in England, began singing in the late 1950s. Her repertoire is absolutely extraordinary. She has recorded erotic ballads from the seventeenth century a wide variety of traditional material of all types and contemporary songs dealing with women’s issues and the danger of nuclear holocaust. There are very few singers whose voices have the power of Frankie’s, a power which makes everything that she sings immediate and full of drama. There are also very few singers who are able to master both a traditional and contemporary repertoire, and do an excellent job of both. Over the years Frankie Armstrong has become a good friend of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and we’re very pleased that she’s able to be with us this year.
Like Frankie Armstrong, with whom Roy works a fair bit, Roy Bailey is another member of the folk music scene who is an amateur in the dictionary sense of the term. Roy is a full-time academic whose singing is done out of commitment and love of the art. With 25 years of experience he’s one of the finest singers anywhere. He’s got a voice that makes us think he could sing the London phone directory in a way which would hold our attention. He’s another one of the rare few who are able to build a repertoire of traditional and contemporary songs and make the link between them. His work with Frankie Armstrong and Leon Rosselson is familiar to many people in Vancouver, but more and more Roy is becoming renowned as one of the finest solo performers on the folk scene. Make sure you don’t miss him over the weekend.
Pierre Bensusan is something of a prodigy. His first album won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque of 1975 in France where he lives. Pierre was 18 when he recorded it. Yep, that’s a prodigy. Pierre is a superb guitar player and an eclectic one. He combines a love of Celtic music with a facility to play tangos from Buenos Aires. His youth in Algeria where he was born in 1957 has coloured his music recently with an Oriental feel, and he has also recorded pieces with a classical sense. Whether playing traditional material or his own compositions, Pierre is truly an exceptionally talented instrumentalist and a singer with a repertoire that is unique in many ways. Although he has passed through Vancouver on a couple of occasions, this is his first visit to the Festival and we are glad to present you with an opportunity to hear Pierre Bensusan.
This year’s festival builds on and extends the participation of contemporary performers from Newfoundland, the richest treasure trove of folk culture in English speaking Canada. The influences of British Isles traditional and French folk music have combined in this isolated corner of North America to produce both a rich heritage of traditional material as well as a unique regional folk culture. Anita Best is a singer of songs of Newfoundland. Much of her repertoire is traditional, gathered from many years of collecting. We are told she is regarded in Newfoundland as perhaps the finest of the young singers on the island. Along with her fellow islanders we know that Anita is going to make a big impact on many people who have not been previously exposed to this exceptionally vibrant folk material.
A few years ago a couple of well known American folkies were having coffee backstage at a folk festival, not really listening to what was on stage, but just passing the time in a pleasant fashion. All of a sudden the conversation stopped. They jumped to their feet, one mumbled, “Who the hell is that?” and raced to the back of the stage. ‘That’ was Bim, in some ways one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets. Bim is a product of our time and of our province. He hails from Dawson Creek in northern British Columbia where he grew up listening to country music with one ear and rock-and-roll with the other. This has created a certain degree of musical schizophrenia which he’s mastered in a way that few others have. He’s one of the best songwriters this country has produced able to inject his music with country, rock and blues influences to create a style that is all his own.
Heather Bishop attended the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival as a member of the stage crew who’d come from Winnipeg to help launch the event. Since then she has become one of the merry band of full-time singers and players, crisscrossing the country to forge a musical culture that is reaching the ears of more and more people. Heather is eclectic. We think this is good. One minute she can sing a blues tune dripping with passion, and then turn around to sing a political song about harassment of women in non-traditional jobs. She brought Dori Previn,s “Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister?” to so many people for the first time that some still think Heather wrote it. Lately she has been writing more of her own material and has recently recorded a children’s album and an adult album. Although she was a great member of a stage crew, we are more than happy to keep welcoming her back as a popular performer.
The first time the name Blowzabella came to our attention was when a letter arrived from one of our roving friends in England recommending the band to us. Shortly thereafter we got their album. Putting it on a turntable we were stunned. Never ever had we heard anything like it: bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies, combined with other mysterious instruments producing a sound that was at once harsh and beautiful; strange and yet very appealing. There is no adequate way to describe the sound of this band. The next day we were on the phone to England, booking Blowzabella for the Festival. Basically, Blowzabella plays traditional dance music from Britain, France, Flanders and the Balkans. They make many of their own instruments including the hurdy-gurdies and English bagpipes, an instrument that ceased to exist a couple hundred years ago. We have never before had here anything remotely like Blowzabella and we’re very excited to present them this year. The band consists of Dave Armitage on bassoon, percussion; Paul James on bagpipes, schawms, saxophone, recorders, vocals; Sam Paimer on hurdy-gurdy; Dave Roberts on melodeon, percussion; Dave Shephard on violin; Cliff Stapleton on hurdy-gurdy, recorders; Jon Swayne on bagpipes, bombard, saxophone, flutes.
Blue Flame Stringband
Although this is the first year the Blue Flame Stringband is appearing in Vancouver at the Folk Music Festival, two members of the group have been here in other guises in the past. Kate Brislin was a member of the Any Old Time Stringband and Alan Senauke was half of the Fiction Brothers. Together with Susie Rothfield, ace fiddler, Eric Thompson, known for his exceptional bluegrass guitar playing, and Markie Sanders, they form the Blue Flame Stringband. They call their music neo-traditional. What this means is that they’ve taken bluegrass, old-timey, Cajun, jug band, eastern European and rockabilly, thrown it all together and served it up in both traditional and modern forms. This is one of those bands who can do just about anything. Blue Flame Stringband is a multi-instrumental delight and a boon to those with short attention spans. They are a living example of the great American musical melting pot and we’re sure that they’ll have your toes tapping.
Eric Bogle and John Munro
When we said goodbye to Eric Bogle and John Munro after last year’s Festival we invited them to come back the following year without little expectation that it would happen, Australia being where it is and air fares being what they are. But lo and behold, they have returned. Eric came to last year’s Festival with the reputation of a great songwriter based on, more than anything else, his authorship of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. After last year’s Festival the songs the audience were talking about were his more recent compositions, ranging from the immensely powerful songs about his father such as “Scraps of Paper” to many of his humorous songs of questionable taste, such as his ode to a cat smashed on a highway, “He’s Nobody’s Moggy Now”. John Munro, a total mystery to us before last year, stunned all and sundry with his guitar and mandolin playing as well as his sensitivity when accompanying Eric’s songs. This year they are returning with Brent Miller on bass. We consider ourselves lucky to have them back so soon.
Pam and Philip Boulding
Pam and Phil Boulding are examples of what makes a festival like this one special. When they came here for the first time in 1980 they had a small but growing audience for their Celtic-based music in the Pacific Northwest around their native Seattle. Since then word has spread. They’ve released a very successful album of harp and hammered dulcimer music, and won first place in the group competition at the Bicentennial Harp Festival in Granard, Ireland. Pam and Phil are both consummate performers on the harp and hammered dulcimer in addition to being builders and teachers of the instruments. They have a rare ability to perform together where the two individuals seem to dissolve into one performing entity; it seems you are listening to one brain controlling four hands. We’re happy to have them and their music return to Vancouver at this year’s Festival.
The autoharp fell from fashion many years ago and for quite some time was regarded as some kind of relic or a hopelessly wimpy instrument, shunned by all except the most eccentric performers. Then came Bryan Bowers. In Bryan’s hands the autoharp becomes a dynamic and exciting instrument possessing an enormous range of possibilities. For a while Bryan became synonymous with the autoharp at folk music festivals. Over time, though, while still maintaining his wizardry with the harp, Bryan has also emerged as a fine songwriter and gifted interpreter of much traditional and contemporary material. He’s also evolving as a storyteller of note and distinction. In all these various personae we’re pleased to have Bryan here with us this year.
Rodney Brown and Mel Brown
When we heard Rodney Brown’s album a few years ago we made a note that he was somebody that we should get to the Festival. Then we happened upon an article in a Canadian folk music magazine about a great country singer in northern Ontario: Mel Brown. This year we decided to invite both son and father to the Festival. Rodney Brown is one of the few contemporary songwriters to have written about the mining town of Atikokan and mercury poisoning on the Grassy Narrows Indian Reserve. His father, Mel, is a preserver of the Canadian country music tradition which was once a significant part of the culture in rural areas. He’s also a songwriter, writing about the life of working men in northern Ontario. Rodney Brown and Mel Brown represent two generations of a single family who both write and sing within the framework of tradition, but at the same time are contemporary performers looking forward rather than back.
Bob Brozman sounds like he was born at the turn of the century. His music of blues, early jazz, ragtime and Hawaiian certainly dates from that period. His specialty is the National steel line of instruments: guitars, ukuleles and Hawaiian guitars. Brozman is both a talented performer and a serious academic who has researched extensively the music he performs. Whereas academics tend to be relatively uninspired performers, Bob is dynamic, creative and immensely entertaining. For us it is a thrill to have him at the Festival because we have simply never heard before what he does. If you think you’ve heard guitar playing and you haven’t heard Bob, then you’re wrong. We think plenty of people will get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to Bob Brozman, and we welcome him aboard.
It was at a gathering of socially and politically committed cultural workers in Tennessee that we heard Jo Carson. Everybody was sitting around in the evening, singing a few songs by turn, when somebody said, “Hey, Jo, do one of your people pieces.” The quiet woman on the other side of the room began to read and when she had finished, it was like everyone had been struck dumb. Jo Carson is not a traditional storyteller, but rather a woman with a remarkable ear who can, with very few words, create an atmosphere and present the reality of who she is and where she comes from. She’s from Johnson City, Tennessee, and has worked with a theatre company there. She says about herself, “I come from a tradition jam-pecked with raconteurs. I found out early that if I wanted my two cents in, I’d best learn how to do it. I’m still not the best storyteller that sits around my family’s dinner table, but I’ve cut my own niche.” We consider it an honour to be able to present Jo Carson to this part of the world for the first time.
New York City and the 200-mile radius around it has been the scene in the last 10 years of one of the more interesting musical evolutions of our age; maybe cross-fertilization is a better term. In that area bluegrass musicians started jamming with rock-and-rollers, jazz players were sitting in with country pickers and out of it emerged a blend of jazz, rock and country which has begun breaking down the barriers between these different musical forms. Members of Charged Particles are part of this movement, some of its finest proponents in fact. Michal Shapiro, vocalist, was in the rock band Elephant’s Memory. Ian Zedatny played bass in a rock-and-roll band while Bill Henry, Howie Tarnower and Marty Cutler all came from the local bluegrass scene. Marty was a member of Country Cooking, one of the pioneer bluegrass fusion outfits, while Howie is remembered as half of the Fiction Brothers. Together the five perform a combination of traditional and contemporary music which is absolutely brilliant. Their playing is innovative and hot, and Michal’s vocals are one-of-a-kind. We’re tremendously excited that they’re going to be unveiling their special brand of music here.
Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann
Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann was founded in Ireland in 1951 to preserve and encourage traditional Irish song, music and dance. The organization has spread around the world to many countries where it has incorporated both expatriate Irish and aficionados of Irish culture. We decided that the work of Comhaltas in Vancouver had reached a level where it would be a good idea to ask them to participate in the Festival. What you will hear is real folk music played by people from a variety of walks of life, from university professors to brick layers to policemen. The work of Comhaltas is inspiring in the proficiency of the performers and also in the fact that these people are keeping alive traditional folk culture and bringing it to new audiences. It is an example of how a culture has been able to survive both the dispersion of its people and the various attempts made to dilute it. We are proud to welcome the Vancouver branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann to this year’s Festival: Gerry Bradley, Mary Brown, Sheila Cassie, Kayo Devcic, Phyllis Devlin, Ben Donnelly, Kevin Dooley, Onagh Dooley. Shea Duggan, Paddy Graber, Maria Grace, Liam Keegan, Geoffrey Kelly, Des Kerr, Keith Maillard, John McCaffrey, Brenda McDonald, Sean Murphy, John O’Connell, Thomas Standevan and John Walsh.
After a varied career as construction worker, college student, health department inspector, horse breaker and cowboy, Steve Cormier turned his attention to music. His songs and stories are about real people and real situations, most of the time. His sources range from Woody Guthrie to Merle Haggard to Powder River Jack Lee. He sings about farmers, cowboys, factory workers, horses, dogs and Kansas where he lives. We’d heard Steve before at a couple of festivals and were impressed by the straightforward way he presents his materials as well as his relaxed manner. We think Steve Cormier’s music is going to provide an insight into people and a way of life that is far removed from the reality of most of us, and that seems to us like a good idea.
Each year there is at least one last-minute change to the Festival lineup. This year the change was a happy surprise. Laurie Conger, a wonderful singer and piano player from Toronto, was invited to the Festival, but had to cancel because of a tour with a rock band she works in. Just as we were going to press, however, her tour was postponed. Laurie plays blues and jazzy compositions of her own and we know she’s going to make her presence felt.
Barbara Dane and Pablo Menendez
In the Blues Who’s Who there’s about a page and a half who voted for Barbara Dane whose credits stagger the imagination. She performed for the United Auto Workers in Detroit in 1945, attended the first World Youth Festival in Prague in 1947, had her own series called Folksville, USA on KGO TV in 1951, recorded with Lightning Hopkins, worked with Lenny Bruce, Jesse Fuller, Gary Davis and Memphis Slim, performed in concert in Havana in 1967, did benefits for the United Mine Workers in the ’70s and so on and so forth, including a benefit for El Salvador just a few months ago. You might say she has a history. You might say that what she doesn’t know about contemporary folk and blues just isn’t worth knowing. She has a huge repertoire of both traditional and contemporary songs, and combines a political approach with enormous talent and technical skill as a singer. At this Festival she will be appearing with a full band which includes her son, Pablo Menendez. Pablo has lived in Cuba since 1966 and has become one of the leading guitar players in that country and a well known solo performer. We’re doubly lucky to have them here together, and we think this is one of the things people will remember about the 1983 Festival.
Alex Eppler Group
At the 1981 Festival three men walked onto the evening concert stage to play before an audience that looked somewhat askance. The three were wearing suits and, although one carried a guitar, the other two were carrying balalaikas. A few minutes later the audience was on its feet, shouting for more. Alex Eppler and his friends proceeded to take them by storm with incredible music from Russia. This year Alex, playing balalaika and various other instruments, will be accompanied by bayan (Russian accordion player Mihail Schneider and Kimbal Dykes on guitar. Eppler comes from a Russim family and has spent many years studying and performing the music of Russia, Bulgaria and other eastern European countries. He is also internationally renowned as an instrument maker. We welcome back Alex and his friends to the Festival, and we know that they’ll have the audience on its feet again.
Quebec possesses an extremely rich musical heritage and every year we make sure it’s represented at the Festival. From Quebec this year we are pleased to welcome Eritage to Vancouver for the first time. The group, together for six years, is one of the most exciting performing in Quebec today. Their repertoire is a blend of traditional and contemporary folk music from that region and ranges from high-powered dance music to slow laments. The band plays a variety of instruments, including button accordion, fiddle, harmonica, flute, bass, guitar and various traditional hand percussion instruments. In addition to the music of Quebec they perform Celtic music from Scotland and Ireland and tunes from France and the United States, as well as original compositions. We know that the cultural heritage of Quebec will be well represented by Eritage and we wish them bienvenue. Eritage is Marc Benoit on stand up bass; Benoit Bourque on spoons, bones and recorder; Yvan Brault on piano; Raynald Ouellet on accordion and cello; Vincent Ouellet on violin; Raymond Philippe on harmonica and lead vocals.
Dave Essig travels a lot. This is said to broaden one’s horizons which can certainly be said about Dave’s musical horizons. He plays a superlative blues guitar, is well known for his country bluegrass playing and singing, has fooled around with an avant garde style on jazz compositions, plays fine Celtic music and writes some very good songs. All this was before David left his native Hamilton for an extended tour of Asia; God knows what he absorbed in Bali or Korea. But, as we’ve invited David back to the Festival this year, we won’t have to wait long to find out. Those of you who want to hear him all year should listen to the work he’s been doing hosting the part devoted to country music on CBC’s Variety Tonight.
Each year we try to broaden the musical scope of the Festival by presenting music from different countries. This year one of the areas we are adding to is Greek music with Vasilios Gaitanos. Vasilios, who sings and plays piano, is eminently qualified to expand our musical horizons. For four years he played in the orchestra of Mikis Theodorakis, perhaps the most renowned Greek composer. Vasilios has travelled the world both as a Merchant Marine and as a musician. In 1974 following the collapse of the Greek military dictatorship, he made a triumphant return with Theodorakis to perform in his homeland. Since 1975 Vasilios has lived in Chicago where he has been composing and performing his own music. He sings songs influenced by some of the most beautiful poems we have ever read, songs of solidarity with struggling people throughout the world, love songs and sad songs. Having known his work only by record we are looking forward with great anticipation to hear him perform live at the Festival. He will be accompanied by Yannis Fotopoulos on the bouzouki.
Terry Garthwaite is perhaps best known as a rock-and-roll singer from her days with the band Joy of Cooking. Since setting aside her rock-and-roll shoes, Terry has gained a name for herself as a blues jazz singer, influenced by such diverse artists as Lead Belly, Josh White and Billie Holiday. A talented guitarist, Terry Garthwaite fuses her music with a rhythm and syncopation that’s almost scat singing. Her voice is rough as sandpaper and smooth as silk. Terry has appeared at previous Vancouver Folk Music Festivals and also here in concert with Rosalie Sorreis and Bobbie Louise Hawkins. If you’ve ever heard Terry Garthwaite we know you’ll be following her around the Festival, and if you haven’t heard her you’re in for a real treat.
Mardi gras time in New Orleans brings many bands of black men into the street to celebrate the carnival with a unique display of exuberance. Wearing spectacular handmade costumes, they sing, drum, shout and chant their way throughout the neighbourhood. These Mardi Gras Indians don’t know their origins in detail, but in the 1840s an historian wrote about ancestors who gathered in Congo Square for majestic chants and percussion competitions. Events such as these were outlawed by 1850. In 1900 African Orleaneans first donned costumes in the Native American style and Indians parading on Mardi gras days became a local tradition. The exact impetus for these roving bands remains a mystery. However, historical accounts say the Indians harboured African slaves, so a rapport existed between them. Since blacks couldn’t congregate and maintain their traditions they dressed in Indian suits to mask their intention of tribal unity while at the same time honouring Native Americans for their strong stand against white oppression. The Golden Eagles were formed in 1966 as an extension of the White Eagles, New Orlean’s oldest Mardi gras Indian tribe. The Golden Eagles perform using hand-held percussion instruments. Vibrant drumming and vocal improvisation highlight the rituals they will demonstrate. We welcome Joseph Boudreaux, Larry Boudreaux, Norwood Johnson and Johnny Tobias as the Golden Eagles.
If acoustic blues has survived and if it continues to draw adherents, Stefan Grossman is as responsible as anybody. Stefan is a blues singer and guitar player of heroic proportions. He’s known in particular for his stunning virtuosity on guitar. He learned his craft from the best, men like Reverend Gary Davis, Skip James, Fred McDowell and Mississippi John Hurt. For almost 20 years he’s been playing, teaching and writing songbooks in the United States and in Europe, bringing his music and those of his teachers’ to a generation of guitar fans. Lately, Stefan has been playing Celtic music on his guitar. As much a teacher as a performer, the last time Stefan Grossman was at this Festival in 1981, he spent an entire afternoon, sitting quietly on the grass, teaching a small group of guitar players. It’s a delight to have him back and we’re looking forward to hearing what he’s been up to.
We’ve had Andean music from Bolivia and Peru at past Festivals and this year is no exception. We are especially lucky this year to have the participation of Grupo Aymara, Bolivia’s premier performers of traditional and contemporary folk music. Grupo Aymara are six musicians of Aymara and Quechua Indian descent who are known throughout Latin America as being among the leading performers of Andean music. They’ve been together for more than 10 years and have finally managed to reach Canada. They play the traditional instruments of the Andeas. panpipes. flutes and drums as well as the guitar and chirango brought by the Spanish. For over a decade they’ve been the leading force in the movement to reclaim and validate the active culture of Bolivia and are truly cultural representatives of the Indian majority in that country. For years we’ve heard their records and have often dreamed of the possibility of having them at the Festival. This year the dream has come true. Jose Montano is the director of Grupo Aymara which includes Salomon Callejas. Nataniel Gonzalez. Isaac Lopez, Clark Orozco and Ilarion Portugal.
Rufus Guinchard and Jim Payne
Last year the Festival was blessed with the presence of three musicians from Newfoundland. They made a contribution to the Festival in many areas from fiddle workshops to songs of international workers’ struggles. This year we decided to ask them back. Unfortunately, Kelly Russell was not able to return, given his participation with his wife in the current baby boom. However, Rufus Guinchard and Jim Payne are here. Rufus is almost 90 years old and is an incredible traditional fiddler. Jim is a collector and performer of songs from around Newfoundland and a talented writer of songs dealing with much of the contemporary history of the island. Together Rufus and Jim span almost a century of Newfoundland culture with music that ranges from traditional dance tunes to songs about events that are still making headlines. We want to welcome them back and thank them and their friends from Newfoundland for helping to bridge the 4000 miles that separate the two coasts of our country.
Each year the Festival receives a couple hundred unsolicited tapes and records; listening to them all can be a long and arduous task. In all that’s involved to produce this Festival, nothing compares to putting onto the turntable someone’s record you’ve never heard of, and recognizing halfway through the first song that this is it: we get a live one. That was our response as Gerry Hallom’s Travlin’ Down the Castlereagh came through the speakers. His repertoire describing the history of Australia is absolutely different from anything we’ve ever had at the Festival. And to top it off his singing and guitar playing is as good, or better, than his material. He’s able to communicate the life of sheep ranchers, drovers and other characters in his songs with a powerful style that is never exaggerated. We don’t know where he’s been hiding, but we’re glad we found him, or vice versa, and that he can be with us this year. Gerry Hallom will add something worthwhile and brand new to the Festival.
Caitlin Hanford and Chris Whiteley
For those familiar with Chris Whiteley from his years with the Original Sloth Band, his appearance as one half of a country duo may come as a bit of a surprise. However, when Chris joined forces with Caitlin Hanford an exciting country duo emerged in the tradition of excellent male-female two-part harmonies. Caitlin was born in Kansas, grew up in Seattle and worked for a number of years as part of a country folk twosome with Montreal-based Linda Morrison. Together, Caitlin and Chris do both traditional and contemporary country music in a style that traces its roots back to some of the big country stars of the ’30s and ’40s. Whether they’re singing an original composition, a classic country favourite or a little bit of rockabilly. These two are making country music in Canada happen. If you think country music has to be covered in syrup and buried in strings, we recommend you listen to Caitlin and Chris. This is the true vine.
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Bobbie Louise Hawkins introduced poetry to our Festival and changed our minds about what was possible within the framework of a folk music festival. Although she is best known as a poet, we like to think of her as a storyteller, firmly anchored in that tradition. Bobbie was raised in west Texas, studied art in London, taught in a missionary school in British Honduras and attended a Jesuit university in Tokyo. That kind of experience is bound to produce material for a writer. She’s worked extensively with Terry Garthwaite and Rosalie Sorrels which is how we first came to know Bobbie. Unlike some writers, Bobbie Louise Hawkins has the amazing ability to recite her material in public in such a way that she not only proves she is a gifted author, but also that she is an exceptional performer. She has certainly given us a new and added respect for poets, and it’s going to be a real pleasure to listen to her again at the Festival.
It is the mark of any true musician or performing artist that as their artistic horizons grow, they become increasingly difficult to categorize. They cannot be pigeonholed in trendy stylistic terms. And so, it is quite simply a compliment to be stuck for words to describe Connie Kaldor and her music. Connie’s songs go beyond any one narrow range of vision; they mix humour and sadness, social satire and romance. Connie comes from Saskatchewan and now lives in Edmonton. When it comes to communicating a genuine sense of the Canadian west, both geographically and historically, no one does it better than Connie. She’s also a writer of beautiful love songs and whimsical compositions such as her towering epic, “The Alligator Waltz”. In the past 10 years or so a generation of songwriters has emerged, putting to rest the old question. ‘Is there Canadian culture?’ and Connie Kaldor is certainly in the first rank. Every year her music progresses and we can’t wait to see and hear her again.
In Guatemala today a civil war is raging between the American-backed military dictatorship and the forces that represent the majority of the Guatemalans’ desire for a decent life and existence free from genocidal terror. Kin Lalat are four young Guatemalan songwriters and musicians who’ve chosen to use their talents as part of the fight against the dictatorship in their homeland. Driven into exile they live in Nicaragua where they write songs and undertake tours in various countries to support the struggle at home. Their songs convey the sad reality in Guatemala, the repression, the massacres and the violence of everyday life. But their music also celebrates the optimism of the freedom fighters and the ordinary workers and peasants who are fighting back in the thousands of villages. To listen to Kin Lalat is to listen to a heroic people and to learn about their joys, sorrows and reality of their lives. That is what we think folk music is all about, and we’re honoured to present Kin Lalat to the audience at this Festival.
Denis LePage and Limited Edition
Denis and Mitch LePage grew up listening to the music of their father, Richard, and have since become very well known in the Canadian bluegrass scene. Denis is a four-time winner of the Canadian Banjo Award, and Mitch, who plays mandolin and sings baritone and lead, was most recently part of the bluegrass group, Wheatland County. Along with Mike Higgins on vocals and guitar and Larry Brisbois on tenor vocals, bass and fiddle, they form one of the best bluegrass bands anywhere. The music they play is pretty much hard-core traditional bluegrass, the way it used to be played when it was a raw and innovative style. Denis LePage and Limited Edition keeps alive this traditional bluegrass sound and will make a fine addition to this year’s line-up.
Most of the performers who come to the Festival play folk music as their profession. In the late twentieth century it can be said this is how folk music survives today. However, there are still some people for whom music is just something they do in their lives, and has nothing to do with how they earn their daily living. These people carry on a tradition which can be described as folk, not only in terms of its contents, but in the anthropological sense. Richard LePage is one of these. “In Riviere Bleue, the village where I was born 54 years ago, we entertained ourselves playing music. I have been playing the accordion since I was nine years old and have had many enjoyable hours watching my family and their friends square dance to my music. After the children were born, these traditions were carried on almost by accident.” All we can add to this is that we think Richard LePage is a truly fine accordion player and we welcome him to Vancouver for his first visit.
Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner perform a blend of musical styles encompassing traditional music, jazz and blues tunes of the 1920’s and ’30s, classic old-time country music and original songs written by themselves and by many friends in music. Their unique style is characterized by the beautiful and striking voice of Terry, their remarkable harmonies, and the solid and versatile guitar playing of Greg. Terry’s talent on harmonica, mandolin, banjolin, fretted dulcimer and guitar, and Greg’s on English concertina emphasize their versatility. They’ve been playing together for almost 10 years and have released two albums. Their second album, Working My Life Away, highlights another area of their work. It is a collection of songs of working people including miners, farmers, fishermen and millworkers in the United States and Britain. Given that Terry and Greg haven’t been out here before and that their records are hard to find, we think you are going to be surprised and delighted at your first chance to hear Magpie.
Memphis Slim aka Peter Chatham was born in Memphis in 1915. His father played piano and guitar, and although Slim began as a bass player, when he moved to Chicago in 1940 he decided to concentrate on piano and singing. Perhaps the two biggest influences on his style were Roosevelt Sykes and Big Bill Broonzy. Through the ’40s and ’50s Memphis Slim worked and made records including some moderate hits. A 1959 concert with Muddy Waters at Carnegie Hall brought Slim to the attention of some of the folk concert and festival organizers. However, in the early ’60s he moved to Paris where he’s been based for the last 20 years. In a time when authentic blues performers are becoming few and far between, Memphis Slim remains as the genuine article. His music has the integrity and conviction that has enabled it to survive and prosper i t is ironic that blues in general and Memphis Slim in particular are more appreciated in Europe than in their home country. But this year Memphis Slim decided to tour, and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival has the privilege to appreciate one of the finest blues singers and piano players in the world.
When you mention the fact that Lydia Mendoza is going to be at this year’s Festival, you inevitably get one of two responses. The first is, “Who?” and the second is, “Holy cow, Lydia Mendoza!” Outside her native Texas in these far away parts, it’s like that: she’s either totally unknown or a cult figure. Lydia Mendoza comes from Texas and for 50 years or so she’s been one of the leading exponents of a style of music known as TexMex. However, her songs are not the dance tunes but rather the sad songs of love and tragedy, songs that capture the life of the Spanish-speaking population of the border. She is known in that area as la alondra de la frontera, the lark of the border. Accompanying herself on the 12-string guitar Lydia sings some of the saddest and most powerful songs we’ve heard. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish, her voice and the chords of her guitar communicate in any language. We consider Lydia Mendoza to be a national treasure and we are overjoyed that she will be with us this year.
Frazier Moss and Justin Demts
Tennessee may have more good music than any other place in the world, and not least of its native sons and daughters who have made their mark is Frazier Moss. From Cookville, Frazier is a superb fiddle player and an excellent performer; he can get a crowd going with just a few bars. His music ranges from traditional dance tunes to classics like “The Orange Blossom Special”. A few years ago he won the World Fiddle Championship and we think you’ll agree the judges knew what they were doing. At this Festival he will be accompanied by Justin Demts also from Tennessee. One of the young musicians who has kept alive the tradition of southern mountain music, Justin is a multi-instrumentalist and an up and comer in the traditional music scene. We wish Frazier and Justin a big welcome on their first visit to Vancouver.
Last year was the first time at the Festival that we had Swedish music and we were pretty pleased about that. Thus we were ecstatic when we were informed that J.P. Nyströms would be touring North America this summer and were interested in coming to our Festival. J.P. Nyströms began in 1977 when five young men from Norbotten (Swedish Lapland) decided to do something about the vanishing tradition of tunes and songs in their Arctic Circle home area. The band was formed by Svante Lindqvist who drew on the legacy of three cultures of the area: Lappish, Finnish and Swedish. He collected over 600 pieces of music from traditional artists. The instruments the band plays indude fiddle, button accordion, zither, pump organ (the group named themselves after J.P. Nyströms. the oldest manufacturer of the pump organ or tramporgel), guitar, string bass and harmonica. J.P. Nyströms has released three albums and is bringing songs and tunes of their native land to wider and wider audiences. We’re sure that their fine fiddle harmonies and the unusual rhythmic dance music played by Svante Linqvist, Markus Falck, Olov Falck, Mats Olausson and Gorak Eriksson will be one of the special events of this year’s Festival.
Newfoundland is one of the areas in Canada that can lay claim to a truly distinctive indigenous folk culture. Geoff Panting is one of the younger generations of musicians’ clans who has committed himself to maintaining the survival of that culture. He’s an accomplished musician on the piano and particularly on the accordion, one of the main instruments of Newfoundland’s music. Geoff was a member of Figgy Duff, a band that helped bring traditional Newfoundland music to a wide audience both on and off the island. As a talented writer of music for plays dealing with the life and history of Newfoundland, Geoff has toured his province and Labrador working with various theatre groups. This year we are bringing a number of performers from Newfoundland, and we’re pleased to include Geoff Panting among them.
Faith has been called the Indian Earth Mother of the San Francisco Folk Music Club. This may say more about San Francisco than about Faith Petric. She also sent us a bunch of promo photos of herself and a camel in front of the pyramids. Well, Faith’s got style. She comes from the mountains of Idaho where she grew up on hymns, cowboy songs and country music. In the 1930’s she became part of the ragged band that began using folk music as a political organizing tool. She knows songs about almost everything, from things revolutionary to things ridiculous, from kids’ songs to jaw harp tunes. Faith is the real article – a genuine repository of all that is best in the American spirit. It’s good to have her back; make sure you see her at least twice.
Frankie Quimby and Doug Quimby
Frankie and Doug Quimby live on the Georgia Sea Islands. The isolation of these islands meant that the black culture brought there by slaves survived in a far purer form than almost anywhere else in the south. An enormous number of songs, dances and games have been preserved there. The Quimby’s were part of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, founded by Bessie Jones who carried on the work of preserving the traditions of the islands until ill health made it impossible for her to continue. Frankie and Doug are carrying on that tradition. The songs they sing are part of a repertoire that exists almost nowhere else and at times almost seems to come from the Caribbean rather than the United States. In addition to playing festivals like this one and doing many university performances throughout the year, the Quimby’s also teach the music of the islands to public school students in Glynn County, where St. Simons and Brunswick Islands are located. We think that having the Quimby’s in Vancouver is a rare opportunity for this audience to get to know an important piece of the black cultural heritage of the United States.
John Renbourn has been described as a “one-man melting pot of nearly every musical trend and influence that has affected British folk music”. Certainly elements as diverse as jazz, Renaissance, classical and mid-eastern music have all influenced his style. Many people know his work from when he was a member of Pentangle, the group that had a profound effect on the fusion of folk music with rock. Recently, John’s toured with his own group as well as with Stefan Grossman. John, a wonderful singer and performer of many traditional tunes, is a fantastic guitar player whose style is exceedingly innovative. He grew up in Kingston, south London and for more than 20 years has been performing folk music in a range from blues to Renaissance. This is the first time he’s been able to make it to the Festival, though we’ve had the pleasure of presenting him in concert here on several occasions. We welcome John Renbourn to the Festival where we know he’ll make an important contribution.
Riders in the Sky
At first you think it’s a joke: three guys with names like Too Slim and Ranger Doug all done up in campy western gear and a fake campfire on stage. But as you listen you realize that behind the camp, in spite of the somewhat sardonic patter and the corny material from grade B cowboy movies, these guys are seriously committed to preserving a certain chunk of North American popular music. They are not only preserving it, but extending it with their own compositions in the style of the Sons of the Pioneers and Bob Nolan. And the funny thing is that it works. Basically, they play cowboy music la Hollywood. What makes it work is that they do songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “Don’t Fence Me In” in a way that is so direct that it transcends camp. If you have ever had a sneaking attraction to an old Gene Autry record, admitting it or not, you will fall in love with Fred LaBour, Doug Green and Paul Chrisman who have infused cowboy music with an innocence that just doesn’t exist anymore. They have recently been awarded the supreme accolade and have become members of the Grand Ole Opry. Riders in the Sky are going to make a lot of friends here, and we just want to say, howdy partners!
For anyone who came to folk music in a serious way in the early 1960’s, Jean Ritchie was part of the pantheon. Listening to her records along with Pete Seeger’s and Dec Watson’s was how you learned about traditional American folk music. She more or less made the dulcimer an accepted instrument in folk circles and brought songs like “Barbry Allen” to thousands of city-born folkies. Jean was born and raised in the heart of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Her family settled there from Scotland in the 1760s and from them Jean learned many of the English and Scottish traditional ballads that became part of the Appalachian song tradition. After graduating university with a degree in social work and a Phi Beta Kappa Key, Jean moved to New York where she got a job as a social worker. There she met the folklorist, Alan Lomax. In the mid ’50s her book Singing Family of the Cumberlands was published and was identified as an important source of folk materials. Since then she has played at hundreds of festivals, concerts and universities, and made a number of records as well as writing songs to complement the traditional material she learned as a child. Two of these, “Black Waters” and “The L&M Don’t Stop Here Anymore”, have been recorded by many artists. Her music ranges from traditional love songs to songs dealing with ecology, and we’re thrilled that she’ll be here this summer.
The first thing you have to say about Anne Romaine is that she’s got an incredible voice. It’s that classic country voice you could listen to sing anything. However, in this case, the material is as good as the voice. Anne is from Gastonia, North Carolina, scene of one of the bloodiest labour struggles in southern history. She grew up surrounded by the realities of life in the south and responded through her work as a singer-songwriter, historian and cultural worker by keeping alive the best of the old traditions while making a contribution to changing many of the oppressive features of life there. She is director of the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project which she helped to found over 18 years ago, and has performed in concerts in every major college and community arts centre in the south, as well as in union halls, rallies and churches. Anne is a wonderful songwriter whose material deals with issues in a direct and straightforward fashion. She also writes beautiful songs for her daughter, and lately, she’s been experimenting with reggae. It will be a real pleasure to listen to Anne Romaine again.
Leon Rosselson is arguably the best songwriter in England today, and when he reads this he will probably say, “Oh God, no”, for he is also quite a modest man. However, he certainly has convinced us of his talents as we keep bringing him across the Atlantic to entertain, amuse and even inspire us. Leon has been writing songs for well over 20 years and spans enough generations of political activists that songs he wrote for the first antinuclear missile campaign of the early 1960’s are now sung along with his most recent compositions written for the antinuclear campaign of the ’80s. Sometimes humorous and sometimes dead serious, Leon’s songs mercilessly attack the various foibles of our age, from capitalism to religion, from sexism to the monarchy. At a time when our thoughts about England tend to be occupied with Maggie Thatcher, Leon Rosselson is a welcome anecdote. He makes you believe that there is yet hope, even in England. We’re more than happy to grant Leon Rosselson temporary asylum at this year’s Festival.
One of the wonderful things about folk musicians who really love their material and who are able to talk about it, is that you can learn things. From Sparky Rucker we’ve learned, amongst other things, that John Henry was a real man who helped build the C & 0 Railroad in 1870, and that the “Yellow Rose of Texas” was about a slave named Emily Morgan West who helped Texans win their independence. We learn these things because Sparky sings about his heritage from the black American tradition and he knows why he’s singing these songs. That kind of commitment makes the music real. Sparky, a fine blues artist, is one of the few black singers of rural acoustic blues. Whether he sings historical songs, blues, gospel tunes or his own compositions, Sparky is a master of all these styles. He hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, and will be coming to Vancouver for his second visit to the Festival. You won’t want to miss him; you could learn something.
Sabia is Spanish for wise woman. In this reference it means four women who sing contemporary and traditional songs from all over Latin America with particular emphasis on material about the lives of women. This is a major accomplishment as there is really no musical group in Latin America that does this, and considering that the four women live in Los Angeles, how they get their material is a constant wonder to us. However, get it they do, and they are able to sing it with great versatility in a variety of styles from many regions: Cuba, Chile, Central America and Mexico. This is another source of wonder as Latin American music tends to be quite distinct from region to region. For the last few years, between visits to different parts of Latin America, the group has been performing in concerts and at in-numerable benefits on the west coast for Latin American countries. This year when we decided to present a fair amount of Latin American music at the Festival, we thought it time the audience has the pleasure of hearing Cindy Harding, Libby Harding, Marie Riddle and Erika Verba perform as Sabia.
Jane Sapp first appeared at our Festival in 1981 on the basis of word of mouth and one cut on an obscure anthology album. We predicted that she would be one of the surprises of that Festival. Oddly enough, we were right. For months after the Festival people were talking about this incredible woman they had never heard of before then. So, in one of our rare capitulations to public demand we invited her back in 1982, and wouldn’t you know it? She turned on us and had a baby instead. We made her promise, “1983, eh?” and as a result, you’re in for something very special. Jane Sapp is simply one of the best. She is a powerful and innovative interpreter of traditional blues and gospel music and a remarkable songwriter in her own right. Jane grew up in the south and after living many years in Alabama, moved to the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. Her songs cover a wide variety of topics from political struggles to personal pleasures, and she does it all with style. We know that those who heard Jane Sapp in 1981 are going to trail her around the Festival. Those of you who haven’t heard her yet will be enjoying one of the best for the first time.
When Rosalie Sorrels tells you somebody’s good, you listen. She’s one of our scouts and she always delivers the goods. So when Rosalie told us about Gino Sky, her friend from Boise, Idaho, we listened. When she sent us some of his material to read, we read. Then we laughed, then we howled, then we cried. The whole office kind of broke down as everyone poured over the typed stories Rosalie had sent us -especially the one about the scalp. Then we phoned and asked Gino to come up for the Festival from his home in Boise. Gino’s biography is not that enlightening. He claims he was “bucked out of a triple rodeo on the downhill glide of the Grand Tetons where he arrived incognito in the middle of the Jackson Hole Stampede”. So there, in addition to working as a truck driver, climbing guide and tap dance instructor, he’s the author of five books of poetry and a novel, Appaloose Rising: The Legend of the Cowboy Buddha. As the Festival is expanding into the realm of poets and storytellers, we thought Gino Sky a necessity this year.
At the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1978 we had an outstanding banjo player by the name of Tony Trischka, and we always meant to have him back. This year he’s returning as the leader of Skyline, one of the innovative bands that has taken off from bluegrass and soared into the musical stratosphere, turning upside down many long-held assumptions about how acoustic music should be played. Skyline is a band of enormous technical expertise, but unlike many technicians who are all technique and no heart, this band combines instrumental virtuosity with lots of soul. In addition to Tony, the band is comprised of some very talented folk: Larry Cohen on bass; Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin; Danny Weiss on lead vocals and lead guitar; Dede Wyland on vocals and guitar. If you like country music, if you like jazz, if you like acoustic music, we’ve got a feeling that you’re going to jump up and down over Skyline.
A festival like ours contributes to the general preservation and encouragement of traditional folk music by bringing performers from areas where culture survives and is regarded as part of the everyday lives of people, to audiences in places like Vancouver where these traditions have long since died out if they existed at all. Lem Snow is one of these traditional performers. He’s from Newfoundland and is well into his eighties. Thus he grew up in a period, not only before television existed but before radio as well, when the central form of entertainment was music and stories made and brought to people by small groups of friends, family and neighbours. Lem’s repertoire contains many songs and recitations which he himself has authored as well as material which he has picked up over the years. In addition to telling stories and singing songs Lem plays a mean banjo. We are happy to have Lem among us at this Festival as he represents the kind of society that produced the folk tradition we love.
Hunter S. Thompson, an author who formed, more than we may like to admit, the personal philosophy of many of us, once wrote about Rosalie Sorrels, “Some of Rosalie’s songs are so close to the bone that I get nervous listening to them”. Utah Phillips put it equally well, “next to the Mexican road races, she sounds better than anything I ever heard”. Rosalie is a very extraordinary human being and that makes her a very extraordinary singer. She sings songs of just about everything. She sings blues, jazz, folk and piles of contemporary songs by brilliant and totally unheard of writers. She also writes amazing songs. She’s one of the best-read people we’ve met, knows more about food than 20 cooks and raised a whole bunch of kids all by herself while travelling around the country, trying to make a living singing folk songs. She can sing some of the saddest songs that you’ve ever heard and end them with a little laugh. This doesn’t detract from the pathos, but means she knows exactly what she’s singing about. She also tells some wonderfully funny stories. Let’s just say Rosalie Sorrels is one of a kind, and we welcome her back to Vancouver.
Orrin Star and Gary Mehalick
Every now and again when we think that the only people auditioning for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival are singer-songwriters just beginning to learn their craft, a tape or an album comes in that just knocks us out. Such was the way with Orrin Star’s and Gary Mehalick’s album, Premium Blend. We looked at the list of songs on the album and said, “Nice material.” Then we listened to it and heard fine instrumentals, especially the twin guitar numbers, lots of good country music and contemporary songs as well. Since then we’ve had an opportunity to hear them in a concert and we’re sure they’re going to add something special to the Festival. They perform a wide spectrum of tradition-based American music with guitar, banjo, mandolin and vocal chords. Based in Boston, they’ve been together since 1976, the year Orrin won the National Flatpicking Championship in Winfield, Kansas. They knocked us out and we’re sure they’ll do the same for you.
The huge audience that has developed for Andean music over the last number of years in this city and the surrounding area is due, in no small part, to the tireless missionary work of Sukay. First as a duo of Edmond and Quentin Badoux, a Swiss and an American, they learned their music in an extensive 15 month trip through Latin America. Now as a quartet with Bolivians Gonzalo Vargas and Edmundo Aliaga, Sukay tours North America popularizing the very powerful music of the Andean region of South America, the music of the descendents of the great Inca civilization, the Quechua and Aymara people who have defended and maintained their culture through the many years of the conquest. Sukay plays the traditional music which features exclusively percussion and wind instruments including many varieties of panpipes and flutes, and the criolla music that fuses the Indian influence with the stringed instruments brought by the Spaniards. Included among the almost 100 instruments Sukay carries with them is the Peruvian harp and the chirango, a ten-stringed mandolin made out of the shell of an armadillo. This year as we are presenting so much Latin American music at the Festival, it was unthinkable not to invite Sukay.
Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol
Dave and Simon are known to many more people in North America than are most British folksingers. After all, they helped change the way a whole generation felt about traditional folk music and its possibilities. As members of Fairport Convention they served up a mix of traditional and contemporary folksongs and original compositions that combined rock arrangements with traditional material to create a huge audience where none had existed. As a duo Simon’s impressive guitar playing blends effortlessly with Swarbrick’s wizardry on the fiddle as they perform traditional pieces from the British Isles. And you don’t miss the band when you hear them as a duo; just the two of them are able to suggest a whole variety of instruments and moods. After many years of admiring them from afar, we’ll finally have the pleasure of hearing them in Vancouver.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Sweet Honey in the Rock has been here enough times that one is really at a loss in terms of what to say about them; we almost assume everyone knows them. Sweet Honey in the Rock are five black women from Washington, D.C. who sing a wide range of material. They sing black traditional songs they grew up with, songs of the civil rights, antinuclear and other movements they have participated in, music that speaks to women’s lives and validates their struggles and personal songs that can touch something in the life of everyone. They do all this with spectacular discipline, passionate commitment and with harmonies and arrangements that are close to genius. They sing unaccompanied with the exception of one or two pieces of hand percussion and with five voices they create all the subtleties and range of a symphony orchestra. Singing for them is merely a part of their lives; they sing from a desire to make themselves heard, rather than out of economic necessity. Therefore, they sing when and where they wish to, and the fact that they wish to return for their third visit to this Festival is something that we appreciate. We welcome back Ysaye Barnwell, Evelyn Harris, Aisha Kahlil, Bernice Reagon and Yasmeen Williams.
Fairport Convention fused rock-and-roll with folk music with much of the folk influence coming from people like Dave Swarbrick and much of the rock influence coming from Richard Thompson. In 1972 Richard began a solo career, leaving Fairport Convention behind. Over the last decade he released a dozen albums ranging from an all-instrumental one of mainly traditional material to Shoot Out the Lights which was critically acclaimed as one of the top albums of 1982 in Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and Time magazine. Now, we’re not impressed and we don’t expect you to be either with what Time says about a record, but we do expect you to be impressed by Richard’s song writing and guitar playing at this Festival. It’s difficult to categorize exactly what he does with his songs. Let’s just say that he describes human relationships in a way that most people wouldn’t in a million years think of describing them. Let’s just say that. At any rate we are delighted that Richard is going to be at the Festival this year. We think he’s an important figure in both the acoustic and electric music scenes and we’re glad to be able to give you a chance to get to know this unique writer and performer.
Twelve Moons Storytellers
Storytelling is catching on. Nothing complements good folk music like a good story. This year we have several storytellers of one description or another at the Festival and we are happy to include among them Gayle Ross and Liz Ohs. They come from two totally distinct traditions of storytelling and from two of the richest and most important: the Native American and the Appalachian. Gayle Ross is a descendent of John Ross, the great leader of the Cherokee nation. Her grandmother was a storyteller and it is from this rich heritage of storytelling that Gayle’s talent springs. Liz grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky where she heard stories as a child from her grandfather, a circuit-riding preacher. Ten years experience as a children’s librarian helped Liz develop her ability as a storyteller. Both Liz and Gayle live in Texas and have appeared at a variety of festivals, universities and clubs. We think you’re going to like what they do.
Vancouver Morris Men
Nobody knows what Morris dancing is. Nobody knows when Stonehenge was built either, but the two may have something to do with each other as Morris dancing is descended from an ancient pre-Christian ritual in England. The Morris is traditionally a man’s dance. However, the Vancouver Morris Men incorporate both women and children in their dancing. The Vancouver Morris Men are a group of ordinary folk who get together and perform Morris dances originating from different villages in Oxfordshire, Lancashire and Gloucestershire. Since 1981 performing in the Pacific Northwest at many festivals, they have been carrying on this traditional dance which, by the way, is still very popular in England. This group is enjoying and maintaining a traditional art form that has survived dozens of centuries. As to exactly what Morris dancing is and how it is done, we’ll leave to the Vancouver Morris Men who are appearing for the first time at this Festival. Make sure you join in the fun over the weekend. The Vancouver Morris Men are Peter Arnell, Graham Baldwin, Dave Banton, Jim Boothroyd, Toby Bright, Steve Cleary, Steve Galey, John Gothard, Bob Greco, Tim Lane, John Mauk, Bill Shivers, Keith Smith, Greg Ure, Marty Waldman and David Wood.
Pop Wagner is part of the Minneapolis, Minnesota folk music gang which has got to be one of the most active and creative groups of people around today. There are so many good performers in Minneapolis, it’s hard to believe. Pop grew up listening to Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Lead Belly and others of that ilk. He sings traditional songs from basically a country repertoire and contemporary songs that he and his friends have written. He can also do rope tricks, does lots of songs about working people and has acted as an organizer of the June Apple Musicians’ Co-op and in the “Hey Rube!” network which is trying to fight for basic rights for itinerant folk performers. He’s truly a man who acts on what he sings about and is a good example of all that is best in the American musical tradition. Pop was at the second Festival we held in 1979 and we thought it was about time he made a return visit.
One of the funniest songwriters this country has produced as well as one of its most serious, Nancy White is also on her way to becoming a leading exponent of contemporary Latin American song writing. Although she has billed herself as “the voice of liberal guilt”, we think another description more fitting: “a cabaret cobra that comes hissing in a cloud of chiffon”. There are only a handful of writers in this country who are dealing with Canadian politics and Nancy is certainly in the vanguard. Whether the topic be banks, the sale of nuclear reactors to Argentina, or immigrant women being paid poverty wages on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, Nancy’s songs in later years will give a far more accurate description of what was important in our times than the newspapers will. The Latin American side of her music has been developing over the last few years. Nancy is one of the few singers to make the effort to learn the language and the repertoire of the Latin American contemporary songs movement called nueva cancion. Recently she visited Nicaragua for Oxfam as an activist helping to create an awareness of what is going on in Central America. Whether verging on treason with her appearances as Fiona Freud, second lady of the guitar, or singing the songs of the great Chilean songwriter, Victor Jara, Nancy White does it with talent and aplomb.
Ken Whiteley is kind of a folk Renaissance man. He plays music for kids, rhythm-and-blues in bars for adults, has recorded a fantastic gospel album, plays inspiring slide guitar on traditional acoustic blues tunes, is a walking encyclopedia of popular music from the ’20s to the ’50s, a superb guitar and mandolin player and pretty competent on some other instruments as well. He’s also a record producer and folk music programmer of note. Ken comes from the cultural Siberia of Don Mills, Ontario, and when you hail from there, you’ve got to be good. Many folks know him from his work with the Original Sloth Band of which he was a founder. The last few years he’s been leading an outstanding rhythm-and-blues band called Paradise Revue. At this Festival Ken will be donning his many hats as a solo performer of astonishing variability. Don’t miss one of the most knowledgeable and versatile performers this country has to offer.
“I made this song to fit my own category,” he said of one of his compositions. His own category is one of the very biggest, for his music, his speech, his perceptions and the history of his life stretch from ancient ballads to Watergate, from the Appalachia of small farms to the Appalachia of coal mines, from pick-and-shovel mining to continuous miners, from Mother Jones to Arnold Miller. Born in 1895 in Martin County, Kentucky, the music of Nimrod Workman tells the history of the southern mountains in this century as he sings everything from traditional ballads to contemporary songs he’s written about current events. Some of his material is funny and satiric; some of it reflects the brutal exploitation of the Appalachian coal miner. For years Nimrod Workman has been a folk hero to organizers of this Festival and we’re honoured that we’re finally able to present him this year.
Anyone who has heard the music of the Balkans will never forget it. The incredible harmonies and plaintive sounds of Yugoslavian and Bulgarian music cuts right to the heart. Lauren Brody, Carol Freeman and Carol Silverman are three women who have spent the last 14 years studying and performing traditional Balkan village music. Along with Mark Levy on the bagpipes and Ljuben Tachev on the accordion, they comprise Zenska Pesna. Much of what Zenska Pesna does a cappella singing of songs that are almost exclusively the property of women. However, we’ll also hear some of the instrumental pieces as well. This is a group with a great deal of experience and knowledge of Balkan music and we consider ourselves lucky to have them at this Festival.
Theatre – Teatro Vivo and Headlines Theatre
This year we’re trying a few new things at the Festival and as part of this project we have the participation of two theatre groups. Teatro Vivo are a group of committed Guatemalans living in exile who do political presentations that show the life of Guatemala today and the resistance to the military regime that rules there. Headlines Theatre is a group of Vancouver cultural workers who write, produce and act in plays with themes of contemporary interest. Their latest effort is Under the Gun: a Disarming Revue, which deals with the danger of nuclear war and its relationship to the military, industrial, economic and political ruling class. We hope you make time to enjoy these two presentations.
Bob Bossin is well known as a founding member of Stringband, Canada’s shortest folk band.
Nancy Covey is Director of McCabe’s Concerts in Los Angeles where she has produced concerts for almost every folk singer in the world.
Rick Scott is a member of Pied Pear and a well known malcontent.