Friends, Fun and Frolic at Seattle’s Folklife Festival

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Last Sunday, K and I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival, and had a lovely time.

We started with a shape-note singing group.  What are shape-notes, you ask? We turn to good ole’ Wikipedia, and learn that “Shape notes are a music notation designed to facilitate congregational and community singing…Shapes were added to the note heads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.” This was the first time I heard this live. I found it very stylized and interesting.

We then had lunch, wandered around listening to random music, watched people and bumped into friends.

Later in the day, we went to the Liars and Tall Tales session. Here contestants have to tell an improbable story and tell it well. This was great fun, with the first and third prize winners from Portland. I must remember that next time I meet someone from Portland!:-) What a variety of styles there were. And some great belly laughs!

Then we stayed on for a didgeridoo-playing workshop conducted by Doug Bridges and
?Ted Hunter. There were about 100 other participants each ‘armed’ with a 30
inch plastic tube to practice with! We had a crash course on the basic drone, on
vocalizations and layering sounds, and some hints on circular breathing. And a quick demo by the instructors. Great teachers, and lots of good clean fun!

Next step: to hear Jim Page, an old-fashioned folk singer, whose songs are a conversation. Jim has performed at Folklife since the first one 40 years ago, in 1971!

Finally we met with more friends and heard more acoustic music. One of the things about Folklife is hearing emerging artistes. The best we heard this year was Holly McGarry, a singer-songwriter from Sandpoint, Idaho, who’s just turning 18. She has this grown-up rich voice, lovely phrasing, and a light touch on the guitar. Listen to this piece by her. We’ll be hearing her in years to come!

All in all, a good day, filled with friends, music and learning. The Folklife Festival is one of the reasons I like Seattle !

I’ll leave you with another view of Folklife that I found on the Evri site.


About Chandra

Interested in people, language, ideas, technology and their interactions.
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