'Really good music'

Justin Brake
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The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival kicks off tonight boasting one of its most diverse lineups ever. It's part of the "Folkies Without Borders" theme organizers chose to celebrate the relationship and ancestry folk shares with other forms of roots music.

"We want to make sure we represent the living traditions," explains Newfound-land and Labrador Folk Arts Council chairwoman Anita Best, who had a hand in selecting this year's performers.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival kicks off tonight boasting one of its most diverse lineups ever. It's part of the "Folkies Without Borders" theme organizers chose to celebrate the relationship and ancestry folk shares with other forms of roots music.

"We want to make sure we represent the living traditions," explains Newfound-land and Labrador Folk Arts Council chairwoman Anita Best, who had a hand in selecting this year's performers.

"It's not just a dead culture we have," she says. "It's a culture everyone's participating in."

With that, the festival will feature performances by artists from an array of musical backgrounds, including Sylvia Tyson, Andy Irvine, Roy Johnstone, blues act The Roger Howse Band, local reggae-ska outfit The Idlers, and a special reunion performance by legendary Newfoundland ensemble Figgy Duff.

"We went with what we thought would be a good mix," explains Best.

Traditional Newfoundland powerhouse Shanneyganock will cap off the three-day event Sunday evening with their only St. John's performance of the summer.

"We play a lot of festivals," says the band's lead singer Chris Andrews, explaining the band just came off a 10-day tour of the island that included festivals in Twillingate, Bonavista and Harbour Breton, "but here, this is our festival.

"At the end of the day, it's the main festival for our type of music."

Newfoundland troubadour Ron Hynes, who will perform on the main stage tonight, began his career around the same time the folk festival started and shares Andrews' sentiment on the event.

"The folk festival is so important to us because we have a longer history of original and traditional music," he says, explaining the uniqueness of folk music in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It stems from local storytelling, poets in small towns all around the island and in Labrador who wrote songs about things that happened in their communities," he continues. "(The songs) weren't written to be published ... they were written to define who the people were.

"At the folk festival here, you get a chance to see that kind of performer."

In addition to the slate of professional performers the festival is bringing in this year, organizers have also committed to creating a niche for young performers, amateur artists and the general public, says Best.

"We're really trying to get the audience to participate this year," she says, explaining the motivation behind the new workshops.

The "Homemade Jam" tent will attempt to bring to life the spirit of kitchen parties through various themed jam sessions.

"We'd like them to bring their instruments and be ready to join in," adds Best.

Other morning sessions include "Oral Traditions," which will feature professional musicians sharing their knowledge of various types of song and the "Instrument Tent" and "Dance Stage" will feature workshop-style sessions facilitated by professional musicians and dancers.

The Neil Murray stage will house young local talent, many of them making their debut live public performances, on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

2008 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Don Randell and Ted Blanchard will also be recognized during the festivities.

"It's very important in our culture," Andrews says of the festival's role in recognizing music and culture in Newfoundland, "what we did, what our grandparents did, the struggles of life.

"And besides, it's really good music."

Weekend passes for the 32nd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival are $60 for adults and $40 for students and youth. Day passes are $25 and $15 respectively and session passes are $15 and $10.

For more information visit www.nlfolk.com.

Organizations: Labrador Folk Arts Council

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Twillingate

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  • Susan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Figgy Duff played at the Bella Vista last night & they were so phenomenal that words simply can't do justice to the performance. Everyone was spot on and they just melded together so beautifully. Most of it was the fast paced lively jigs & the band all played hard & fast - beautiful. This will be the highlight of the festivals for many years. Thanks to everyone for your great musicianship & for all you've put into your craft and Rob (Laidlaw), it's easy to see why the Duff adopted you - you fit in so well. Pamela, you play a driving guitar, Dave, your mandolin playing is the definition of the purity of the instrument, George, you're meant to be there great drumming, Frank - seamless, effortless beautiful accordian, Phil, you're really appreciated on bodhran & Kelly - your fiddle & timekeeping are impeccable. Bruce & Derek - your playing was very much appreciated. Do yourselves a favour & buy the Silver Reunion CD - just released (recorded 10 yrs ago) - the sound is so clear & its so lively - I think/hope it'll be one of the bestselling NL CD's ever. it was worth everything that went into it and it is an amazing treasure and I can't wait to hear the younger groups picking up the tunes. Pamela, I hope there's more tunes that can be mastered & I hope that the Quebec documentary team produce & get wide distribution. Thanks to Anita & crew for a fabulous program.

  • Susan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Figgy Duff played at the Bella Vista last night & they were so phenomenal that words simply can't do justice to the performance. Everyone was spot on and they just melded together so beautifully. Most of it was the fast paced lively jigs & the band all played hard & fast - beautiful. This will be the highlight of the festivals for many years. Thanks to everyone for your great musicianship & for all you've put into your craft and Rob (Laidlaw), it's easy to see why the Duff adopted you - you fit in so well. Pamela, you play a driving guitar, Dave, your mandolin playing is the definition of the purity of the instrument, George, you're meant to be there great drumming, Frank - seamless, effortless beautiful accordian, Phil, you're really appreciated on bodhran & Kelly - your fiddle & timekeeping are impeccable. Bruce & Derek - your playing was very much appreciated. Do yourselves a favour & buy the Silver Reunion CD - just released (recorded 10 yrs ago) - the sound is so clear & its so lively - I think/hope it'll be one of the bestselling NL CD's ever. it was worth everything that went into it and it is an amazing treasure and I can't wait to hear the younger groups picking up the tunes. Pamela, I hope there's more tunes that can be mastered & I hope that the Quebec documentary team produce & get wide distribution. Thanks to Anita & crew for a fabulous program.