Thursday, August 13, 2009

Theme Thursday - Festival

Since the theme this week is "Festival", I've decided to go with the famed Newport Folk Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year on August 1 & 2. George Wein, the producer of the festival, brought back a lot of the original line-up, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Judy Collins. He went back to the festival's roots this year, sticking to folk music rather than inviting a lot of pop acts gone acoustic. I couldn't go (I'm currently unemployed and couldn't afford tickets), but NPR streamed the main stage acts and also recorded the acts on the smaller stages, and you can now go listen to the festival archived here.

The last time I was able to go to the Newport Folk Festival was 2005, so here are some shots from that year. I already posted a shot of the Del McCoury Band when the Thursday theme was "Swing", but believe me, there were a lot of other fine acts that year.

The Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio

Bethany & Rufus, with Bethany's dad Peter Yarrow, on one of the smaller stages

Buddy Miller & Friends

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

Emmylou Harris was supposed to have been there that Sunday, but her mother fell down and broke a hip, so Emmy canceled. Gillian and Dave weren't on the schedule but were there as part of Emmy's act that weekend, her "Voices In Harmony" tour, so they stepped in and took her place. Emmy's Mom recovered and is apparently still around and kicking these days.

In the old days of the festival, back in the '60s, not only did you have the stage where the acts played, you had "workshops" where you could jam with folk musicians and hone your skills. You could learn how to play dulcimer with Jean Ritchie, or harmonica with Sonny Terry, or watch various instrument makers do their thing. Those days are long gone; people nowadays don't seem to want to participate, they want to be entertained.

With the loss of the workshops a lot of the more unusual or unique folk acts disappeared from the Newport Folk Festival. But not totally; some occasionally unique acts will play on one of the two smaller stages. But once in a while you get something on the main stage that'll surprise. As for instance this appearance on the main stage in 2006 by Tim Eriksen, showing up with 70 New England area Sacred Harp singers (also known as shape note singing), performing "Calvary" (p. 300 in The Sacred Harp, in case there are any shape note singers out there who want to sing along).

And from this year's 50th anniversay celebration, Judy Collins pulled Joan Baez on stage and they sang Joan's "Diamonds and Rust", which Judy plans to cover on her next CD. Let's hope the producers insist on another duet!

All nostalgia'ed up now? Good! I hope you've enjoyed this week's look at "Festival"! And don't forget to check out the rest of this week's Theme Thursday entries.

Photos & text © 2005 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Looks like a lot of fun. My husband turns 50 this year too. How old does that make these guys!

  2. what a wonderful account of the nff and the pictures! they are GREAT!!!

    fortunately there are still music festivals where people participate in jam sessions and workshops, like the old days of the newport folk festival but they aren't megafestivals like what the nff has grown to be!

    I'd be curious to learn how the ticket prices have changed over the 50 years of the festival.

    thanks for the head's up about accessing the archived festival stream and the vids! wild to see the two grand divas of folk together!

  3. What a great post, Roy! Imagine being able to take a workshop; those were indeed the days.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE shape note singing.

  4. Just looking at the pictures makes me want to tap my toes!

  5. My husband and I attended this festivalby accident about three years ago when staying on English Mountain.
    We really enjoyed it!

  6. This was some great nostalgia, Roy. You captured some of the action. Fun post.

  7. Roy, I'm exhausted-LOL! I think you posted a Bela Fleck vid before, right?( or was that kimy? )Great stuff. Would be cool if they still did the work-shops! But seeing Judy and Joan dueting? Way cool!

  8. much fun. they just had a music festival here with workshops all day...if i played i am sure it would have been fun.

  9. What I wouldn't give to go back in time and take myself and my fiddle to one of those workshops!

  10. I always wanted to take a lesson in the dulcimer. Great photos!

  11. JUDAS!

    [Angrily throws pachouli....]

  12. Great post. Loved the photographs and the clips.

  13. Ah Roy an old Hippy's wet dream! Looks wonderful and you're rivalling the Kimster in the photo department. Nothing like music, warm sunshine, glass of wine . . . We have a similar thing here called the Blues and Roots festival but I haven't been yet. Looks fantabulous. Enough about age girls! We've still got it in our 50's trust me!

  14. I would have LOVED that. Love folk adn its contemporary/progressive versions. Do you like Nickel Creek at all?

  15. Wonderful Photos Roy.I especially like the Gillian Welch & David Rawlings one.Nice One Sir! Have A Great Weekend.