Showcasing N.L. talent

Justin Brake
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33rd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival will feature more than 40 acts

If you ask 10 people what they're looking most forward to during the 33rd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, there's a good chance you'll get 10 different answers.

Continuing the custom of showcasing the province's best emerging talent, its most established traditional artists, and now, it seems, an annual notable reunion, the festival's also attracting bigger headliners.

The Neil Murray Stage devoted to showcase young performers is a feature attraction at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. - Submitted photo

If you ask 10 people what they're looking most forward to during the 33rd Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, there's a good chance you'll get 10 different answers.

Continuing the custom of showcasing the province's best emerging talent, its most established traditional artists, and now, it seems, an annual notable reunion, the festival's also attracting bigger headliners.

Running Aug. 7-9 at Bannerman Park in St. John's, the event will feature more than 40 acts, including Gulliver's Spree, The Art Stoyles Band, Ron Hynes, The 8-Track Favourites, The Folk of Labrador, The Benoit Family, Garnet Rogers, Andy M. Stewart and Gerry O'Beirne, The Idlers, Allan Ricketts and Glen Collins, The Ray Walsh Family Band, The Dardanelles, The Masterless Men, Rawlins Cross in the band's anticipated St. John's reunion, and 2008 Juno award winner for "Best New Artist" Serena Ryder.

Although the Folk Arts Society works to bring in a major commercial headliner like Ryder each year, society president Anita Best says the festival's focus will always be on tradition.

"It's really important to us to emphasize the heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador," she explains.

"When people are less known, if you can pair them up with people who are more known, that gives (them) a bit more exposure."

Back by popular dema-nd and likely here to stay will be the Homemade Jam tent, the site for "old time sessions" Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The Neil Murray Stage should be another hot spot as some of the province's youngest talent make their festival debuts.

"I'm most excited about the Neil Murray Stage and the morning sessions," says Best. "They always interest me more than anything else. But that's just me, you know. I'm an old folkie."

The morning sessions, which run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, include the "Oral Traditions" singing sessions, various jams at the "Instrument Tent," and the audience interactive "Dance Stage," where festival goers can learn a country Scottish Dance or even an Irish set dance.

Residents of Brigus will get their own special pre-festival concert featuring Scottish singer-songwriter and former Silly Wizard frontman Andy M. Stewart and Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gerry O'Beirne at St. George's Anglican Church, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.

Among the more anticipated performance is the St. John's reunion of Rawlins Cross Sunday evening on the festival's main stage.

Band member and veteran Newfoundland roots musician Dave Panting joined former Figgy Duff band mates last summer as they performed a reunion set at the festival. He recalls the set, which had people raving for days after last year's festival.

"That Bannerman Park set took me back to when I was 18 years old when I first started playing with Noel and them. It took me back to 1974," he says.

"I think we're gonna have a good time," he says of the Rawlins Cross reunion. "The band's a little different dynamic. It's not all Newfoundlanders, it's Nova Scotians as well. But we formed in Newfoundland - that was the roots of the band.

"In some ways we've all got quite a bit more experience. I mean, we learned a lot in that band. We were together for 13 years but there's also a bit of individual development over the last 10 years or so that's really coming into play in the new band."

Panting, also making appearances with Gull-iver's Spree and The Forgotten Bouzouki Friday evening, says the festival possesses significant meaning for him.

"We have a mandate to look back, take the good things and see where it all came from," he says. "I think that's what the festival has been about for me over the years. My daughters grew up going to the festival ever since they were babies and I've watched that happen, so I have a loyalty to the event and I really feel that it's an important event."

O'Beirne, who will also join Stewart for a set on the main stage Saturday evening, has spent the better part of his life living and playing in different parts of the world, such as Ghana, England, the United States, and Mexico, but says he has recognized one central commonality in music wherever he goes.

"What is common in music everywhere is in a way difficult to describe, perhaps because it's a larger question, 'What is music and what is it for?' he says.

"Maybe what it all has in common is a desire to answer that question, to tug a little bit at the veil between the world we see around us and the world of the imagination, of the soul."

Given his Irish roots, O'Beirne's coming to Newfoundland holds special significance.

"I've never visited before, but I'm looking forward to listening to some (Newfoundland music) at the festival. I'm sure I'll hear a lot of the music of home in it."

The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival takes place Aug. 7-9 at Bannerman Park in St. John's.

For more information, including admission prices and a full schedule of events, visit www.nlfolk.com or call the Folk Arts Society at 709-576-8508.

Organizations: Folk Arts Society, Anglican Church, Rawlins Cross reunion

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Bannerman Park Brigus St. George's Ghana England United States Mexico

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  • liz
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Re Panting's comment about Rawlins Cross not being all Nflders. I'd like him to know that Joey Kitson is from Ch'town, PEI and was born and raised there and not Nova Scotia.

  • liz
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Re Panting's comment about Rawlins Cross not being all Nflders. I'd like him to know that Joey Kitson is from Ch'town, PEI and was born and raised there and not Nova Scotia.