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Posts Tagged ‘folk music’

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Photo: Michael Pierce
Nahko & Medicine for the People performs at the Four Corners Folk Festival in 2018. Recently, a local radio station agreed to take ownership of the festival.

There’s an Allen Ginsberg poem I love to the effect that sometimes things mysteriously appear just when they are needed. I thought of that poem when I read about a small radio station in Colorado’s Four Corners area taking on live shows it never imagined it could afford.

Braeden Waddell wrote about this at Current last summer.

“Public radio station KSUT in Ignacio, Colo., will assume ownership of two annual music festivals Sept. 30 as part of an agreement with local nonprofit organization FolkWest.

“No money will change hands as part of the arrangement. KSUT Executive Director Tami Graham said that the transfer of the Four Corners Folk Festival and the Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrass Festival, both three-day events held in Pagosa Springs, Colo., was ‘an incredible donation’ to the station.

“The organizations had developed a relationship through a partnership of more than two decades, with KSUT sponsoring FolkWest in exchange for live studio sessions featuring artists playing for the festivals.

“ ‘My biggest goal with the acquisition of the festivals is just to maintain a really high level of production quality and a great experience for the musicians as well as the attendees,’ Graham said. …

“The decision was made after FolkWest Executive Director Crista Munro took on a new position heading the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Ore. …

“ ‘It was a bittersweet moment for me, knowing that my chapter at the helm of FolkWest would be ending,’ Munro said in a post on KSUT’s website. ‘KSUT always seemed like a natural choice to take over our events. They do an amazing job with everything they produce, and Tami Graham brings a ton of live music production experience to the table.’ …

“Munro told Current that KSUT ‘believed in the vision’ she and her husband had for the festivals. ‘If it were anyone else taking this on, I would be a lot more nervous,’ she said. …

“In an interview with the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society, Munro said that the Folk N’ Bluegrass festival brings in about 2,000 attendees per day and the Four Corners Folk Festival draws nearly double that. …

“KSUT does not plan to make any ‘significant changes’ to the festivals but does aim to expand FolkWest’s Pagosa Folk N’ Bluegrass Jam Camps, which provide three days of music classes for adults and children.

“ ‘There’s a lot of grant funding available for music education … to support bringing in world-class stringed instrument musicians, for example, that want to want to teach and work with adults and youth,’ said Graham. … ‘This is just a perfect fit.’ ”

More here.

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This is the story of how a song saved a cultural center in the Catskills.

Dennis Gaffney writes for the NY Times that at a recent celebration of success,  “Jay Ungar, a fiddler wearing a black vest and hiking boots, and his wife, Molly Mason, playing guitar, stood on a stage in a barnlike performance hall that did not exist a year ago. ‘Can you stand to hear this tune one more time?’ he asked the audience. …

“The tune is ‘Ashokan Farewell,’ the bittersweet lament familiar to millions as the theme song that the filmmaker Ken Burns used for the emotional crescendos of his Civil War series. But most do not know that Mr. Ungar’s moving hymn helped save the Catskill place that inspired the song, resulting in the Ashokan Center, a $7.25 million campus here dedicated to traditional music, Catskill history, environmental education, and local arts and crafts. …

“Many still assume that Mr. Ungar wrote ‘Ashokan Farewell’ with the Civil War in mind. But he wrote it on a September morning in 1982, after the end of his third Ashokan summer music and dance camp on this property, which the State University of New York at New Paltz owned and had used since 1967 as a field campus for environmental education.

“ ‘I left on a cloud of utopian euphoria,’ Mr. Ungar said of that summer. ‘You try to keep it alive, but it evaporates.’ ”

The song went on to have a life of its own, and Ungar even performed it at the White House. NY Gov. Pataki had heard it, too, and when a dismayed Unger contacted him about the pending sale of the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge,  the governor took action.

Soon a lot of people were on board, with the wistful song always at the heart of their efforts.

Writes Gaffney, “Mr. Ungar has come to believe that his song, like a traditional hymn, evokes much more than loss. In the mid-1990s, he got an e-mail from a man in Africa who said he was driving in his car when he heard ‘Ashokan Farewell’ on the radio. ‘He started crying uncontrollably and he had to pull off the road,’ Mr. Ungar recalled. ‘He said that in his culture, after the age of 10, men don’t cry, but he needed to cry.’ ”

More.

Photo: Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason playing “Ashokan Farewell” at the Ashokan Center.

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A 91-year-old Hindu gentleman has joined the tai chi chuan class I take Saturday mornings. His wife brings him a little after we have started, and he walks slowly between the wall of mirrors and the line of practicing students to sit in a folding metal chair, where the teacher explains the upper-body part of the exercises so he can join in. Age has not kept him from that.

After today’s class, I was driving home and heard Susan Stamberg interview Marian McPartland, 94, here, on National Public Radio. A fantastic jazz pianist, McPartland recorded her last Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz show only two years ago — after 33 years — but continues as artistic director. She is also the subject of a documentary called In Good Time that highlights the day in August 1958 when she was part of a famous photo of jazz greats in Harlem, below.

Speaking of nonagenarians, folksinger and activist Pete Seeger, 93, showed up on Colbert recently. At first I thought he was not answering a question and was wandering, but it soon became clear he was unfurling a story in his own way and that it would end precisely on point.

Seeger still splits logs to heat his house with wood. And his banjo playing hasn’t aged a bit.

Photograph: Art Kane/Art Kane Archives

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The bimonthly magazine called the Utne Reader likes to showcase alternative and contrarian views on the news. Here’s a sort of hands-across-the world story about taking bluegrass music to Afghanistan.

“My name is Peyton Tochterman. I’m a musician from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I make my living writing, teaching and performing American Folk music—the music that tells stories in notes, chords and verse about who we are and what we Americans are all about. And I’m now in war-torn Afghanistan. …

“In little more than a week we have already met thousands of Afghans and found them to be kind, generous, hospitable, talented and honorable. They take great pride in their heritage and culture, but they also have a thirst for American Folk Music, for the stories we tell, our instruments and the way we play. The Afghan musicians with whom we played are some of the best in the world and were eager to share their masterful techniques and songs.

“Some might ask, ‘What difference can a folk singer from the Blue Ridge Mountains make in a tortured place like Afghanistan?’ It’s a valid question—partly answered by one of the State Department officers who said our visit did ‘more for diplomacy between Afghanistan and the United States than any diplomat had done, more then any road that was built, or any power plant that was constructed in the last year.’ ” Read more.

Photograph of Peyton Tochterman: The Utne Reader

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