One of the best things about having a folk festival lineup that includes mostly home-grown talent? There’s bound to be some impromptu, spur-of-the-moment jam sessions on stage. The 36th annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival begins today, with a lineup that’s 90 per cent local, 100 per cent excited to take to the stage.
“Like (musician) Matthew Byrne said a while back, we can’t remember when all these people were in town together,” said Gord Delaney, the folk fest’s marketing and sponsorship co-ordinator. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Some of the best of the best in Newfoundland and Labrador folk music talent will be in Bannerman Park this weekend, including The Once — their first time performing at the festival in five years — Amelia Curran, The Dardanelles, Andrew James O’Brien and The Searchers, Idlers, Masterless Men, Sherman Downey and the Silver Lining, Danette Eddy, Crooked Stovepipe, The Punters, Seven Deadly Sons, All the Wiles, and The Forgotten Bouzouki.
“It’s amazing — I don’t recall this ever happening before,” The Once’s Geraldine Hollett told The Telegram. “I think people are going to be surprised and proud at the calibre of the music and talent that’s coming out of this province.”
While there are some bands coming in — including Vishtén, James Keelaghan and Qristina and Quinn Bachand — the decision to stick with mostly local talent this year was partly a conscious decision, partly a necessity. Last year wasn’t an easy year for the festival, when rain and hurricane-force winds pushed it out of Bannerman Park and into Mile One Centre.
“We did take an economic loss last year, and we needed to be conscious of that,” Delaney said. “But we know we can still fill the park with talent from home. We really wanted to invest in our own.”
In addition to the festival’s main stage, there are a number of smaller ones: the Oral Traditions Tent, the Instrumental Tent, the Dance Tent, Homemade Jam, the Cultural Diversity Tent and the Neil Murray Stage, featuring a lineup of youth-only performers. The folk fest is the only one of its kind in Canada to have a dedicated stage for youth.
Storytelling, poems, jokes and dance performances, workshops and events are held each day, beginning at 10 a.m., Delaney said.
For the fifth year in a row, the Francophone Tent, sponsored by the French Cultural Network of Newfoundland and Labrador, will also be on site, with performances by artists like Mary Barry, Colleen Power, Erin Best and Sandy Morris, and Jim Fidler.
“Republic of Doyle” actress Krystin Pellerin, a singer and a Francophile, will also do a short set.
“I wanted to offer the public a heartfelt connection with the beautiful, diverse sounds of ‘la francophonie’ from here and abroad,” Barry, who is the tent’s program manager, said in a written statement. “Integration of the Francophone culture by so many English-speaking artists in the province inspires me profoundly.”
Delaney said barring hurricane winds, the festival is prepared to stay in the park through all types of weather, though the forecast is co-operating so far.
Hollett can’t wait to set foot on the stage.
“Five years, how did that even happen? We never get to be home at this time of the year, and it feels excellent. We get love, but not like here.”
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