We knew Linda Allen from her work as a singer and collector of traditional songs of the Northwest, and always had her on our mental list of folks to get up here. But before we got a chance, tapes of her work started to arrive, and frankly, at first we thought – “Oh no, another traditional singer who insists upon writing her own material.” But the work got progressively better, and all of a sudden it dawned on us that here was a real songwriting talent, sitting right in Bellingham, Washington. Linda writes songs that reflect upon politics in the broadest sense – the politics of raising children, of struggling through relationships, of aging, with a particular feel for the lives of women. This is reflected as much in songs that are historical in nature, (for instance, one about pioneer women based on a collection of women’s letters and journals written between 1840 and 1970), as those that talk about what’s going on today. Her most recent album, October Roses, is full of wonderful surprises. Linda is a songwriter who can definitely hold her own. It may have taken us a while to appreciate it, but we think you’ll catch on right quick.
In a lot of ways Frankie Armstrong’s trajectory as a performer is a history of the development of the British folk music scene. Born in Cumberland, Frankie began singing in 1957 under the influence of groups like the Weavers who were part of the American folk revival. By the early 60’s, like a number of other performers, Frankie had decided she should be performing the music of her own country. For a number of years after that, and certainly when she came to the attention of most folk festivals, Frankie Armstrong, was regarded as a great traditional singer. In fact, she is still a great traditional singer! But Frankie was also aware of her position in the contemporary world. Much of her material took on a political tone with influences of the women’s movement and the peace movement being most apparent. Her traditional repertoire brings special attention to the lives of women in the past and she performs some of the great contemporary women’s movement songs. Frankie’s material is always well chosen, and her voice is a wonder to behold. Don’t miss her vocal workshops! Almost 30 years after she began singing folk songs, Frankie Armstrong has matured into one of the very finest. It’s always a special treat to have her here.
3Professor Roy Bailey of Sheffield Polytechnic, a noted British sociologist, is kind of the “superman of folk music.” For a worthy cause, his own satisfaction, or whatever, the good professor enters a phone booth or some other private place, and emerges as Roy Bailey – the folk-singer. Folk music, in fact, has pre-dated Roy’s sociological studies. Since 1961, he has been an integral part of the British folk scene. On his own, working with Leon Rosselson, Frankie Armstrong, and others, Roy has managed to develop as something very rare in folk circles: a singer of traditional songs of the first order, and a similarly excellent interpreter of contemporary material. The two repertoires seem to hold together through Roy’s commitment to a variety of political issues. Viewing traditional songs as the expression of the same classes of people who are today fighting around different issues, provides the link between the past and the present. Roy was quite actively involved in supporting the miners during the recent year-long strike in Britain, and in many ways he exemplifies the notion that music can be a tool, a toy and a weapon. We have come to look forward to Roy’s fairly regular visits to Vancouver, and are glad he is able to find time to come over for the Festival this year.
Berline, Crary and Hickman
It has been five years since Byron Berline, Dan Crary and John Hickman have graced us with their presence – high time for a return visit. It’s a rare thing when three musicians, each a master of his instrument, are able to combine in a trio where the sum is at least the equal of its parts. Their music ranges from traditional bluegrass string band tunes, to a flirtation with new acoustic music, which some have call ‘chamber-grass.’ Byron Berline has won three U.S. fiddling championships, and played on dozens of legendary recording sessions, as well as recording a couple of the finest fiddle albums ever made. Dan Crary is one of the top three or four guitarists of our time; perhaps the best flat picker around. John Hickman is a spectacular banjo player, who has recorded with all kinds of people and has distinguished himself amongst his peers and with his fans. Individually, they are brilliant performers; as a trio they do stuff that we have, very simply, never heard done by anyone before. . . ever. It’s a joy to be able to get to hear them again.
Anita Best & Pamela Morgan
We were familiar with Pam through her work with Figgy Duff, and with Anita as a solo performer. In fact, both of them have been to previous Festivals. We were totally unprepared, however, for the two of them as a duo, and when we heard them singing together at a festival in Newfoundland last year, we just had to invite them to Vancouver to wow everybody. Pam comes from Grand Falls, Newfoundland and has been involved in music since she was a child – first classical and then folk. She started off working in theatre, and then joined Figgy Duff, with whom she has toured extensively both arranging and performing Newfoundland folk music. Anita comes from Merasheen Island, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. She grew up surrounded by the exceptionally strong folk tradition of that area. She collected songs from her parents, aunts, uncles, and later on her in-laws. Individually, both Pam and Anita are wonderful singers with a great repertoire. Together they compliment each other with modal harmonies, bringing a deep and haunting richness to the music they sing. The songs include little known ancient ballads, shipwreck songs, love songs, and tales of seafaring people. We think those who have heard either of them before are going to be surprised at the exceptional nature of their combination
Bim is probably the closest thing to a poet laureate that northern British Columbia has ever had. He has been able to synthesize all the stuff he grew up listening to in Dawson Creek. His roots are in the music that kids tuned into in small towns across the country – Hank Snow, WiIf Carter, Hank Williams on the country stations, and Elvis, Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers on the bubble-gum stations. Then Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater and the Doors. Out of that musical hodge-podge came a stunning songwriter – Bim is one of the best of the rock and country influenced songwriters that Canada has produced. It’s the ambivalence, or even schizophrenia in more extreme cases, that produces such an exciting musical tension; the desire to rock, coupled with an equally strong desire to have the words mean and say something real. Bim expresses a loyalty to roots, the community – he enjoys the freedom of solo acoustic performance, and yet he loves the joy of working with a band. His songs are about everything: hard times, good times and his voice is like no other. Neither is his song writing. As far as we, and a whole lot of other people, are concerned, Roy Forbes (AKA Bim) is one of North America’s pre-eminent songwriters.
Eric Bogle, John Munro and Brent Miller
Eric Bogle is such a good songwriter that he has even been able to rise above the near fatal blow of having written two standards – songs which have become an almost inevitable part of the repertoire of more than half the folksingers in creation. For a while, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda or No Man’s Land. Eric, though, is much more than the author of those two songs. He is the writer of some of the most poignant and beautiful songs about parents you’ve ever heard, a writer of humorous and satirical material which has inflamed the passions of cat-lovers, amongst others, and a chronicler of the ways of the curious folk who inhabit his adopted Australia. A failed rock and roller in his native Scotland, and reformed accountant, it was only about five years ago that Eric began to perform full-time. That happy circumstance has allowed him to make several trips to North America, including Vancouver. Lately, he has been accompanied by John Munro, a wiz in his own right on guitar and mandolin. John has the kind of “other-worldly” ability to enhance Eric’s songs with just the right notes, and not too many of them – a sure sign of a great musician. Add to this combination the tasty bass guitar work of Brent Miller. This year, with a strong Australian presence at the Festival, it’s great to see Eric, John and Brent again.
Bryan is best known as the ‘autoharp virtuoso.’ Indeed he has done much to generate interest in an instrument which was for a while, in danger of being considered a kid’s toy, or at best a learning instrument, a prelude to something ‘real’ like a guitar. In Bryan’s hands, the autoharp becomes something to wonder at. He can do things with it that we’ve never heard done before. But that’s only part of Bryan Bowers. The rest is based in a childhood spent in Virginia doing summer work in the fields. It’s there that Bryan got a solid basis in the traditional music of that culturally rich part of the country. His knowledge of traditional songs and stories make him a valuable addition to the music scene, quite apart from his instrumental talents. And Bryan is also one of the strongest solo performers we’ve ever seen ‘trod the boards.’ He is able to communicate a sense of excitement to audiences of any size. His performing personality also includes a superb songwriting ability. Bryan has written some brilliant songs about where he lives, what has happened to him, and how he feels about it. He’s also a fine storyteller. All in all, we look at Bryan Bowers as a master of his craft- instrumentally, as a singer of traditional American songs, and as a writer and performer. That’s why we keep bringing him back.
The Boys of the Lough
If you decide that you’re going to go fairly light on Celtic music at a folk festival, because you’ve presented a lot before and will surely do so again, but at the same time you know that you need some, or else it just wouldn’t be right, you need to send for the best. Then you couldn’t go wrong with The Boys of the Lough, because there ain’t nobody better. For a good decade, The Boys of the Lough haye been in the forefront of traditional music. And it doesn’t matter what kind of traditional music. They play music from Scotland, Ireland, Shetland and Northumberland, and in fact were the first traditional band from the British Isles to work on a fully professional basis. Their repertoire is varied. You might hear a jig from County Clare, or a classic Scots pipe march, a strathspey, a form unique to Scotland, or one of the great Donogal reels from Ireland, or some of the unique and magical fiddle tunes from the Shetland Islands. The band features Aly Bain, one of the finest fiddlers in the world, who combines a grounding in the traditional fiddle playing of his native Shetland Islands, with influences that range from Bob Wills to Stefan Grappelli. Cathal McConnel is one of the best flute and whistle players in Ireland, which is saying something. Cathal was a founding member of the group way back in 1967, and in addition to being a virtuoso instrumentalist, is also a fine traditional singer. Dave Richardson is from Northumberland, and is a multi-instrumentalist who creates a solid foundation in cittern, concertina and mandolin for the group. Christy O’Leary brings his great talent on what has been called the world’s most difficult instrument, the Irish Uilleann pipes, while John Patrick Coakley rounds out the group on a range of instruments from piano to whistle to bodhran, an Irish hand drum. That’s who they are; we’re lucky to have them back.
Bright Morning Star
Bright Morning Star is a concentrate of all that is best in the American East Coast politicized folk scene. For a number of years this troupe of six women and men have been producing a mix of songs and stories from folk, country, blues and jazz. They also throw in a good dose of theatre. In the course of a concert, they pass around and play, guitar, fiddle, bass, harmonica, piano, flute and recorder, and about a half dozen other instruments. But what makes Bright Morning Star great is their songs. Their second-to-none collection includes both original and other folks’ material. They sing about the antinuclear movement, figures in American working class history, like Harriet Tubman or Sacco and Vanzetti. Songs about the struggle for women’s rights, and other things from strikes to day care are also in their repertoire. You can probably get a better idea about what’s happening in the United States from listening to Bright Morning Star than from almost any other communications media. Group members come from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few work in music, another is a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, another is a childcare worker. All this keeps them very much in touch with their community. But being known and loved in their community means they don’t get out to the West much at all. We think this opportunity to hear them is a rare treat indeed. Be sure to make them a priority. Bright Morning Star is Court Dorsey, Cheryl Fox, George Fulginiti-Shakar, Ken Giles, Charlie King, and Marcia Taylor.
On July 19, 1979 while we were basking in the sun at the 2nd Festival here, the Nicaraguans were marking the festival of all festivals, as the revolution brought down the hated dictator Somoza. One of those celebrating was Salvador Bustos, a very young member of the popular song movement, who had been writing and performing music that reflected the experiences of a people’s struggle for a free country. Although he has been creating music since 1975, Salvador Bustos has, until recently, alternated his musical work with jobs as a grocery store stock-boy, university militia organizer, and teacher in the 1981 Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade. In 1984, Salvador began to receive a stipend from the Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers, which has allowed him to work full-time on his music. Salvador Bustos is very much a part of the Latin-American Nueva Cancion movement of song-writers. His work encompasses both the political in the personal, and the personal in the political. Beautiful poetry, haunting melodies – it’s great stuff! On the sixth anniversary of the triumph of the Nicaraguan revolution, we are happy to welcome Salvador Bustos to our Festival. His first album, produced by Jackson Brown, has recently been released by Redwood Records
David Campbell comes from Guyana. His father was an Arawak Indian, and his mother was Portuguese. When David came to live in Canada, it seemed somehow appropriate that he became a part of the Native Indian cultural scene here. This unusual combination of two great outsiders in our country; the Indian and the immigrant, have produced a writer with an exceptional ‘take’ on things. Like most good songwriters, David’s range of subject matter is vast. He writes about what happens to immigrants in this country, about the reality and spiritual beliefs of Native Americans, songs about and for children, the environment, and other things. He has recorded ten records, worked on music for theatrical productions, TV and radio, traveling and writing poetry. There is certainly no one else who can do what he does – fusing so many different ways of looking at things into a coherent articulation of his feelings. David feels anger but he also has compassion for people he meets, and reverence for things he respects and believes in. His finely crafted songs range from calypso, to blues, to a Native Indian chant. Welcome, David Campbell. We are looking forward to hearing you.
The appearance of Cantoamérica marks the first time that music from Costa Rica will be featured at the Festival. As one of the lesser known countries of Latin America, we were fairly ignorant of the Costa Rican musical scene. But in our ceaseless search for performers we visited San Jose, and learned something about the country and met some of the musicians and writers involved in the Costa Rican Nueva Cancion movement. One of them was Manual Monestel. This year, we are delighted to have him and his friends come and perform. Costa Rican music embraces an astounding variety – ranging from European influences in the central part of the country, to the almost cowboy tradition in the northwest province of Guanacaste, to the rich black tradition on the Atlantic coast. The music of Cantoamérica is based in Costa Rica but also adds to the totality of Latin American culture that has produced so much exciting and dynamic music in the last few years. In an article on the Nueva Cancion movement in Latin America, Manual Monestel wrote that it “puts forward messages whose content promotes the values of social progress and the preservation of the most authentic and positive elements of Latin American traditional popular culture.” And Cantoamérica puts their music where their philosophy is. To our knowledge, this is the first group from Costa Rica to ever play in Canada, and we hope that it will be the beginning of many more visits. Cantoamérica is Mario Hernandez, Roberto Huertas, Bernal Monestel, Manuel Monestel, Rodrigo Salas, Giannina Sanchez, Mario Ulloa, Julio Vindas.
In the beginning there were The Flying Karamazov Brothers. On their first visit here in 1980 they juggled a, chainsaw and a few sickles and torches. Everybody looked down and saw that it was good, and thus began the process which somehow produced the visit to our fair festival of Old Time New Age Chautauqua. Each year, the Chautauqua is a little bit different, but in general incorporates an old idea (ask your grandparents about Chautauquas) that combines music, dance and drama along with educational and informative lectures with a bunch of very new age, pedagogical performers. This year’s Chautauqua features a whole bunch of old friends including The Flying Karamazov Brothers, jugglers extraordinaire; Avner The Eccentric, one of the best mimes we have ever seen, who has dazzled festival-goers before with napkin-eating and ladder balancing; Moz Wright, a firebreather and sword-swallower; Tom Noddy, “the bubble guy,” square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, you name it-he can blow it; Rpberto Morganti, first place winner in the International Jugglers Association Competition; Girls Who Wear Glasses, the merger of singing talents Ian Luby and Rebo Flordigan, (who will ever forget their contemporary classic Roach Love?); Laughing Moon Theatre, purveyors of Italian food from gentlemen’s top hats; and our old friend Faith Petric, rabble-rouser, friend of Labour, and singer of some very good songs. These sparse notes merely hint at the wonders awaiting those who wander in the direction of Chautauqua ’85. We are very grateful to be situated on their migratory route, which brings them to us this summer, and hopefully for many more to come.
Margaret Christl was born in England and grew up in industrial Scotland and west Wales. At the tender age of 11, she won her first singing award – she’s been at it ever since. She arrived in Canada in 1966, and has lately moved to Calgary. Margaret is one of those folks that are perfect for festivals. She can fit into about 43 workshops, from contemporary to traditional, with subjects ranging from erotica to humour, to traditional Canadian variance of traditional English folk songs, to ballads. She has a strong voice and a sharp ear for a stunning arrangement of a good song. Margaret is both a performer and a scholar. She knows a lot about folk music, and has a repertoire that is quite exceptional. She is also very in touch with children, having experimented with teaching her own kids lots of songs. She has released a bunch of decent records, including the exceptional With Jockey to the Fair, which was one of the first attempts at producing an album of well-arranged traditional Canadian material. Her latest album has been getting rave reviews from everyone. We wish there were more Margaret Christl’s around looking into Canadian traditional music, and singing other people’s songs as well as she does. Songwriters we’ve got by the dozen, but performers like Margaret who can take a song, whether traditional or contemporary, and make it their own – that’s a rare talent, and that’s why she’s here. Margaret will be accompanied by Lindsey Bucknell, Ron Casat and Pat Olmstead.
In our view Guy Clark should be hired by every folk festival in the country, simply out of gratitude for his having written Desperadoes is Waiting for a Train. It’s one of the greatest songs to come out of Texas, as far as we’re concerned. Guy Clark is a songwriter whose music is hard to pigeonhole. It’s country, it’s folk, it’s very Texas. The fact that it’s so rooted is maybe what makes it so strong. Guy has written a lot of stuff that was recorded by country artists ranging from Johnny Rodrigues and Bobby Bare, to Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Jeff Walker. Yet, his songs are always genuine no matter what their commercial success. That’s unusual. Clark describes his songs in a nice, simple fashion: “It’s all just livin’, writing about the things I know about. Life changes and so songs change. There’s no conscious effort to change them. I write a lot of music about Texas, ’cause it’s where I’m from.” We think that Guy Clark is a great songwriter, and we have hoped to get him up here for a number of years. This year, we got lucky, and we think you’re going to agree.
Kate Clinton calls herself a fumourist, which is a fusion of feminist and humourist. She defines her work as being “toward an end to the oppression of women.” We’ve always known that humour is a powerful weapon; someone once said that every joke is a tiny bomb thrown at the powerful. Kate Clinton has quite an arsenal! For several years we’ve wanted a stand-up comic to participate at the Festival. But we’d never found one that was appropriate until we heard Kate Clinton. She describes herself as “a classically trained stand-up comedienne” who “composes and arranges all her own material, drawing from her deep roots as a white, middle class, former high school English teacher and recovering Catholic.” Anyone who can write stuff like that has a place at this Festival. It’s hard to describe what Kate does without giving away some great lines, but suffice it to say that she takes on ET, ‘New Age’ attitudes, and even the women’s movement. She does this with precision and an ability to laugh at herself. We think there is real artistry in getting people to laugh at the tragic oppression that characterizes our society as part of an attempt to mobilize towards social change. We think Kate is an inheritor of the tradition of Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce; a tradition we thought might be lost.
Critton Hollow Stringband
A while ago we got a couple of records in the mail from a stringband down in the States. We’d never heard of them, and quite honestly, we get loads of records from the legions of stringbands down in the States. This is not to denigrate the fine work of American stringbands, but rather to tell the truth, which is that it takes a pretty hot stringband to impress our jaded ears. Well, the Critton Hollow Stringband struck a chord with us and when we played their record on a local folk radio show, it generated a whole bunch of phone calls from people saying “Who was that stringband?” So, having confirmed our instincts by testing it out on the masses, we decided to bring Critton Hollow to this Festival. Critton Hollow is a cut between the North and Spring Gap Mountains, ten miles away from Paw Paw, West Virginia. Around ten years ago, the Critton Hollow Stringband was formed. The band consists of four members: Sam Herrmann (hammer dulcimer, mandolin, banjo and vocal), her husband, Joe Herrmann (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and vocal), Joe Fallon (banjo, bass, fiddle and vocal) and Pete Gordon (guitar and vocal). The band blends the soaring sound of the fiddle, the bell-like tones of the hammer dulcimer, the percussive plunk of the banjo and the solid bass and rhythm of the guitar to create a musical momentum that would make a marble statue want to tap its toes.
The Guardabarranco is the national bird of Nicaragua. It has a beautiful strange song, and builds its nests in caves under the earth. A quite uncommon bird, and perhaps a good analogy for Nicaragua, an uncommon country. Duo Guardabarranco is SALVADOR and KATIA CARDENAL, who are brother and sister. Following the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979, and inspired by it, Katia and Salvador began performing as the Duo Guardabarranco. They worked with the Ministry of Culture, touring Nicaragua and performing in schools and factories. They have performed at all kinds of events, from small meetings of peasants, to the 5th anniversary celebration of the revolution, and have toured Europe and South America. They are currently studying music at the National University, and both write songs. As part of the Nueva Cancion movement, their songs deal with both political and personal issues. In Nicaragua they are part of the movement of Volcanto, taken from Volcan (volcano) and canto (song) – symbolic of the eruption of music, poetry and cultural expression in Sandinista Nicaragua. They have recorded two albums, one of them produced in Nicaragua, the other produced by Jackson Brown in the United States, and available on the Redwood label. In a period of time when the North American media paints a very negative picture of Nicaragua, and with the threat of invasion of one of the hemisphere’s smallest countries by one of its largest, looming heavy on the horizon – we see the presence of Duo Guardabarranco at this Festival as a way of contributing to the Nicaraguan people’s ability to tell their own story. Duo Guardabarranco, like their compatriate, Salvador Bustos, are part of that story, and we want to welcome them here.
One of the most difficult tasks at this Festival is standing up as a main stage emcee. It is their lot to keep the show moving while our stage crew gets things ready for the next act, reads messages that must be read, and generally keeps the unruly throng at bay while we prepare to dazzle you with new treats. This year, the lucky honor has fallen upon two veterans, and a young innocent newcomer. Cathy Fink is performing at this Festival, and because she is such a great emcee, popular demand has brought her back in that role as well. Bob Bossin is another main stage vet who is known by many and loved by some as a founding member of Stringband, and for his songwriting abilities about dogs and prime ministers. amongst other things. This year we are pleased to welcome Nettie Wild, journalist, actress, cultural worker of many trades, a founding member of Headlines Theatre, who performed here a couple of years ago in Under the Gun. Nettie has recently returned from an extended stay in the Philippines, where in addition to other things, she was involved in helping line up performers for next years Festival.
It’s been a long time since Ferron first played at this Festival. The Festival was pretty green, and so was she. You can think what you want about where the Festival has gone, but Ferron has certainly developed from an introverted, tentative, yet persistent writer of some magnificent and disturbing songs, into an assured, dynamic performer, in total control of the stage, her material and the audience. Originally a songwriter who was very much a local phenomenon Ferron has been developing larger and larger audiences away from Vancouver. She is constantly touted as “the next thing” in various articles from the Rolling Stone to the Village Voice. And even after comparisons with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, etc., what remains is a writer of the first water who continues to affect the hearts of audiences everywhere. Six years after her first performance at this Festival, we are very happy to hear Ferron again. With Ferron during her concert will be Glenn Hendrickson, Michael Lent, Novi, Brent Shindell, Brett Wade.
The North end of Winnipeg was once one of the great Canadian Jewish centres. Here, the CPR dumped off tens-of-thousands of immigrants fleeing anti-Semitism and poverty. These newcomers hoped to make a better life, not for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. They were not generally people who were nostalgic for what was left behind, but they did bring with them their music, songs and stories. In Winnipeg, like in New York and Toronto, there was a Jewish cultural milieu that produced some great theatre, and gave birth to a style of music that has come to be known as Klezmer, after the Klezmorim, or the itinerant travelling musician. Like many of the old ways, this music was shunned as an embarrassment by many of the generations following that first one. But, in the last ten years or so, there has been a revival. Finjin, has become known as Canada’s foremost exponent of this wonderful music that fuses the Eastern European tunes with the jazz craze of the 1920s. The musicians that make up Finjin come out of that north-end’ tradition. As much as anything, they play out of a love for that tradition. What unites the group is a commitment to Klezmer – music that runs through as many emotions as the human soul contains. Sometimes it’s happy music for dancing, sometimes romantic, sometimes plaintiff, sometimes with lyrics that mean nothing, and sometimes songs that talk about the hardships of immigrant life. Klezmer is a true North American art form, and Finjin are great practitioners of it. Finjin is Shayla Fink, Eli Herscovitch, Daniel Koulack, Martin ‘Kinsey’ Posen, Victor Schultz, Myron Schultz.
Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Cathy Fink is an old friend of this festival, but that doesn’t mean her music isn’t fresh. In the beginning she was your basic old-time player. Since an introduction to the joy of making one’s living by playing music in the Montreal subways, Cathy went on to tour the country with musical partner Duck Donald. A while ago, she set up shop in Washington, and has now become one of the premier old-timey musicians in the United States. Cathy has gained a reputation as an unorthodox banjo player, fiddler and singer of a wide variety of styles. She has also done a lot of performing for children. Her recently released children’s album Grandma Slid Down the Mountain was an award-winner. Lately she has been working with some of the exciting women who played such a major role in American country music. Marcy Marxer is an exceptional guitar player who has toured and performed with The Robin Flower Band, the Bosom Buddies Stringband, and Cathy Fink. Her singing is sweet and understated and she is known for unique arrangements of classics such as When You and I Were Young Maggie and Things Are Coming My Way. Marcy is also trained in theatre and has worked in two projects with N.Y. based writer/director, Elizabeth Swados, arranging and playing mandolin, hammered dulcimer and guitar. Also a hit with the kids!
Grupo Los Folkloristas de México
Having The Folkloristas at this festival is one long-held dream come true. Many times we have listened to their records while imagining them on our stage. Finally, we have been able to do it! Los Folkloristas are the premier folk music group of México. As they approach their 20th anniversary, they sound better than ever before. The group performs music from all over Latin America, but specializes in the music of Mexico. They play a total of 87 different musical instruments and play them all with virtuosity. Mexico has more distinctive musical styles than a dog has fleas – from the music of the Chamula Indians of Chiapas by the Guatemalan border, to the country sounding fiddle-accompanied songs of the Huasteca in the north, to the wonderful Harocho songs of Vera Cruz, to the harp music of Michoacan. From the Corridos of the Mexican revolution, to songs of the contemporary writers like Gabino Palomares – the Folkloristas are the very soul of Mexican music. And the group composes new musical works within the context of traditional material they have collected, even creating pieces for pre-Columbian instruments. Some of their music has been used for film scores, including El Norte, which recently was in Vancouver. We are proud to present Los Folkloristas to Vancouver for the first time, and we think they are one of the elements that are going to make this Festival special. Los Folkloristas are Olga Alanis, Rosalinda Reynoso, Adrian Nieto, Jose Avila, Carlos Tovar, Jose Luis Gomez, Rene Villanueva, Miguel Angel Gonzales.
There is a tendency in this country to think that French is limited to Quebec, and perhaps among the cognosenti, to Quebec and New Brunswick. Those really in the know might even include St. Boniface and Sudbury in this list. Without ignoring the rich French culture of the Porte a Porte peninsula of Newfoundland or northern Alberta, we do want to let you know that there is a French community in Saskatchewan. Some of them live in Willow Bunch, and out of that Fransaskoise (Franco-Saskatchewan) community, specifically from the Campagne family, emerged Folle Avoine. Folle Avoine is a group of six to ten singers and musicians. All members of the same family, they grew up singing and making music together. That family feeling comes through. Their music is lively and entertaining, with an emphasis on vocal harmonies and arrangements. They use violin, guitar, mandolin, bass, flute, piano, harmonica, percussion of all types, including feet and spoons, to produce a full, up-tempo sound. Folle Avoine is Aline, Suzanne, Solange, Paul, Annette et Michelle Campagne.
We are willing to bet that at least part of the reason why Ronnie Gilbert is received so well by audiences is that deep in the sub-conscious of even those who profess ignorance of the Weavers, there is still some little button that is pushed every time her soaring voice is heard. After all, if you grew up any time in the early 50s, chances are that you heard On Top of Old Smokey, Kisses Sweeter than Wine, or Good Night Irene (the top selling record of 1950). The Weavers, featuring Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman, played a fundamental role in shaping popular music in North America. They were also blacklisted by McCarthyism and subsequently driven off the radio and many concert stages. After the group disbanded in 1963, Ronnie began acting. She also picked up an MA. in clinical psychology, left New York for California, and then came to British Columbia. In 1980, the Weavers re-united for a last concert at Carnegie Hall. This more or less launched Ronnie Gilbert on a second career as a singer, often with Holly Near, more often now on her own. In our view, it takes a lot of courage for a legend to come back and not be legendary. One of the nice things about the folk scene is that it has some respect for its elders, and we think of Ronnie as one of those wonderful human beings that formed, kept alive, and brought to a new generation the music that we love. She is still in the forefront of that movement today. With Ronnie will be John Bucchino, a marvelous piano player, with three releases of his own music on the Horn label. He is a talented writer, performer and arranger.
Cuba is a country which has had a profound influence on Latin America and the world. In the sphere of politics the Cuban revolution has had considerable impact, but the Nueva Cancion movement which grew out of the revolution has also greatly influenced music. Sara Gonzalez was one of the original post revolutionary young Cuban performers to emerge in the late 1960s. She began her studies in the Conservatory, before becoming a music teacher. She later joined the now legendary Grupo de Experimentacion Sonora del ICAIC, a group formed by classical guitarist Leo Brouwer at the Cuban film institute. This group stunned Cuba and the rest of the world with what it produced for film, television and radio. Here, there were no rules; every type of music was experimented with, from classical, to acid rock and jazz. And here songwriters such as Silvio Rodrigues and Pablo Milanes began writing songs that have since become anthems across the continent. This is the first time we have had the opportunity of presenting an artist from Cuba at this Festival, and we hope this is only the beginning of a number of visits by Cuban artists. We can think of no better way of starting off than by having Sara Gonzalez here.
We were sitting in a field on a hot day in Texas, barbeque sauce on the shirt, prerequisite Lone-Star beer in the hand, listening to the third identical, electrified outlaw, “I’m drunk, but I’m cute” cowboy tell his overamplified tale, when Nanci Griffith came out on stage, and it was wonderful. Never having heard of Nanci Griffith, we bought an album and split. From time to time, we would think, “We really should get Nanci Griffith up to the Festival.” And finally we have! Nanci seems to be getting to a lot of festivals these days, and getting a lot of well deserved notice with her brand new album, But, as far as we’re concerned, she’ll always be the only saving grace of a lost weekend in Texas. Nanci comes from Austin, Texas where she has become something of a cult figure in the local music scene. She is a wonderful songwriter in the way only Texans can be wonderful songwriters. She’s got a voice that seems to make a connection with your central nervous system which then takes you wherever it wants to go. As well, she has completed a novel. In the last while, she has been touring a lot to rave reviews and great word of mouth. Her songs are about those simple things in human existence that, it seems, Texas songwriters write about better than anyone else. Rather than describe them, we are going to give you a piece of friendly advice. Don’t miss her.
Erwin Helfer & Angela Brown
The blues might have been invented in New Orleans and the Delta, but today it hangs its hat in Chicago, and that is where Erwin Helfer and Angela Brown live. Erwin has been a fixture in Chicago blues clubs for over twenty years and has been studying and teaching blues and traditional jazz for longer than that. The list of musicians he’s studied, and been influenced by, reads like a history of the blues piano. Along the way, he’s developed a taste for the music of Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller. Ask him today who his favorites are and he’s likely to mention Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano. Classical influences even find their way into his eclectic style- particularly in some of his numerous original compositions. Angela Brown has been singing classic blues numbers most of her life. She sang the part of Ma Rainy in a production of The Little Dreamer. She has also worked with blues greats like Little Brother Montgomery and Jimmy Walker. She has knocked audiences off their feet in a number of countries, and was hailed in Europe as “the Bessie Smith of the 80s.”
If you grew up as a folkie you would know who Sam Hinton is. In a way, that’s why it took us so long to get him to the Festival. Sam was so much a part of our upbringing that it just never occurred to us to invite him. That may sound contradictory, but among other things, Sam can be credited with introducing the world to The Talking Atomic Blues, which he recorded in 1950 on Columbia Records (to their everlasting embarrassment). He has collected and recorded songs of just about everything in the world: cowboy songs, wonderful kids songs, work songs, you name it, and he can sing about it. Professionally, Sam Hinton has worked as a zoologist, for 18 years he was director of the Aquarium-Museum at the University of California’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Before that during the 30s, he worked in his native Oklahoma and Texas, and 44 other states as “Texas Sam Hinton, Folksinger and Novelty Instrumentalist.” His recording career began in 1947 when he put down 64 songs for the Library of Congress. Since then, he has made a bunch of records, given piles of concerts, and been a big part of the southern California folk music scene. We’re pleased as punch to be able to introduce Sam Hinton to this audience, and are sure that he will grow to be as much a part of many of your lives, as he has been of ours.
Getting Si Kahn to come to the festival is always a real treat. It’s not that he’s coy, but simply that he’s busy, and always seems to have something on the go that makes it impossible for him to get away. Si Kahn is simply one of the best songwriters around today. He is also a professional organizer who has worked for Civil Rights in Arkansas, built farmers’ cooperatives in Georgia, organized miners and millworkers in Kentucky and North Carolina, and written a couple of books to boot. And Si writes about his experiences; he satirizes bosses and politicians and writes songs that celebrate the lives of ordinary working class folks. He writes the most intelligent love songs we’ve ever heard, and his latest record includes some of the most touching songs about members of his family. That’s why we don’t call Si a political songwriter, although he is often pigeon-holed that way. He can turn out beautifully crafted songs on a wide variety of topics, from a song about a homosexual who shut himself up in his house in Georgia, to one about how his grandfather got out of Russia. From a song to a lover, to one about an American advisor in El Salvador who doesn’t want to fight poor farmers who are the same kind of people he came from back home. Avail yourself of this opportunity to hear Si Kahn, it does not come frequently enough.
Much has been written about the Saskatchewan Songbird, the Canadian Cupcake – yes, the blond bombshell of Canadian folk music. But, perhaps the best description of Connie Kaldor has come from the lady herself: “I’m not a drug addict, I’m not crazy. I’m not young. I’m not in it for sex. I have a strong family. I’m not willing to sacrifice my whole life to the music business. If you don’t have anything to say, why say it?” Connie Kaldor is a whole human being, and her songs reflect it. They range from the hammer-like impact of a song expressing the feelings of a miner’s wife at the death of her husband in the coal mines of Alberta, to whimsical children’s pieces, to expressions of sensual hedonism, to the only great song that has been written about the Metis rebellion of 1885, to satirization of North American life in the 80s, to a cowboy Christmas song, to.. . . Well, that gives you the idea. Connie’s songs reflect her own articulate view of the world – she is a woman, a Canadian, from the Prairies, and all this is in her music. She is simply one of the best songwriters to come out of this country, ever. We’re glad that Connie now lives in Vancouver because now we get to hear her more often, and that is just great!
Three years ago Katari Taiko took the stage at the Festival, and proceeded to knock the entire main stage audience for a loop. At that time the group consisted of members of the local Japanese community who got together through a shared interest in traditional drumming. In the years that have followed, Katari Taiko has expanded its membership, added to its repertoire, and has come to be known as one of the hottest performing tickets in town. Yet they remain a group of amateurs in the best sense of the word: lovers of what they do, who do not see it as a profession, but rather as an expression of who they are. Taiko music is rooted in the history of rural farming and fishing communities in Japan. It was used to ward off evil spirits, give thanks to the gods for a bountiful harvest, or bring rain in a drought. As the traditional fabric of Japanese society was eroded by Western influence, it became a relic. But in recent years, lt has been revived, and in North America, there are now a number of Taiko groups. Katari Taiko is a collective that identifies their goal as the development of a form of Asian-Canadian culture that incorporates the following elements: discipline; physical strength and grace; non-sexism; musical creativity; and a blend of Asian and Western rhythms. They use a wide assortment of drums, and it sounds like nothing else on earth. To Katari Taiko, we say “Welcome back; it’s been too long.” Katari Taiko is Marie Berg, Joyce Chong, Harold Gent, John Greenaway, Linda Hilts, Linda Hoffman, Connie Kadota, Eileen Kage, Clo Laurencelle, Masataro Naruki, Diane Nishli, Naomi Shikaze, Mayumi Takasaki, Jan Woo, Etsuko Yamanouchi, Paul Yee, Tsuneko “Koko” Kokubo will be performing with Katari Taiko.
Gary Lapow has been around for a long time and this man has got credentials. He was the guitarist for the Freedom Singers in 1966 and he was Malvina Reynold’s guitar player. He was also in the Red Star Singers, San Francisco’s resident radical band, who sang stuff like Vietnam Will Win and Pig Nixon, and did it well, too. This year Gary Lapow has also put out one of the best children’s cassettes we’ve ever heard, following on a real nice solo album for grown-ups a couple of years ago. He comes from Brooklyn, where he grew up listening to everything from bluegrass to salsa and calypso. He has been musically and politically active for over 20 years. His material is diverse; he writes songs about growing up, his Coney Island Days is one of the best autobiographical songs around. He’s got a great antinuclear tune, and lots of other things. Gary fits into lots of grooves, he takes some very outward-oriented looks at politics in the big sense, and more recently he’s been examining personal politics. His work is all good, and it’s all done with the ability that comes only with time and experience. We wanted to make sure that we featured some new songwriters at this year’s Festival. We picked Gary Lapow as one of the songwriters with a lot to say. We think he’s going to make a lot of new friends this weekend.
It was Rosalie Sorrels who turned us on to this jewel of a performer. For years, she had been mumbling about this genius piano player and songwriter friend of hers who was living in Germany. She wanted to know what could be done to bring light to the heathen crowd out here who had never heard him. Rosalie is never wrong about this kind of thing and we were willing to take her word for it. But then one day she showed up with some news and a record – Bob Lenox was back living in the States, and the record was better than anything we could have imagined. We decided we had to invite him to this Festival. Bob Lenox has had the kind of life that could have been written by Matt Hentoff. He grew up in New York City, and as a youth played with Garland Jeffries. He later moved to Florida where he formed a trio, and at 18 became music director of the Cadillac Hotel. He left Miami in the early 60’s and moved back to New York and started hanging around with people like Allen Ginsberg and Cecil McGee. He became involved in the avant garde jazz scene, and ended up as a keyboard player and band leader for the great Esther Phillips. There’s other stuff too, like the five years spent as a staff writer for Warner Brothers Records. But the main thing is that Bob Lenox is a spectacular piano player who can sing jazz standards like the best, including some fine scat singing. He’s also a very interesting songwriter. Rather than try to describe what he writes, we can only give you this friendly advice. Don’t miss him’ At this Festival, Bob will be accompanied by his son, Adam Lennox on bass.
Used to be that we thought of Tom McCreesh as a fiddle player. In fact, we thought of Tom as one of the best fiddle players around; a real master of the instrument who had a total grasp of both the American and Irish repertoire. He had gained that reputation playing with string bands like Fenning’s All Stars, the Hotmud Family, and as part of Walt Michael, Tom McCreesh and Company. As we heard more of Tom’s work we discovered other facets to his musical persona: his recitations, poems and stories of W.B. Yeats and others, his collection of songs from the Irish revolutionary movement, his repertoire of a whole bunch of Irish and American traditional songs, and increasingly his own compositions. That’s a nice variety of talents, that seemed to make him a natural for our Festival. Through all these facets, there shines a powerful ray of commitment to his music and to the content of what he is talking or singing about. Tom McCreesh, in short, is the kind of performer that draws people to folk music, and keeps it alive Tom will be accompanied by Michael Mullins.
We first heard John McCutcheon on a couple of albums he made on the June Appel label. We thought it was some of the best old-time mountain music that we’d heard for some time. Then we invited John up to the Festival, and had the pleasure of hearing him in person. And we liked him so much that we asked him back to join this year’s exceptional line-up of performers from the southeastern United States. Although originally from Wisconsin, John has lived in West Virginia for quite some time. It’s from there that John has collected most of his traditional repertoire. John also carries around a whole bunch of instruments. He is best known as one of the finest hammered dulcimer players around, but he also plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, auto-harp and more. As well, John’s range of material includes the work of many contemporary political songwriters. He sings about black heroine, Harriet Tubman, poor folks in the southern mountains, miners, sexually exploited women – that kind of thing. John McCutcheon exemplifies the combination of contemporary and traditional performance which seems to have developed and flourished in the southeast. He is one of the finest!
Charlie Murphy and Jami Sieber
Charlie Murphy first came to our notice as a songwriter who emerged from the gay rights movement. In the last few years, he has increasingly become known as someone who is part of the human rights movement. As a gay man, Charlie sees his struggle as linked to everyone trying to overcome oppression. This has led him to write about gay issues, the environmental genocide of Native Americans, and even to some great new songs about Nicaragua. In fact, Charlie has been in the forefront of artists in the Seattle area who are actively defending the Nicaraguan people’s right to self-determination. Charlie visited Nicaragua recently and you’ll probably hear about his experiences when he’s here. There is a spiritual tone to his songs that reflects respect for that part of the human soul that defies easy definition. But he can also write a mean love song. Burning Times is perhaps one of his most powerful songs. It’s about the attack led by the Catholic church against the witches during the Inquisition. It is a song as compelling and moving as any we’ve ever heard. Charlie will be accompanied by Jami Sieber, his musical partner of five years. Jami performs on cello, and is a virtuoso in her own right. She has been playing since she was seven, and has developed a strong personal style incorporating African and Cuban influences. And June Hoffman a dynamite conga player, will be joining them at the Festival. We’re delighted that the three of them could make it.
Glenn Ohrlin is a cowboy who sings. He is not a singing cowboy, or a singer who does a little cowboying, nor is he a folklorist who has collected cowboy songs which he presents in appropriate attire. Glenn was born in Minneapolis in 1926 to a family of Scandinavian background. From his earliest childhood he wanted to be a writer and from the age of 12 frequented stables and stockyards in order to be near horses. At the age of 14, he and his family moved to California, and two years later he left home to work at cowboying in Nevada. By the mid 40s he had cowboyed on ranches in Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and California, as well as doing some rodeo riding. In 1963, he was ‘discovered’ by the noted folklorist Archie Green. This doesn’t mean that Glenn didn’t know who or where he was, but rather that there was a sad gap of knowledge in the rest of the world. Since then, he has recorded a number of albums containing songs picked up while working on various ranches. Since 1954, he has had his own ranch in Arkansas. He probably knows more about cowboy songs and lore in general than anyone else around, although he will probably not admit it. A hundred of his songs with introductions have been published in a book he put together for the University of Illinois Press, called The Hell-Bound Train: A Cowboy Songbook. When Glenn sings, it is in a low-key style that lets you know this is a man singing about his work and his life. It’s folk music as good as it gets.
There are certain people around this festival who think the development of music reached its peak with the tango. Quartango is their opportunity to prove the point. The tango developed in the slums of Buenos Aires, amongst immigrant workers in much the same way that blues and jazz developed in New Orleans. It has survived its time as a fad, because it strikes a genuine chord in the human soul. Quartango is a Montreal-based quartet of classical musicians, two of whom were born in South America. They met by chance in an Argentinian Restaurant in Montreal four years ago. It was there that Quartango was born – a group dedicated to expressing the great tangos of Argentina. When Quartango plays, the passion of the music is balanced by subtle elements of humour. And this group has the instrumentation necessary to perform great tango: the violin, the bandoneon (a sort of concertina with glandular problems), piano and bass. These instruments are played by Adolfo Bornstein, Romulo Larrea, Richard Hunt and Rene Gosselin respectively. We had been looking for a group to perform this music in the traditional fashion, for years. We were overjoyed when we finally encountered Quartango. We are thankful they have taken time from their classical music careers to come to Vancouver to spread the tango gospel. We think you are in for a heck of a treat!
Riders in the Sky
First we thought it was some kind of novelty act, and we don’t hire novelty acts. Then it began to dawn on us that these guys believed it! They were actually organically grafting themselves onto the tradition. And then we wanted them, and people loved them – and now they’re back! Woody Paul, Too Slim, and Ranger Doug play country music in the tradition of the singing cowboys: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Sons of the Pioneers. They are later-day saints who still possess “the cowboy way of knowledge.” They play beautiful instrumentals. Vocally, they’ve got that 40s sound, but with an approach that gives the whole thing a slightly satirical edge. They don’t laugh at you, but with you. Their music ranges from tunes that everyone loves (whether they admit it or not) like Ghostriders in the Sky, Don’t Fence Me In, and Cielito Lindo, to their own compositions that remain in the style, like Here Comes the Santa Fe, with gorgeous harmonies, three-part yodeling and a great fiddle break. Riders in the Sky have got it all: comedy, a little bit of pathos, lots of technique, and a commitment to keep alive a style of music that just about bit the dust. So when you see them, give them a great big “howdy,” and “welcome back.” They are some fine buckaroos.
Margret RoadKnight’s credits make her seem larger than life. Well, maybe that’s appropriate for a 6’4″ piano-playing singer of everything from classic blues and gospel songs, to contemporary political material. Margret hails from Australia, where she has worked with theatre companies and performed topical songs for a weekly current affairs program, danced with The Dance Company, lectured on folk and black music, taught guitar with songwriting, sung the theme songs for two films, and appeared with everybody from Herbie Mann to Phil Ochs, to Sara Gonzalez. She has sung in clubs in a bunch of countries, and has toured everywhere from London, England to China and Hong Kong, and sung to a million people in New York as a member of the Australia Peace Delegation to the UN Special Session on Disarmament. One of the things we liked best, is that she had the sheer unadulterated nerve to record a blues version of Waltzing Matilda, that’s class! She was also the first person we’ve heard sing the incredibly sad and powerful song about young women growing up in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter), called Girls in our Town. Suffice it to say that, when we got a letter asking if we were interested in presenting her at the Festival, we didn’t wait to be asked twice. We think we’ve got someone special here, and are glad to be the occasion for Margret’s first visit to Vancouver.
Over the last five years, Leon Rosselson has become a good friend of this Festival, and it’s always hard to describe a friend. Without a doubt, Leon is one of the finest songwriters to emerge from the British folk scene. And he has held this position for over 20 years. Leon’s longevity as a writer of substance is apparent when you listen to a song of his written in the 60s. His most recent work has tended to be of somewhat epic proportions – almost plays, or movies which come out as songs. Who reaps the profit, who pays the price? deals with imperialism, mining, colonialism and atomic power, all in a seven or eight minute song. Or, The Last Chance, the only song in English we have ever heard that begins to delve into what really underlies Israeli society, based on Leon’s experiences there in the 50s. Rosselson is arguably among the top half-dozen political songwriters in the English language-a satirist, an historian, a composer of compelling personal songs, a performer of wit and skill. We know there are many who look forward to Leon’s return to this Festival, but we are particularly happy to introduce him to those in the audience who have never heard him before. What a treat!
Lisa Rose and Joel Ruben
Lisa Rose and Joel Ruben used to be a Klezmer music ensemble called The Old Country. They were a Klezmer ensemble with a difference though, playing a distinct style from the brass-band stuff that can drive you crazy. They feature the cimbalom (the East European hammered dulcimer) and clarinet, which is a very traditional duo style. We thought they were great, and for a couple of years we have looked forward to getting them to the Festival so that our audience would be able to hear this unique brand of Klezmer music. Through study of early Greek vocal traditions, they have recently added a lot of unaccompanied vocals to their repertoire, along with some new instrumentation. As far as we’re concerned, this just doubles the fun. Not only is it rare to hear a Klezmer duo, but the Greek songs that Lisa in particular has become adept at, are rare even in Greece, where she and Joel went to find them. Joel and Lisa are going to bring something new to this year’s Festival and we are always looking for that. Make sure you don’t miss them.
It’s nice to be in this business long enough to see the fruit of hard work ripen and fall into your hand. A number of years ago, the first tape of Sabia was played for us by one of their friends. It was interesting to hear a group that was, at that time all women, who were specializing in Latin American music with a special emphasis on the contribution of women in that culture. Although the group was rough and young, you could hear something indefinable that signalled they were on to a good thing. They developed, we did too, and in 1983 we had the pleasure of inviting Sabia to the Folk Music Festival. In the last few years, the group has changed a bit, but that indefinable quality has remained. Sabia has, in fact, developed into an exciting, powerful group that performs committed music from different parts of Latin America. They have become one of the main organizers of a collection of Latin American artists committed to the propagation of Nueva Cancion in their home town of Los Angeles and throughout North America and the world. The group is made up of Americans and Latin Americans whose music backgrounds vary from rock to ethno-musicology, to the classics. Instrumentally, they can move from hot, salsa based Caribbean material to traditional Peruvian huayno’s. Their material is drawn from a similarly wide variety of sources; traditional folk songs, original compositions by members of the group, and other contemporary works by a variety of Latin American writers. Sabia have also toured in efforts to build solidarity with the struggle for self-determination of the people of Central America. Last fall they crossed Canada from Vancouver Island to the Maritimes with the Tools for Peace campaign. They still retain their special interest in songs written for, by and about women in Latin America. It’s great to have them back. Sabia is Libby Harding, Mart Riddle, Cesar Torres, Ericka Verba, Gary Johnson, Francisca Wentworth.
We were at a meeting discussing one seditious conspiracy or another, and someone asked whether the Festival would be interested in a group from Papua New Guinea who were going to be touring North America this summer. We didn’t need to be asked twice. “Sure,” we said, after all, this Festival takes pride in bringing in new stuff every year. And Papua New Guinea was certainly new to us. Sanguma are a group of eight musicians who play music from Papua New Guinea; a country with hundreds of languages, and a wide variety of distinctive cultures. The group sounds a bit like a National Geographic soundtrack fused with Santana and Bob Marley. And their instrumentation reflects this, combining electric guitars, saxophone and keyboards with traditional Papua New Guinea chants, wind instruments and percussion. Sanguma plays music based on the rich traditions of an ancient culture yet music that reflects the influences of contemporary popular music. It is exquisite stuff, and we are delighted to have this group at the Festival. Sanguma is Sebastian Miyoni, Thomas Agai Komboi, Tony Subam, Paul Yabo, Apa Saun, Baruka Tau, Leonard Taligatus, Raymond Hakena.
We are always looking for something new for the Festival, and we often ask other performers for suggestions. One day, we asked Leon Rosselson. Now Leon, as anyone who has heard his songs knows, can be a very serious fellow, so when he replied “well there’s this socialist magician and he’s very funny,” we knew that here was someone special. And when we found out this magician made Margaret Thatcher disappear and performed a ventriloquist act with Karl Marx we knew we’d have to hire him. So we are looking forward to seeing Ian Saville, Socialist Conjurer and Ventriloquist. His slogan, inscribed under a top hat with a fist holding a magic wand, is ‘Magic for Socialism.’ We don’t know much about Ian, except that he can do a rope trick that explains the class struggle in a capitalist society, and has a little box from which emerges Surplus Value. He began conjuring at the age of 12 and is very popular at mass rallies, festivals and cabarets around England. We think that political humour is a bit of a lost art with too many people muttering darkly “that’s not funny.” We hope that Ian Saville contributes to the ability of the left to laugh at itself and that he helps return the weapon of humour to the socialist bag of tricks. He also sounds like great entertainment for the whole family, a combination that can’t be beat. We are looking forward to the arrival of Ian Saville at our Festival.
Mike Seeger has been called a ‘one-man traditional music festival.’ For the last 30 or so years, Mike has been one of the leading performer/collectors of traditional music from the rural southeastern United States. Among other things, he helped introduce Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotten to the world. He was also a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, whose more that a dozen albums introduced an enormous body of music to the repertoire of contemporary performers, and to the ears of urban audiences. His songs range from unaccompanied English ballads, to instrumental pieces performed on fiddle, banjo, guitar, dulcimer, mandolin, auto-harp, pan pipes, Jews harp and harmonica. As much as anybody, and more than most, Mike Seeger has been active in preserving and presenting a treasury of American popular music. Mike Seeger’s performances show the breadth and depth of southern American folk music – he brings us the straight goods from the true vine.
Judy Small like 10,000 other kids, took up folk music as a result of the early 60s folk boom. Like many others, she sang occasionally at folk clubs while at university. But unlike most others, Judy Small has turned into one of the best songwriters to come out of Australia or anywhere else. In 1982, she gave up the security of the New South Wales civil service for the uncertain, but far more enjoyable life of a full-time performer and songwriter. When she sat in with Eric Bogle a few years ago at this Festival she knocked everybody at the workshop out. At last year’s Festival, we were priviledged to feature Judy and she was wonderful. Her songs have that breadth of subject that seems to mark great songwriters from merely good ones. Some of them are satirical, and lots of them have a good natured way of looking at the world. Some of them, like Mothers, Daughters, Wives are epic compositions that are as powerful as anything we’ve ever heard. She talks about things that matter. When we heard Judy Small was going to be in North America for the summer, we didn’t hesitate to invite her back. We think we’ve pretty well got three of the best from Australia at this year’s Festival, and that pleases us greatly.
Rosalie Sorrels and Bruce Carver
Rosalie Sorrel reminds us of 30 year old scotch: smooth as silk, with all kinds of subtle features that only the years can give. She has been performing professionally since the 50s, and has an immense repertoire which varies from a Basque Christmas song, to her own compositions, to great songs by little-known writers. She comes from Idaho, and has a great collection of songs about the West. Rosalie’s life can best be described as ‘interesting’ – it has given her a lot of laughter, a lot of tears, and a very tender outlook on the world. Rosalie is educated in the sense that she has an encyclopedic knowledge of American letters and music. Her voice has abilities that one most often associates with jazz- enormous range and suppleness. She could sing a train schedule, and you’d want to hear more. However, that’s not what she sings. She sings Aunt Molly Jackson better than anyone else we’ve ever heard, and Woody Guthrie and Utah Phillips and Malvina Reynolds, and increasingly songs of her own. She is a wonderful storyteller, and knows a couple of the best jokes ever told on the folk music circuit. Rosalie is less of a -performer than an institution – one to which we enjoy being committed. This year Rosalie will be joined by Bruce Carver, a guitar player from New Jersey. They tour together whenever they can swing it. Bruce is a dream of an accompanist, able to bring out the essence of each song with enormous skill and feeling for the material. Sit back and listen, and make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to hear something special.
Andy Stewart & Manus Lunny
Andy Stewart is no stranger to this Festival, having been here on a number of occasions with Silly Wizard, a group who are probably the best thing to come out of Scotland since Clynelish single malt scotch. This year we’ve got the chance to get to know in his own right. We were always taken with Andy’s voice and both his traditional and contemporary songs. His traditional repertoire has stuff in it that you’ve just never heard anyone else doing. After all he has been travelling the length and breadth of Scotland for years and years collecting songs. Andy has a special feel for the terrible defeat of the Scots at the hands of the English, and the tragic eviction of the Highlanders that followed. This is reflected in his presentation of songs he has collected, as well as in the material he writes. As a writer, Andy Stewart is able to maintain the feel of a traditional song polished by centuries of singing, while injecting his own lyrics. Some of his songs about Ireland are particularly compelling. Whatever the material, Andy Stewart is a great singer and writer who makes anything he performs beautiful and his own. We are particularly fortunate to have Andy at this Festival with Manus Lunny, an exceptional guitar player from Ireland.
The first Latin American group to perform at this Festival contained no Latin Americans, but was rather a ‘Swiss-Brooklynese duo’ who were thoroughly captivated by the music of the Andes. The group called themselves Sukay, and seven years later we’re glad to welcome them back. They’ve gone through various personnel permutations and rich growth experiences and have played a decisive role in getting thousands of North Americans interested in Andean and other Latin American music. Sukay mostly plays music from Bolivia and Peru, but occasionally a Chilean, or Argentinean or even Ecuadorean tune will find its way into their repertoire. They perform on traditional wind and percussion instruments of pre-Columbian vintage, as well as on the various stringed instruments that have been adopted by the people of the Andes. They feature the charango (a 10-string mandolin made from the shell of an armadillo), as well as the more prosaic guitar and mandolin. And besides having great instrumental skill, these kids can sing – beautiful songs that reflect the joys and sorrows of the lives of a very poor people with an extraordinarily rich musical heritage. The members of Sukay are Carlos Crespo, Quentin Howard, Mario
Lino, Omar Sepulveda.
Trapezoid does many different kinds of things, it’s hard to know where to begin. They started as a traditional music ensemble – a good old-fashioned string band. But they have since evolved a style not easy to categorize, except that it’s acoustic, and it’s wonderful. In some ways Trapezoid are more like the European bands who combine traditional with contemporary influence and produce magic! From old time instrumentals, to beautiful arrangements of traditional songs, to thoughtfully chosen compositions by contemporary writers, to original instrumentals, to clog dancing – Trapezoid is a virtual Americana. This band can even carry off Richard Farina instrumentals, and hardly anybody has the gumption to do that these days. Let’s list some of the instruments that Freyda Epstein, Lorraine Duisit, Paul Reisler and Ralph Gordon are proficient at: hammered dulcimer, violin, bowed psaltery, mandolin, harp, guitar, cello, bass. They can sing too, particularly Freyda and Lorraine. As a songwriter, Lorraine’s influences are not easily apparent and that’s good. She has written one of the most delightful food songs we’ve heard in a while, about an incipient French vegetable casserole. We are tickled to have this group at our Festival for the second year in a row. And multi-instrumentalist, Howard Levy promises to be an exciting addition to this years performance.
Teresa Trull & Barbara Higbie
We had known Barbara Higbie as the hardest working woman in folk festivals. She can play anything, and on a couple of occasions showed up at this Festival as part of two different groups, and then proceeded to sit in with a couple more. As a piano player and fiddler, Barbara worked extensively with Mike Marshall and Darol Anger in the New Acoustic Music scene. So we were pretty well versed in the exceptional talents of Barbara. We had also heard a lot of Teresa’s stuff on records. She grew up in Durham, North Carolina, which is a good place to grow up if you want to hear music. There she absorbed blues, gospel and R & B, and spent her teenage years playing a fair bit of rock and roll. She was one of the early proponents of what has come to be known as women s music, making a couple of real good albums on the Olivia label, and gaining an increasing reputation as a hot songwriter. But knowing all this didn’t really prepare us for the combination of these two. Honestly, they are one of the most exceptional duo performances we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. There is more energy on stage, when the two of them are cooking, than comes from most hydro-electric projects. Their performance is a combination of jazz, blues and country, all rolled into one. They have more fun on stage than Laurel and Hardy, and it’s infectious. We figure that most of you will probably catch the bug.
It was in 1978 at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival that we first picked up the scent of Hungarian folk music. We began a hunt that has ended up with us bagging and bringing Vizonto to our stage. A French folk music journalist who was visiting the Festival left recordings of some of the new Hungarian folk revival groups. We were knocked out! Here was a sound that was different from anything we had ever heard. For years, we tried to figure out how we could get one of these groups to the Festival. Finally, it was in Belgium in 1983 that we at last met a concert organizer and tour promotor who said “Of course we can get Vizonto for you. We work with them all the time.” And so a dream of ours has come true, and we think that the years of chasing around were worth it. Vizonto combines traditional Hungarian folk music with a very progressive approach. And with Vizonto there seems to be no debate on whether or not their music is pure’. The group combines elements of jazz, classics, rock, and builds it all on a base of folk. Vizonto has been in existence since 1972, and have toured extensively. They perform on a wide variety of wind, string and percussion instruments. Theirs is a music of passion and great artistry. The members of Vizonto are Karoly Cserepes, Janos Hasur, Ference Kiss, and Mihaly Huszar.
Years ago we got a box of records in the mail from some distribution outfit in Chicago. They seemed to be right out of someone’s fantasy about the music business. There were things on the Cash in Today label, that featured stuff by artists that, to say the least, you’ll probably never hear. Most of it was pretty forgettable, but one of the records on the ‘Goldband’ label out of Lake Charles, Louisiana was fantastic. It was raw and it was rough, and it was by a woman named Katie Webster who was simply a fantastic singer – we kept it. We didn’t know anything about her, and figured that we’d probably never hear the name again. But lo and behold, about four years later, an agent with whom we do a lot of business remarked offhandedly that he was doing some work with a woman named Katie Webster. Our response was “Katie Webster! She’s hired.” Katie comes from Houston, Texas. Her father was a minister, and before that had been a rag-time pianist in Chicago. Her mother played piano at church. But it was the Fats Domino and Little Richard songs on the radio, coming out of New Orleans that really excited Katie. She started playing professionally at age 13, and by the late 50s was playing session piano with the likes of Juke Boy Banner and Lightnin’ Slim. In 1964, she met Otis Redding. He saw her show, and the next day she joined his band and worked with him until his death in December 1967. She also got to work with people like James Brown, Sam & Dave and Etta James. After that she played as a solo artist, moved to the West Coast, but found herself stuck in the regional blues circuit. Lately she has begun to get more of the attention she most certainly deserves. As a blues pianist and singer, we think that Katie Webster is one of the best performers to come this way in a long time. Katie will be joined by Lex Browning and Bill Uhlman.
Wallflower Dance Order
On the one hand we wanted to expand the types of performance we present at the Folk Music Festival to embrace new things, including more theatre and dance. On the other hand, frankly, most dance leaves us a bit chilly, if not cold. Not traditional dance, which is great fun, but that modern dance stuff. Then we saw the Wallflower Brigade! Never, ever, had we imagined that dance could have such an effect or that a political message could be expressed by the human body with such power and grace. Wallflower Dance Brigade is vital, touching, and always to the point. Their new show contains a dance on South Africa which is like a slap in the face; a piece on a bunch of cops who move like a giant insect which is as funny as anything that Charlie Chaplin ever did; and one on Beirut that is almost impossible to sit through without crying, and much more. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, the Wallflower Brigade was formed in 1975 as a dance-theatre collective. Their aim was to share political perspectives of the feminist movement through expression of their personal stories and through contemporary writing. Although Wildflower’s primary art form is dance, they also incorporate theatre, music, comedy, martial arts, and sign language into their work to create multi-dimensional pieces of strong emotional impact. As this Festival develops and integrates new components we hope to be able to keep a constant supply of wonderful goodies on our stages. We are absolutely delighted we could bring the Wallflower Brigade as this Festival’s first experience with modern dance. The five women of the Wildflower Brigade are Suchi Branfman, Nina Fichter, Pamela Gray, Krissy Keefer, Lyn Neeley.
Kate Wolf is the kind of performer who creates a foundation for a Festival. There is a maturity in what she does that comes from a wealth of experience. Kate has raised a family, made a number of recordings, organized a couple of festivals, written a bunch of met a lot of people, and done a lot of listening. Kate is a strong uncomplicated singer whose tone is sometimes bluesy, sometimes country. She sings about everything from her grandfather to Agent Orange – and she performs gorgeous love songs. Kate’s work is motivated by an understanding of the issues of the day and how those issues affect people. She is a joy to listen to. Kate will be joined at this Festival by Ford James and Nina Gerber.
The Working Poets
We’ve had some poetry at the Festival before but up to now we’ve never really presented any of the fine local poets. We’d heard about the Vancouver Industrial Writers’ Union, which was formed in 1979 as a support and educational organization for people writing seriously about work and the workplace. We were familiar with the work of Tom Wayman, and had read work by some of the others in a great anthology Tom edited called Going for Coffee. So we went to Tom Wayman and said “There are all kinds of songs about work, let’s have some poems about work, especially by poets who actually work at what they poet about.” After a while, Tom came back with a tape, and we loved it. We found that it worked well on stage and so, we have The Working Poets. The Working Poets are: Glen Downie, a musical social worker who works with cancer patients. He does movie reviews for various papers and has published poems in Canadian Literature, Descant, Fiddlehead, Waves, and Quarry. Phil Hall writes about his experiences with elderly people in institutions and as a homemaker. His books of poems include A Minor Operation and Homes. Kirsten Emmott is a physician in general practice in Vancouver with obstetrics as her specialty. She is the winner of the 1985 literary prize of the B.C. Medical Association, and has published poems in Event, This Magazine, and Poetry Canada Review. Tom Wayman teaches at the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver. He has edited Going for Coffee, an anthology of work poems, and his recent books include Inside Job: Essays On The New York Writing, and Counting The Hours. Zoe Landale writes about her experiences as a fisherwoman. She lives in Sechelt and has edited Shop Talk. Her books include Harvest of Salmon.
It was a dinner celebrating the anniversary of Fresh Air, Vancouver Cooperative Radio’s morning Chinese language program, that we first heard Zheng. Out of nowhere it seemed, this guy walked onto the stage and proceeded to play the flute with such grace, talent and style that we were decidedly impressed. We knew right away that we wanted Zheng to perform at this Festival, and happily, he agreed. We have wanted to represent the Chinese community at the Festival for sometime and the music of Zheng Zheng-Hua is a delightful first step. Zheng came to Vancouver from China several years ago, where he was a performer with the Shanghai National Music Association. He plays several types of flute, as well as other traditional Chinese wind instruments. ‘Play’ is not really the right word though; he makes the instrument sing, dance, laugh, cry, jump up and down, turn somersaults, and spit wooden nickels. We’ve never heard anything like it. Some of the tunes are traditional from different parts of China, while others have been composed by Zheng himself. We think that Zheng is going to make anyone who has ever enjoyed the flute stand back in wonder. With him at the Festival will be Julie Lowe on piano.