Peter Alsop came to our attention via an album that had songs on it that were certainly out of the ordinary: songs about sniffing glue, transvestites covered in marmalade, things like that. So we invited him to the Festival last year and discovered that beyond the many humorous and satirical songs Peter has written there is also a very serious side to his music. Peter writes songs that simply no one else is writing today. He writes a lot about changing of traditional sex roles, single parents, the relationship between adults and children. And what’s important is he does it without being trite. Peter also does a lot of other people’s songs; he has a wide repertoire of Woody Guthrie material, anti-mike songs and kids’ songs. If you missed him last year, make a point of hearing him this year. We’re happy to have Peter back.
When the folk boom first hit Britain in the late ’50s, it was inspired mainly by American groups such as the Weavers, It was only during the early ’60s that British folk singers began learning the incredibly large volume of traditional British material. Frankie Armstrong, from Cumberland, England, began singing in 1957; she was one of those who was there at the beginning and has become, over the years, one of the pillars of the British traditional music scene. Singing unaccompanied, she is one of the finest singers we have ever heard. She’s worked with Ewan MacCoIl and A.L. Lloyd and has recorded albums that range from songs about Nelson’s Navy to seventeenth century erotic ballads. In the last ten years she’s increasingly been singing contemporary songs dealing with women and their lives. Frankie was at the Festival in 1979 and we sure missed her last year.
Holly Arntzen and Vancouver’s Finest
Holly Arntzen plays fiddle tunes on the French horn, plays a mean dulcimer and when she’s backed up by a superior collection of Vancouver jazz musicians, she belts out some hot blues and does Bessie Smith with the best of ‘em. As well, she’s also a fine songwriter. Up until recently, Holly Arntzen was one of the best kept secrets on the west coast; lately she’s been invited to play at more and more festivals in the rest of the country. Last year Holly came to the Festival alone, but after hearing her with the band led by her father Lloyd Arntzen, one of the finest clarinet players in town, we wanted Holly back at the Festival with the band: Lloyd on clarinet, Doug Parker on piano, Tom Hazlitt on bass, Ken Moore on drums and Red Bovie on trombone.
Roy Bailey is head of the Department of Applied Social Studies at Sheffield Polytechnic in England, which is not why we invited him to the Festival, but shows that we folkies are as learned as the next lot. Along with Frankie Armstrong, Martin Carthy and Lou Killen, Roy began singing traditional songs in the early 1960s. He also began singing many songs which commented on contemporary social, political and personal issues. In 1964 he began working with Leon Rosselson, a collaboration which has continued to this day. Roy and his wife made a highly acclaimed album of children’s songs, and he has released two solo albums of mainly traditional material. Those who have only heard him on record with Leon Rosselson will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Roy is an outstanding solo performer, a superb singer, with an extremely varied repertoire.
Duncan MacGillivray on bagpipes. guitar, whistle, vocals; Brian McNeill on fiddle, viola, cittern, bouzouki, mandolin, concertina, hurdy-gurdy, vocals (whew); Alan Reid on pedal organ, synthesizer, electric piano, guitar, lead vocals; and Ged Foley on mandolin, guitar, Northumbrian pipes, vocals, are the Battlefield Band, representing Scotland at the Festival this year. Those of you who liked Silly Wizard and the Tannahill Weavers last year will not be disappointed. The Battlefield Band has been in existence for almost ten years beginning in the pubs of western Scotland and touring increasingly throughout the British Isles and Europe. This is their first visit to North America and we have a feeling it won’t be their last. They play traditional music with a progressive approach that is very respectful of the tradition and yet allows them to be startlingly original in their arrangements and presentation. Whether it be instrumentals or ballads, the Battlefield Band is inventive, dynamic and a new dimension to Scottish music.
Jarvis Benoit Quartet
If you hailed from Arichat, Nova Scotia, you wouldn’t have to ask who Jarvis Benoit is– you’d know that he is one of the best fiddle players in the country. Jarvis Benoit began his professional career playing harmonica on a street corner in Watertown, Massachusetts. He was five years old. In the 1930s he took up the fiddle in earnest, playing traditional Scottish, Irish, French and Maritimes tunes as well as hot jazz and swing tunes. Until quite recently Benoit did not venture much out of the Maritimes where he spent the ’40s playing in the Acadian Playboys and the ’50s playing big band music. Now he has a quartet with his son Louis on guitar and mandolin, Andrew Russell on guitar and banjo, and Alex Reirsma on the string bass. The group is eclectic in its style that ranges from traditional fiddle tunes to ’30s and ’40s swing material and through it all they are one hot string quartet.
Bim is a bit of an enigma. In a sense he defines the musical contradictions of our generation. There he was in 1975 with just his guitar in some of the biggest rock halls in the country, opening for Supertramp and Santana. Still he’s one of the finest interpreters of early country music that we’ve ever heard. If anyone can successfully combine the medium of folk presentation with the intensity of rock-and-roll, Bim can. He hails from Dawson Creek and grew up listening to Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and Hank Snow. The songs he writes are extremely unique, reflecting no single influence but rather are a synthesis of all kinds of music. For a while Bim toured with his rock band and made some great records that seem to belie his presence at a folk festival. Yet he has an uncanny ability to be able to play great rock-and-roll with a band and still succeed as a dynamic solo acoustic performer. We welcome him back to the Festival.
A voice that is easily adapted to sing just about anything: an old Animal’s hit, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, Dory Previn’s “Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister’ ‘,one of Connie Kaldor’s fine songs, or one of her own compositions such as “A Woman’s Anger” (look in the program book). That voice be-longs to Heather Bishop, an artist, a carpenter and a hell of a fine singer. She sings blues, pop tunes, women’s music and some great songs about the prairies where she grew up and about the people who live there. Heather lives outside of Winnipeg and since taking up music as a professional career about five years ago, she has criss-crossed the country from Quebec to the Yukon, singing at folk festivals and concerts. She’s a fine guitar and piano player, but it is mainly her voice that you remember which we all do from her visit here at the 1979 Festival.
If it’s got strings, Ken Bloom can pluck ‘em; if it’s got a reed, he can blow it; if it’s got a bag, he can squeeze it. Whether it be Irish fiddle tunes on the Ukrainian bandura, a little bit of Django Reinhardt on the guitar, a traditional British tune on the Northumbrian small pipes or country and western played on the concert zither, Ken is at home with an incredible number of instruments. He can move from one musical culture to another with ease and virtuosity. While he does this Ken is both entertaining and pedagogic. He allows us to see the similarities and differences among a variety of musical traditions. This is a rare talent and accounts for Ken’s popularity at past Festivals. Those of you who heard Ken before, will be glad to have him back, and those of you who have not heard him before are bound to be delighted and amazed.
For more than 40 years the Highlander Center in Tennessee has been a focus for maintaining and encouraging the self organization of the people of Appalachia. For the last 20 years this is where Guy Carawan has worked, building the cultural self awareness and self confidence of the people of the region and helping those people organize to fight their common enemies, from unsafe working conditions in the mines to racial discrimination. He was part of the first group of American folk singers to visit China in 1958, losing his passport when he returned with Cho En Lai’s autograph on his banjo. Guy threw himself into the civil rights movement of the early ’60s where he was probably as responsible as anyone for turning “We Shall Overcome” into an anthem that was heard around the world. He plays banjo, hammered dulcimer and the penny whistle among other things, and he is an exceptional singer. With his wife Candie he has co-authored a number of books on music of the Appalachians. Whether it is traditional Irish instrumental tunes or songs about strip mining, Guy Carawan expresses the joys and sorrows of working people and their lives. That really is what folk music is all about.
Martin Carthy and The Watersons
Martin Carthy is one of Britain’s premier folk singers. He’s been awarded so many “best vocalist” and “best guitar” in folk music by the British press that it isn’t even news anymore. Although Carthy has been playing folk music for a living since the early ’60s he really only gained notoriety when he began working with Steeleye Span, the group that set the tone for British folk rock. A less known fact is that it was Martin Carthy who taught Paul Simon the traditional British folk song that was played on every am radio station in North America as “Scarborough Fair”. Carthy is a brilliant guitarist, playing in a unique style, and a magnificent singer. He breathes a life into traditional songs in a way that we’ve rarely heard before. As if having Martin at the Festival isn’t enough of a treat, we are doubly pleased to have him here with the Watersons. The Watersons have been called “the Beatles of folk music” and have had a profound influence on British traditional music since they first began performing and recording in the early ’60s. They sing a cappella, British traditional songs, and they have a genius for seeking out original material and giving it their own individual treatment. They have a strong sense of rhythm and style and do brilliant harmonies. This is surely a rare opportunity to hear them as their tours are infrequent to say the least.
We first heard about Joanna Cazden through the singing of Betsy Rose and Cathy Winter, and as we inquired about Joanna we heard more and more rave reviews. She brings to her audiences a wry, topical humour, contagious optimism and a powerfully beautiful voice. She’s best known as a feminist singer and songwriter who also has a good grounding in traditional material, including a wide repertoire of New York state ballads. She’s taught voice and will hopefully be sharing some of her voice technique secrets in participatory workshops at the Festival. After hearing her music for so long on records and performed by other people, we are very pleased to finally get the chance to hear her in person at the Festival.
For the last few years people have said to us, “Why don’t you book Betty Chaba for the Festival?” Well, to be truthful, we never really thought of Betty as fitting into the format of the Folk Music Festival as we had always heard her with electric rock bands. When Betty phoned up and said, “Why don’t you book me for the Festival?” we said send us a folk music tape, and it was only then that we discovered how blind (or deaf) we had been. Betty Chaba is a great country singer; she has a collection of music that would rival a jukebox in an Austin bar, and injects these songs with that high lonesome sound that makes country music special. She’s also a songwriter whose compositions have a great sense of humour and a lot of guts; so does Betty for that matter. Betty’s been playing and singing for over ten years since she started with a country and western band in Edmonton. She’s worked extensively as a background vocalist and with Ladies in Lights. This is her first appearance at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
Can a graduate of the University of North Carolina’s music department and a well-to-do Washington, D.C. nightclub singer find happiness giving it all up to make a living singing her songs for exclusively women’s audiences? For Meg Christian it was a bold and risky step. For those of us who have come to appreciate women’s music it was the beginning. Meg Christian was the first-no professional musician before her had made a living singing exclusively women’s music. Since 1973 Meg has sung at colleges, universities, festivals, clubs and women’s centres all over the United States, Canada and Western Europe. She was the featured artist in the 1978 issue of Guitar Player magazine, and excerpts of her songs have been published in a dozen journals, including Rolling Stone. She’s also a founder of Olivia Records, a women’s recording company with a large and impressive catalogue that, like Meg Christian, broke new ground in North American music. We presented Meg in concert last September and we were pleased and a little surprised at the sold-Out response. For those of you who couldn’t get tickets then and for thousands of you who have not had an opportunity to hear Meg, we wanted her to come to the Festival and were pleased when she accepted.
Marg Christl is very simply one of the finest traditional singers in North America. She was born in England, grew up in industrial Scotland where ill health and poverty were a way of life. After the death of her parents she moved to west Wales where she won her first singing award at the age of 11. She came to Canada in 1966 and has sung in concerts and festivals across the continent. She’s played every major festival in North America including Mariposa, Winnipeg and Philadelphia, and was at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1978. She is one of the few traditional singers in this country who has done extensive research and collecting of Canadian traditional songs, finding some real gems from such out-of-the-way places as Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland and Devil’s Island, Nova Scotia. She sings a cappella and is equally at home with ballads of poetic love as she is with her vast collection of erotic and bawdy songs.
When we began telling people that we had booked a group from Toronto of Chileans and Greeks with a Mexican flute player, people looked slightly askance. Those who have heard their album have been converted into ardent fans and we have a feeling that before this Festival is done, Companeros is going to win over the Festival audience as they have every other audience they have played for. The group got together in a Toronto coffee house called the Trojan Horse after being driven from Chile and Greece by the brutal dictatorships that ruled those countries, and in the case of Chile, still rules. The group is eminently political; they play music of the Latin American resistance movement, Andean flute music, Greek revolutionary ballads and many original pieces composed by members of the group. They have participated at many political and cultural gatherings, singing to the people of many lands the songs of their culture and their struggle to maintain that culture. Companeros is: Juan Opitz, Demetre Apostolou, Javier Garcia, Nicolas Tsingos, Marcelo Puente, Ricardo Rivas, Zacharias Polatos. Companeros is a word that is hard to translate into the English language. It means friend, it means companion, it means comrade. It means you share a common purpose. It is in that spirit we welcome our companeros to Vancouver.
Elizabeth Cotten is assured a place in the history of North American folk music for writing “Freight Train” in 1905 when she was 12 years old. Now approaching 90, she’s still going strong and after a fifty-year vacation from music has been playing the length and breadth of North America for the last 20 years, bringing to audiences a style of black music that predates blues and jazz. She sings spirituals and many folk songs she heard as a child, as well as her own songs. She’s also a great guitar player. None of this, however, really says enough. Elizabeth Cotten is a unique figure; she is one of a handful of people who can let us hear an almost-vanished American folk culture. The music she preserves existed before radio, phonograph records, and the commercialization and mass production of popular music. Elizabeth Cotten takes us back almost a century and gives us a view of a world that most of us can never know. In that sense an opportunity to hear her is very special and we are honoured that she accepted our invitation to return to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
Dance All Night
Although the name Dance All Night is probably unfamiliar to almost everyone at the Festival, the members of this new group are widely known to festival goers and fans of old-timey music and folk music in general across Canada and the United States. Debby McClatchy is no stranger to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, having been part of the first and second Festivals. Her music comes from two very distinct heritages: her mother, reared in the hills of Tennessee, and her great-great grandfather who left Belfast for the California gold rush in the mid-nineteenth century. Her material ranges from old-timey banjo tunes to Irish street songs to adaptations of the poetry of Robert Service. Bob Carlin and David Brody, making up the rest of Dance All Night, were members of the Delaware Watergap, one of the finest old-timey string bands that ever existed. Bob is a brilliant banjo player who has recently released an album of fiddle tunes adapted to the banjo, while David Brody is a fiddle virtuoso. Together, Dance All Night plays everything from old-timey dance music to Yiddish music of New York, Irish fiddle tunes to hot swing favourites. Although this is their first visit to Vancouver as a group, we have a feeling the name is no misnomer–our toes are already tapping.
Diamantose is a group that is probably closer to a contemporary version of “real” folk singers than anyone else at the Festival. They have passed the supreme test of public rapport and support, and made their living singing on the streets of Vancouver, San Francisco, Edmonton, and lots of other places. The core of the group (it seems to expand and contract as required) Jacques St-Laurent, Sylvie Loiseau and Remi Tremblay are from Quebec. They play lots of instruments ranging from the glockenspiel to guitar, and have a repertoire that includes all kinds of music from Quebec, Celtic traditional tunes, and various and sundry delightful surprises. They have told us that it is hard for them to feel at home playing inside, so we, in our turn, thought it was only fair to present them outside where they belong, delighting and amazing you at this year’s Festival.
Hazel Dickens comes from West Virginia, from a coal mining family. Most of us first heard her as one-half of Hazel and Alice, a duo that gained an almost legendary reputation and won many new fans for traditional country music. Songs from Hazel and Alice albums were picked up by everyone from New Riders of the Purple Sage to Emmylou Harris to Linda Ronstadt. While Hazel’s compositions, “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There” and “Working Girl Blues” won her a place in women’s music circles, the songs she sings, whether hers or those she’s chosen to interpret, speak of the poignancy and tragedy of the daily lives of common men and women and simultaneously testify to the irrepressible vitality and growing awareness of those same people. Several of her songs were incorporated into the sound track of the Academy Award winning documentary Harlan County, U.S.A. Her material ranges from primitive Baptist hymns sung a cappella to coal mining songs to country standards. Whether singing alone or backed up by a full band, Hazel Dickens is a powerful and compelling performer: one of the best.
Duck Donald Band
Bluegrass music is undergoing something of a revival in these parts these days: people are beginning to listen, and play more of it than ever before. Some of the new converts talk like they discovered it; Duck Donald and his cohorts have been playing it for more than a decade. Duck is the best mandolin player in bluegrass music in Canada. In fact we put our money on Duck in any country. He’s also a singer with incredible range and knows as many traditional bluegrass and old-timey songs and tunes as anyone we’ve ever met. As part of the duo of Cathy Fink and Duck Donald and later the Cathy Fink-Duck Donald Band, Duck introduced audiences across the country to the music of the Delmore Brothers. Bill Boyd and His Cowboy’ Ramblers and dozens of other obscure but great performers of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. The Duck Donald Band features Darcie Deaville on guitar and vocals. Darcie is an incredible flat picker whose experience and virtuosity defies her youth. Matthew Reimer is a superb banjo player who also has an impressive repertoire of country gospel tunes. Tom Jansen on bass rounds out a band that is sure to win a lot of friends at this Festival or at any other.
Alexander Eppler Group
The presence of the Alexander Eppler Group at the Festival reflects a new musical direction that we have gone into this year. Although we have had bits and pieces of eastern European and Russian music at the Festival before, we have never had a group that played this music exclusively. We’re further convinced that we could not have picked a better way to begin in this area than with Alex Eppler and his associates, Robert Undorf and William Cope. Alex Eppler is a native of Seattle and began playing the balalaika as a child, influenced by his mother who is from Irkutsk, Siberia. Later he became interested in the music of Bulgaria and went there to live and study in the early 1970s. He studied the kaval, or flute, teaching at the Music School in Haskovo and playing with the State Ensemble in Plovdiv. He returned to the United States where he became an internationally noted maker of woodwinds and continued to play the balalaika, kaval and write symphonic compositions. He recently gave a solo concert at Carnegie Hall in New York and is completing an album of kaval music. He will be accompanied at the Vancouver Festival by two similarly talented and experienced musicians who specialize in eastern European stringed instruments, including the Russian domra and balalaika. We predict that the music of Alex Eppler and his friends is going to be one of the surprises of the Festival.
David Essig is nothing if not versatile. He’s a fine songwriter basing his original compositions on the bluegrass and blues he grew up listening to in the United States. On a guitar he’s able to operate in several distinct areas. He’s a great slide guitar player, playing the National steel guitar that gave so many rural blues players their distinctive style; on his Martin he finger picks Irish fiddle tunes and his own compositions. He’s also a hot mandolin player, playing Celtic and bluegrass music equally well. There’s lots of country material in what he does. David’s travelled from the Arctic Circle to Rome, Italy, playing at festivals, concerts, and making and producing records. We’re glad to see him back in Vancouver.
The Fiction Brothers, Alan Senauke and Howie Tarnower, have been performing together for eight years, playing bluegrass, old-time, gospel, blues, and original music with compelling instrumental drive and powerful vocals rooted in the sound of country music’s early brother duets. Both Howie and Alan are prize-winning instrumentalists, proficient on guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola, which they play in all possible combinations. Their music reflects an incredible variety of American traditional and early country music. From a song by Georgia Sea Islands’ Bessie Jones, a Texas prison work song, country gospel tunes, a Delmore brothers’ composition to original instrumentals.., they play all this and more. Bluegrass fans will be familiar with their work as part of the infamous Country Cooking crowd which was a leading family of east coast bluegrass mafia. Those folk aficionados might remember Alan Senauke as the editor for several years of SING OUT! Magazine. Anyway you look at it the Fiction Brothers come to us highly recommended.
A walking compendium of old-timey music and possessing a similarly encyclopedic knowledge of early country tunes, Cathy Fink is no stranger to this Festival or to country and old-time music audiences just about anywhere in North America. After years of playing as half of Cathy Fink and Duck Donald, and later the Cathy Fink-Duck Donald Band, Cathy moved south to Washington, D.C. near her old home town, Baltimore. There she’s been playing in every kind of old-timey band around as well as pursuing a very successful solo concert and workshop career. Cathy is a virtuoso banjo player and equally virtuous fiddle player, and has recently added the button accordion to her baggage. She is extremely knowledgeable of the music of women performers in country music and plays compositions by some of our favourites like Patsy Montana and Lily Mae Ledford. She plays lots of stuff for kids as well. We think Cathy Fink is one of the reasons that old-timey music is going to survive and we’re delighted to welcome her back.
The Old Time New Age Chautauqua
featuring The Flying Karamazov Brothers, West Wind Travelin’ Vaudeville, Lancelot the Unicorn, and Two Dozen Other Performing Groups, Jugglers, Fire-eaters, Magicians, Puppeteers, Educators, and Healers
What can we say? Last year the Flying Karamazov Brothers were one of the hits of the Festival. This year they are returning with an incredible gaggle of vaudevillians, magicians, jugglers, sword swallowers, bubble blowers, and yes, folks, a unicorn (no, it’s not a deformed goat). This marks the entrance of a whole new element to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival: vaudeville! It’s also a medicine show. Part of the group is a collective of doctors who, between amazing and entertaining performances by the above mentioned crew, will talk to you about your health (no snake oil will be sold). There’s really not room here to describe what the show looks like (we, ourselves, are not really too sure what we’ve got here). All we know is that for a few hours each day they will be setting up on one of the workshop stages and we’re sure that nothing we can say here will properly prepare you for what you will see there.
Stefan Grossman is a guitarist. True, but that’s a little like saying Michelangelo did a few sketches. Stefan is from New York where he began playing guitar in the early ’60s, and studied with some of the greatest bluesmen who ever lived. In that sense Stefan is their heir. Legendary names like Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt and Son House were his teachers. When he was 18 he put together the Even Dozen Jug Band which included Steve Katz (later of the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat and Tears), John Sebastian (later of the Lovin’ Spoonful), and the now internationally known piano player Joshua Rifkin. In late 1966 Stefan Grossman played for the Fugs whose impact on anyone who’s heard them defies description. At the same time Stefan began writing instruction books for playing the blues guitar; those books have probably introduced more people to that style of guitar playing than anything else. Grossman is a consummate guitar player. He’s worked with everyone from Janis Joplin to Eric Clapton to recent collaborations with Pentangle veteran, John Renbourn. Whether playing traditional country blues, his own compositions or jazz tunes by Charlie Mingus, Stefan Grossman is one of the finest guitar players on the face of the earth.
Sarah Ogan Gunning
When we sat down to tell you a bit about who Sarah Ogan Gunning is, we decided it had been better said by others. We thought Woody Guthrie described it well when he wrote of Sarah “…she’s worked and slaved and fought to save the children of her own home, and to keep her own house, and she was so full of the union spirit that she found time to get out in the wind and rain and the hail of bullets from the deputies guns, and make up her own songs and sing them to give nerve and backbone to the starving men that slaved in the coal mines… Sarah, there ain’t a man living that can give you as good a write up as you need… nor tell the love and the hate that is a beating in your heart. I done my best. I’m just praying and a hoping that your songs will “mow them rich guys down’ ‘-and I know they will.” Sarah’s from Kentucky and was involved in the coal strikes of the early ’30s. She’s seen her husband die of black lung disease, her children die of starvation. She wrote a song called “I Hate the Capitalist System” that in its simplicity and honesty says more about workers’ struggles in North America than 10,000 “poetically” composed “protest songs”. She also sings old English ballads, children’s songs and gospel songs. To listen to Sarah Ogan Gunning is to hear the beating heart of the history of the working class. That is a rare opportunity indeed, and we are honoured by her presence here.
The Harmony Sisters
The Harmony Sisters describe themselves as three women performing traditional music of the southeastern United States on a variety of acoustic instruments. That’s pretty straight forward. They play guitar, fiddle, cello, banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, penny whistle, kazoo and triangle. They play songs of the Carter family and Cajun music. They sing old Baptist hymns, country love songs and write songs themselves. Alice Gerrard is probably the most well known member of the group to folk festival audiences. She was half of Hazel and Alice, one of the great contemporary country duos that came out of the folk music revival. Irene Herrmann is a classically trained cellist and pianist. Since she discovered folk music she’s fallen into playing Swedish fiddle tunes, Italian mandolin music and ’20s and ’30s jazz and ragtime. Jeanie McLerie is a hard-core folkie and organic gardener who paid her requisite dues street singing in Paris and in folk clubs all over Britain. Lately she’s been immersing herself in Cajun music and learning New Mexican dance music. You can probably say that the three of them are themselves a walking folk festival. The Harmony Sisters reflect the increasing prominence of women in all areas of folk music.
Joe Heaney is a sean nos singer and shanachie. This is a position in Irish society more or less equivalent to being the Library of Congress. He is the repository and preserver of the rich history and legends of Ireland which he tells in story and song. The recent boom in Irish instrumental music has tended to overshadow the incredible wealth of Irish vocal music Joe Heaney will set that straight at this Festival. Joe’s songs and stories date back beyond the time of St. Patrick who, after all, was a relative latecomer in 432 A.D., almost all the way back to Tuatha De Danann, the mysterious race that established Irish civilization 3,000 years ago. With his voice alone Joe Heaney brings us the ballads, ditties, stories and jokes of Ireland from that time until the present, songs of kings centuries in their graves, songs of the great Irish immigration of the last century and their ceaseless struggle against British domination, love songs and humorous songs. He is considered by many to be the greatest living Irish traditional singer and we certainly consider ourselves part of the many. This is his first visit to Vancouver; we hope it will be the first of many.
We first heard Priscilla Herdman singing poems by Henry Lawson, Australia’s great folk poet. We were utterly charmed and it was only later that we discovered that far from being an Australian, she’s in fact from the east coast of the United States. But the fact that we could think that she was Australian testifies to the way that Priscilla Herdman integrates her persona into her material. The more we heard, the more we liked. Priscilla has been compared to Judy Collins before Judy Collins discovered pop music. Priscilla has a magnificent voice and a great collection of songs. She can go through a songwriter’s portfolio with an unerring ability to pick the best from it and give it an individual interpretation, be it a song by Stan Rogers or Tom Waites, show tunes from the 1930s or “Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?” Give Priscilla a listen; we think you’ll be glad that you did.
Those of you who were at last year’s Festival were undoubtedly overjoyed to see that we have invited Hot Rize back this year. They impressed us in every workshop they were in and knocked us out with their bluegrass concert on the main stage. For those of you who didn’t get enough last year of Pete Wernickon banjo and steel guitar, Tim O’Brien on lead vocals, mandolin and guitar, Charles Sawtell on vocals and guitar, and Nick Forster on bass, you’re going to get a second chance; for those of you who’ve never heard them before, you’re in for a treat. If you want to hear bluegrass gospel, hot banjo picking and guitar playing, Hot Rize is one of the best bluegrass bands around to do it.
The best word to describe Vera Johnson is irrepressible. We’re sure glad that she’s on our side for all that dedication, energy, talent and sheer stubbornness is something to behold. Vera writes songs and she’s been writing them for a long time. If she reminds us of anyone it’s Malvina Reynolds or Woody Guthrie. She writes songs for all occasions, mainly political but not always. Her political songs deal with Che Guevara, Viet Nam, women’s liberation and other things in the world at large to numerous topical songs about lots of things that have happened right here in Vancouver.
Vera lives in Vancouver sometimes; she also travels a lot to England, Germany and all over Canada. She’s got this old guitar case, a backpack and generally at least one shopping bag which can contain anything from newspaper articles (the basis for a new song), science fiction novels (inspiration for another song)or records and songbooks which she will sell to anyone at any time who shows the slightest interest in her music. After a year’s absence from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival we miss her and we’re glad to have her back.
Si Kahn is not a full-time musician or singer. Mainly he’s a union organizer, sometimes a community organizer. Most recently he was working for the textile workers’ organizing campaign that broke the back of J.P. Stevens Textile Empire in North Carolina, bringing unions to those mills for the first time in history after over 50 years of organizing attempts. Si writes songs about the things he does and about the people he meets and about the places he’s been. They are great songs. More and more people are recording them and generally getting them around. Whether it be coal strikes in Kentucky, a boy’s first consciousness of gay people in Georgia, shooting pool after your lover ditched you, running moonshine, or a young man’s first sexual experience, Si’s songs are accurate and compelling reflections of human life on his part of the planet and touch the experiences that many of us have had, and he articulates them in a way that most of us cannot. His singing and guitar playing are simplicity itself and in that simplicity there is strength and conviction which makes him an exceptionally powerful performer. Make sure you get to hear him.
Connie came to last year’s Festival with a small coterie of fans and a great reputation as an entertainer. She’s returning this year to the anticipation of thousands of people who heard her last year and to thousands more who now have heard of her and are waiting to see what all the fuss is about. We regard Connie Kaldor as one of the finest songwriters in this country. She constantly amazes us with what she is able to do with a language as inadequate as English. Without getting mystical on the subject, there is a certain prairie spirit in Connie’s songs; there’s also humour, pathos and self confidence that is infectious. Connie writes about the way things are: there’s no cheap sentiment, self-indulgence or cliché’s in her music. In some ways her music is best 4 described as cabaret and showcases her years of experience in professional theatre. In addition to her own material Connie knows a lot cheap, sentimental, self-indulgent, cliché ridden country songs that Tammy Wynette would blush at. We’re going to try to get her to sing some of those too.
Some of you who were at the second Folk Music Festival will remember a band that took the audience by storm, holding clarinets, trombones above their heads, yelling ‘The Jews have horns.” That music was klezmer music. Well this year we are pleased to bring that music back with Kapelye. Kapelye (the Yiddish word means a band) is a unique group in the world of Jewish music. Dedicated to the preservation and performance of traditional Yiddish music, this band plays the full gamut of material reflecting this culture. Utilizing fiddles, clarinet, accordion, piano and tuba dance tunes to songs from the Yiddish theatre from unaccompanied ballads and Hasidic parodies to songs from the Yiddish leftist movement. All the songs performed are sung by members of the band who are fluent in Yiddish and the full text is translated for the audience. The members of Kapelye: Michael Alpert on fiddle; Eric Berman on tuba; Ken Maltz on clarinet; Henry Sapoznik on fiddle and vocals; Leon Skulnick on bayan (Russ accordion) will shortly be seen in a Hollywood film version of the Chaim Potok novel, The Chosen, starring Rod Steiger.
Sometimes it seems that at this Festival we are holding a reunion for musicians of the British folk music revival. Like a number of other British performers coming to the Festival, Lou Killen is from northeastern England where he began singing in the 1950s. He was a founder of the Folksong & Ballad- Newcastle, a folk music club which to this day plays a leading role in British folk music. He’s been a professional singer for 20 years. Lou Killen’s performance style successfully relates the traditional music and love of his native culture to a sense of history and its relevance to life today. He brings to life scenes from the past, through song, story and ballad. He is a teller of tales, large and small, spoken or sung, which reflect the lives and views, real or imaginary, of ordinary men and women, be they farm or factory worker, sailor or sinner, loved or lost. He is a presenter of the common people’s view of history, as portrayed in their tales and music. His most recent album of industrial songs is a masterpiece of bringing to life the thoughts of workers a hundred years ago and more. At a Festival where we decided to give a certain emphasis to British traditional singers, Lou Killen is indispensable.
It would be impossible to present the music of Eastern Europe without having a good representation of the group singing of the women of Eastern Europe. Laduvane which means “a woman who is singing” specializes in this rich body of music handed down for centuries by women who sing to make the work easier and the heart lighter. Laduvane are six women who live in Cambridge, Massachusetts; they are all extremely skilled vocalists and when those six voices blend together a cappella it is an experience nothing short of sublime. They sing songs from Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, from all over the Balkans. They’ sing children’s songs, work songs, humorous songs, animal songs, and ballads: all part of the rich heritage of Balkan music. The singing of Laduvane: Harriet Topson, Jan Downey, Anabel Graetz, Mary Dee Ramee, Mary Ann Fernandez and Jana Buchlolz will definitely make the heart lighter this weekend.
Quebec can rightfully claim to be a stronghold of folkloric tradition in North America. The Eastern Townships claim to have an exceptionally large body of traditional music; they have long been a crossroads for native Quebecois, New England Yankees and immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and England. It is from Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships that Matante Alys bring their fiddles, accordions, mandolins, guitars, tin whistles and more to delight you with their traditional and contemporary songs and tunes. Since they formed in 1977 the group has toured extensively across North America and Europe as well as in its native Quebec. Their work in France has had yet another influence on their music. However, the dynamism and inspiration of the music of Matante Alys stems first and foremost from the people of Quebec. This group is in the forefront of a generation that is seeking both to preserve its cultural traditions and to create a new voice for a nation that is exerting its unique identity. Matante Alys, Jacques Bizier,Gilles Bernier, Renald Lavoie and Rene Veilleux, bienvenue.
It’s hard to decide where pop music, folk music, country music end or begin. Mary McCaslin seems to slip effortlessly in and out of these categories, defying any classification, and does it all with a great deal of finesse. She can cover a Ray Charles tune, accompany herself on the banjo while singing “Pinball Wizard”, perform great songs on her own and then with Nashville perfection, do a country duet with her husband, Jim Ringer. Mary is a great singer and we feel that the mark of a great singer is one who can sing lots of different kinds of songs and make a wide variety of styles their own. She is also a great guitar player; you will find some of her comments on open tuning guitar playing in this program book. What really ties Mary’s music together is that it is extremely straight forward and that for us is the bottom line of what we want to see at the Festival.
Joe and Antoinette McKenna
Joe McKenna grew up in Dublin, just a stone’s throw away from Cumann Piobairi Uillean or Piper’s Club. a great centre of traditional music. Maybe it was the pipe tunes wafting into his bedroom as a child or his parents’ love of traditional music that at any early age started him playing the tin whistle. Shortly thereafter his parents got him a set of Irish pipes and sent him down the street to study with Leo Rowsome, one of the great pipers of this century. Joe quickly proceeded to win the All-Ireland Championship for piping two years running. He’s regarded today as the best of the younger pipers, and we think one of the finest at any age. Antoinette McKenna also comes from Dublin. She began studying the harp when she saw one as a young girl that her uncle had built. On summer trips to the western part of Ireland she became enamoured of the local traditions of the region and became a fine traditional singer. Together Joe and Antoinette represent the great wealth of Irish traditional music, both the instrumental and vocal variety, and we were overjoyed when we learned they would be touring North America this summer and could come to the Festival.
Michael, McCreesh & Company
Walt Michael plays the guitar and hammered dulcimer. Tom McCreesh plays the fiddle. They both sing, and along with Mark Murphy they play just about every kind of traditional music you can imagine, from Irish jigs to Appalachian breakdowns, traditional mountain ballads, recitations and some real tasty contemporary songs. They’ve worked string bands, bluegrass bands, and lately as a trio. Their influence comes from a variety of experiences such as Walt’s church singing and his time spent in southwest Virginia and Tom’s early influences from his Irish parents. They were chosen to represent American music at the Thirteenth Olympic Winter Games-what’s good enough for the Olympics is good enough for us. We’ve been fans of Michael, McCreesh & Company since we heard their first album a couple of years ago, and we are happy to welcome them to Vancouver.
When we first heard about a group that had three bagpipers, a guitar player and a drummer and lived in Toronto, we were a little skeptical. We kept on hearing about them studying in Brittany, playing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and finally we got a tape. Skeptics no more, we think that Na Cabarfeidh is a group that is making a great contribution to expanding the horizons of traditional and progressive Celtic music. The group is Trevor Ferrier, Pat O’Gorman, Grier Coppins, Ian Goodfellow and Dick Murai. Ian, Pat and Grier all began the study of the Highland bagpipes in their early teens as part of the large Scottish community in Toronto. Trevor spent ten years apprenticing with John Kerr, the foremost exponent of Highland drumming in Canada. The group branched out from Scottish music and began to explore the traditions of Ireland and Brittany. Their years of experience and research make them one of the most interesting groups playing Celtic music anywhere. We think that the Vancouver audience is in for a pleasant little surprise.
Faith Petric is an honest-to-God product of the American west. She was born in 1915 in a cabin on the Clearwater River near Orofino, Idaho. Her father was an itinerant preacher, school teacher, farmer, carpenter and inventor, and played a bunch of instruments and sang. Faith started singing in church, in one-room schools. In 1925 she discovered cowboy songs and country music and in the ’30s began singing the protest songs of the great socialist movement that came into existence then. Faith sings every kind of song you can think of: traditional songs, topical songs, labour songs, cowboy songs, foreign songs, homegrown songs, women’s songs, and children’s songs-she’s as diverse and multifarious as the world. She’s also been the godmother of the San Francisco folk music scene for years where she introduced a gospel singer named Odetta to folk music. Recently Faith has returned from an extended stay in England and a trip to Egypt. Who knows what she’s brought back to sing for us at this Festival?
U. Utah Phillips
Utah Phillips is a songwriter, storyteller and treasure chest of working class songs and history. He knows piles and piles of songs about the west. He sings subversive ditties to children and adults. He’s got a collection of the funniest stories we’ve ever heard and some of the most tender love songs as well. Phillips is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or Wobblies which pioneered industrial unionism in North America and, as a side effect, produced some of the most magnificent songs about working and organizing that have ever been written. Phillips knows those songs and it is here that his vocation as a lay historian comes into play. Phillips is a compendium of popular American history: tramp songs, railroad songs, mining songs, logging songs. He writes songs about people he’s known, places he’s been and the things he dreams about at night. He’s a master at his craft.
If anyone can be credited with developing a sound which is distinctive to British Columbia, it is Rick Scott and Joe Mock. Their music is a combination of rock-and-roll and country and western with a liberal dose of the kind of improvisational jamming you could only hear at 3:00 in the morning in the back- room of a health food store in the Kootenays or at a food co-op meeting on one of the Gulf Islands. It is home-grown. The only thing we’ve heard that approaches it is the music of the Holy Modal Rounders; Pied Pear’s got that kind of craziness and the same kind of compelling approach. They have played every Legion hall in the province and opened for Jose Feliciano on a western Canadian tour. You’ve got to be good to survive that. They write songs that no one else could have written and play guitar and dulcimer in a way that no one else can play. They manage to avoid mortal threats like Big Record Contracts and T.V. Stardom, and all we can hope is that they will continue to be Pied Pear and keep coming to this Festival.
No one who was at last year’s Festival is going to have trouble remembering who Jim Post is. It’s one of those nice things that happen at a festival: he walked out on stage totally unknown to the audience and 25 minutes later 6,000 people were on their feet, screaming for an encore. So we thought we’d have him back this year. For those of you who’ve only heard about him, Jim Post is, in a word, versatile; some may say versatile to the point of being schizophrenic. He can project a manic energy that turns this sole solitary figure into an entire theatrical troupe complete with orchestra and a cast of hundreds. That’s what many people remember most. There is another side of Jim Post, though. He is a songwriter and interpreter of incredible sensitivity who is able to capture every nuance in a song and create an intimacy that makes you think you are in a tiny coffee house instead of in the midst of hundreds of thousands of people. Either way you cut it, Jim Post is a great addition to any folk music festival.
The world is a wide and wondrous place and the music human beings make is equally diverse and intriguing. One of Vancouver’s cultural resources, Randy Raine-Reusch, explores that music with a versatility that breaks down the artificial barriers that are so often created in the music of various cultures and civilizations. The khaen, for instance, is the traditional instrument of Thailand with 18 reeds made out of bamboo; you might not know that it is related to the Chinese Sheng or the Japanese Sho, but Randy does. He can also play it. By doing so he allows you to understand just a little bit more about the possibilities for human expression through musical instruments. Randy plays the dulcimer and related instruments and once again he can talk about how the dulcimer derived from the European folk zither and its relationship to the Siberian ka’chinz. This is not gratuitous academicism. To know where you are, it is nice to know where you came from. With his large collection of instruments and years of study of their similarities and differences, Randy Raine-Reusch can make a lot of sense out of the seemingly impenetrable confusion of a wide variety of different types of music: a useful talent and an important one.
Jim Ringer has a voice like gravel, the stage presence of a fence post and is utterly charming and compelling. There is no pretension here. Jim Ringer sings every song like he’s been there, whether they’re the songs he writes himself or great songs by often obscure writers that he somehow manages to find. Jim grew up in the southeast United States but spent most of his time on the west coast. Here he has gradually developed a reputation as being one of the best country singers around. He sings a lot of ballads, simple down home songs that always have something to say that are interesting, useful and valuable. He’s also a very funny straight-faced comedian; he doesn’t over-do it. Take, for instance, the song on his latest album, Endangered Species: “He Used to Take Acid but Now He Loves God, But He’s Still Got That Look in His Eyes”. That song is funny, but just below the surface it’s serious as a freight train. Whether singing on his own or with his wife Mary McCaslin, Jim Ringer is worth listening to.
Anne Romaine is a country singer and songwriter who has sung in night clubs, union halls, tent meetings, and on college conceit stages all across the country. She was born in 1942 in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina. She began playing the piano and singing gospel music in high school and a few years later she turned to country music, accompanying herself on guitar and autoharp, which all seems pretty straight forward and almost a cliché. What makes Anne Romaine different, however, is that she is intensely political. Her politics led her and Bernice Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock, to launch the annual Southern Folk Festival tour in 1966. Anne writes songs about the struggles of workers and women, and all those terrible and wonderful things that men and women do to each other. Her voice is straight country and is one of the finest we’ve heard in quite some time. But more than anything else it is the songs she sings that make her special. She integrates into the classic country music tunes the reality of the south and the people’s lives there, not the fantasy that so much music from Nashville perpetrates. We think that Anne Romaine is one of the people who is bringing country music back to the working class where it belongs, dealing with real problems with real feelings, and we’re proud to welcome her to her first performance in Vancouver.
Leon Rosselson has the delightful distinction of being the only British singer at this Festival who, to our knowledge, neither knows nor has ever sung a song of the sea. This is quite an accomplishment for someone who has made a living for the last 20 years in British folk clubs. It may make him unique. If that doesn’t, the songs that he writes certainly do. Leon’s songs are political, not in the sense of being “protest” music, but in the sense that they deal with all the various components of human existence, from religion, the British monarchy, nuclear weapons, urban development, all the way to how children are socialized. We are sure that many people find his songs treasonous, seditious, thoroughly subversive and a threat to God, queen and country. They are correct, and it is for this reason why we have invited Leon back to the Vancouver Festival this year. With all the media coverage about the royal wedding we thought it only sporting to give the other side a chance.
Where is Eutaw, Alabama? Well, it took us a while to find it on the map and then we discovered there wasn’t a phone listing for Jane Sapp. We phoned around for a while until finally we got a number and then got Jane on the line. She had about as much of an idea where Vancouver is as we had about where Eutaw is: we guess it’s all in how you look at things. At that point we had never heard Jane Sapp on either concert stage, record or tape; what we had heard, though, were a lot of glowing recommendations from people whose judgments we value highly. So we thought we’d trust our friends and invite Jane to come to the Festival. Later we heard one song by Jane on an anthology album of Anne Romaine’s, Oh, What a Time! We were knocked out; everybody we played it for was knocked out. We think you’re going to be knocked out. Jane Sapp teaches in Eutaw, Alabama. She also sings spirituals, blues and contemporary songs of the struggles of the people in the south. She accompanies herself on piano, and that’s about all we know about her, but we’ve got a sneaky feeling that she’s going to be one of the surprises at this year’s Festival.
David Sereda is young, about 23; he may be the youngest performer at the Festival. This is a good thing. Frankly, we sometimes get worried: we look at ourselves and our audience and it seems like folk music is the music of those who are about to discover the joys of being 40, a sort of nostalgia of the ’60s. The fact that there are songwriters who are in their early twenties and have talent and are not interested in sporting blue hair, swastikas carved in their forehead and safety pins in their ears, is somehow comforting to us gently-aging souls. David comes from Edmonton, is a classically trained pianist, studied voice, trained in theatre, writes some really interesting songs and sings some traditional Acadian ones. He gets better every time we see him. He totally mesmerized the audience at a concert Connie Kaldor was giving when she invited him up to do a song (they’re good friends, fellow Edmontonians and mutual admirers of each other’s music). He was one of the high points of the Regina Folk Festival earlier this year. He’s been playing in Vancouver the last couple of years to a growing and enthusiastic audience. If you’re interested in knowing where contemporary folk music is going, make sure you listen to David at the Festival. As they say in the trade, “he’s a comer”.
Rosalie Sorrels, Terry Garthwaite and Bobbie Louise Hawkins
We have to say they are the essence of versatility. Here you have a trio composed of an ex-beatnik poet from Texas (Bobbie), a hardcore folkie whose first album was of traditional songs of Idaho (Rosalie) and a former rock star (Terry). As individual performers who most of the time do not work as a trio, Rosalie, Terry and Bobbie are stunning. Rosalie Sorrels has been singing for years and years and has a repertoire as big as the sky and some of the most interesting stories you ever heard. She’s got a voice that could tear you apart, then two minutes later put you back together and make you feel so good. She can sing cowboy songs, country love songs, other people’s songs and lots of wonderful songs she’s written about herself, her children and her life which is twice as interesting as most novels you might have read. Rosalie has been honoured with glowing tributes from as widely diverse individuals as Malvina Reynolds and Hunter S. Thompson. Terry Garthwaite can sing the blues like no one else. She’s a reason why Joy of Cooking cooked. She’s one of the finest vocalists anywhere in any style of music; she’s equally at home with jazz, blues and early pop music as well as her own songs. Terry has some kind of mysterious power over an audience that locks it into what she’s doing. Bobbie Louise Hawkins writes poetry, short stories and novels. She’s basically a raconteur, an honourable talent and a great asset to a folk festival. She’s got the same kind of ear for the varieties of the English language as Mark Twain had, the same kind of ability to capture the essence of a person or a situation with just a few sentences, be it a story set in a farmhouse in Texas or on a coffee plantation in Guatemala, Bobbie makes you feel like you are right there. Like we said above, as individual performers they are stunning. Together, whenever time and circumstance permit, these three women sharing a stage weave a magic that is, frankly, beyond our capabilities to describe.
Sukay are old friends of this Festival and we missed them at the last one; people came up to us with accusing looks in their eyes and demanded, ‘Where’s Sukay?” We patiently explained that to keep the Festival interesting we never have anyone back more than two years running, and assured them that Sukay would be here in 1981. Sukay plays the music of the Andes, music from Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. They play all the traditional instruments of the region: panpipes, flutes, the charango (10-stringed mandolin made from an armadillo shell), harp and a bunch of exotic things like a string of sheep’s toenails and a giant seashell. They sing in Spanish and Quechua, the traditional language of Bolivia and Peru that predates the coming of the Incas. We never met anyone who is not totally captivated by the music that Sukay makes. They have played all across North America from 3,000-seat concert halls in New York to a 40-seat coffee house in Hazelton, B.C. Through their music they have opened up the ears of thousands of people to a music that carries with it the power of a people who have preserved its traditions for centuries. It is with anticipation and joy that we wait for the chance to hear Edmund and Quentin Badoux, Javier Canelas and Gonzalo Vargas of Sukay.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
No one who has ever heard Sweet Honey in the Rock sing will forget them or confuse them with anybody else. They are black women singing unaccompanied and are without parallel. When you hear their songs you are hearing the story of a people struggling to survive to maintain themselves and their culture in their own image. The songs are old, from the days of slavery and lynch mobs and segregation. The songs are also new because Sweet Honey in the Rock writes songs that speak to contemporary times as well. They sing about Joanne Little who was trial for murder after killing a prison guard in North Carolina when he tried to rape her; they sing songs of the civil rights movement of the 1960s; they sing the words of a Senegalese poet. Bernice Johnson Reagon, the founder of the group, began singing with the SNCC Freedom Singers in Albany, Georgia. They travelled across the United States, bringing the message to tens of thousands of people of what was happening in the south. It was during this time that Bernice learned the relationship of music to black people’s struggle for survival and its strength as an organizing tool. Since 1973 Sweet Honey in the Rock has carried on that work. More than 16 women have participated in the group at one time or another. Last year they took the Festival by storm and returned in the fall to give two sold-out, jammed-to-the-rafters concerts. Sweet Honey in the Rock-the sound of black women singing a thousand years.
Dave Van Ronk
Dave Van Ronk is an institution. He will probably dislike being called an institution. He doesn’t like being called a folk singer. Be that as it may, his impact on contemporary folk music justifies the first statement. The folk revival in North America dates from the late ’50s and early ’60s. Dave Van Ronk was one of the people who formed the bridge between the traditional performers, most of whom are now long gone, and those who are today carrying on the musical traditions of those people. Van Ronk is a master on the guitar and has been credited by many with being the inspiration for ragtime guitar finger picking. He plays a lot of early jazz, and nobody can sing traditional blues as well as he can. He has a voice that has incredible range from your basic gravel to a sweet falsetto. In a business where being called a legend or an institution generally means you used to be able to do something well, Dave Van Ronk is like good Scotch: the more time passes, the better he seems to get.
Townes Van Zandt
There isn’t a lot we can say about Townes Van Zandt; we don’t really know that much about him. He comes from Texas, lives in Tennessee and writes some very interesting songs. He’s been compared to everybody from Bob Dylan to Hank Williams to James Agee to Nietzsche. You figure it out. He wrote a song called ‘Poncho and Lefty” that a lot of people now sing. On that song alone we would have wanted Townes to come to the Festival, but there’s more. There’s a beautiful love song called “If I Needed You” that Doc Watson recorded. ‘In fact most of the time you hear Townes’ songs sung by other people; his own records (he made seven of them) are very difficult to find. Townes Van Zandt has been an enigma and a legend. Lots of people have heard his music, but nobody has heard him; certainly not around here anyway. After admiring his songs for a number of years, we decided to correct that situation this summer.
Eric Von Schmidt
Eric has had the good sense to give up playing music for a living to loll in idle luxury, writing and illustrating books and painting pictures. We imagine that not being on the road for eight months of the year keeps him sane. Unfortunately it also keeps most people from ever getting a chance to hear someone who’s had a fairly profound influence on North American folk music. Eric Von Schmidt was part of the Cambridge folk scene in the late ’50s which produced an incredible number of extremely talented singers and songwriters such as Joan Baez, Maria Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and others. Eric predates the folk revival, however, having gotten interested in the late ’40s in traditional music, both black and white. He was listening to Ledbelly when Ledhelly was still alive. More recently Eric has been writing and singing his own songs, though he still maintains his love for traditional music. Eric brings to the Festival over 30 years of experience as a collector, interpreter and writer of folk songs, both traditional and contemporary. He’s one of the reasons why folk festivals like this one exist and we are looking forward to having him visit us. Eric has just completed a history of the Cambridge folk years called Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.
Nancy White first came to prominence for many of us as we lay in our beds Sunday mornings, listening to those satirical little ditties on the CBC. The sweet strains of tribal drums in the jungles of Botswana…would let one know with certainty that it was in fact: a) morning, and b) Sunday. We always got up and listened to the songs that followed-satire at its best. Yes, this is the same Nancy White. However, Nancy White is also a songwriter who’s written many serious songs dealing with topical themes. She’s developed an interest in Latin American music and sings many of the wonderful songs of Victor Jara and Violeta Parra of Chile, and others. Recently, Nancy has been doing a cabaret show entitled “The Last Virgin on the Planet” in honour of the royal wedding, in addition to playing at folk festivals, labour conventions, and at the recent ACTRA Awards. Pretty diverse, eh? She’ll be accompanied at the Festival by Doug Wilde on piano.
In El Salvador today a civil war is being fought between the forces of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) supported by the vast majority of the population and the military/Christian Democratic junta supported by a tiny clique of wealthy land owners and Ronald Reagon. Yolocamba Ita are coming to Vancouver to sing in the name of those who have taken up arms to fight for their freedom. They represent the workers, peasants, students and intellectuals of El Salvador, and we are honoured to provide them with a platform. The group began in 1975 as part of the “new song movement” that swept Latin America during the late ’60s and early ’70s. They began to attempt to rediscover the popular culture of El Salvador buried by the dominance of North American pop music. They wanted to express the reality of their people through traditional songs and compositions that dealt with contemporary political themes. They now live in exile and tour the world as part of a cultural commission of the FDR. Through their songs they speak of what is happening in El Salvador, the oppression of that people and its heroic struggle that is gaining ground every day. They sing of the barricades that are springing up, the army that is being formed, the growing sense of victory that is present there. They are truly the representatives of an entire people that has taken up arms to end once and for all the misery that they have endured under an endless series of brutal military regimes. Today we welcome Yolocamba Ita to Vancouver and hope that their presence here will help win friends for their struggle. We look forward to a day that we are sure will come sooner than later when they can return to Vancouver as the representatives of a victorious revolution and a new El Salvador.
Special Guest: Earl Robinson
Just as we were going to press we learned that Earl Robinson was quite accidentally going to be in the Vancouver area while the Festival was going on. Earl Robinson has the distinction of writing “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill” in 1925 as well as composing “Ballad for Americans” which was one of the most popular radio broadcasts ever aired, and dates from the early 1940s. He’s renowned for his knowledge of labour songs as well as many other compositions. We are proud to have him as a guest at this Festival and have asked him to join Utah Phillips and Si Kahn at a workshop of labour songs on Sunday afternoon.