Different definitions of “folk” circulated on Saturday of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
It’s challenging to understand workshop etiquette. It’s a format unique where musicians who have never met are supposed to make music together for an hour and a half. There was a reason that Stage 6 was packed on Friday evening with names like Bears Den, Danny Michel, Jenn Grant, and John Smith. The talent is all there together on stage; whether it succeeds or fails is dependent on the participating Artists.
I find the most successful workshops are ones where there is an Artist or host that is the right balance of being bossy yet friendly. That way they can decide on a song and also indicate who should be the next Artist in the progression of solos. Watching a workshop where is no interaction is like watching kids move the skipping ropes for double dutch but nobody is brave enough to jump in.
The Magical Moments Friday session on Stage 6 finally hit its stride once they realized that doing cover songs was a good place to start. Bears Den started the series of covers with Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Everybody from the fiddle player to the trumpet players from different bands jumped in on some solo lines. Even singer/songwriter, Danny Michel, put his guitar down and hopped in behind the drum kit. John Smith followed up with “I’m on Fire,” and when it came Jenn Grant’s turn, she held her smartphone and referenced it to sing the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s “Lover, Lover, Lover” with confidence. The final sounds of the workshop were the interwoven voices of Bears Den and Jenn Grant looping the word, Lover.
It was another example of spontaneous music-making that exists in a fleeting moment of time.
Wish I Was There
Sable: The Inside the Covers sessions looked pretty interesting with two Mainstage acts, Hudson Taylor and Phosphorescent singing cover tunes in addition to Holly Williams. I love a good covers session.
Twila: Parsonsfield. What I heard of them was fantastic, and I’m loving the EP that I picked up. Hopefully I will get to see them again in the near future.
Sable: Bear’s Den. Their full voiced harmonies and poignant yet simple lyrics had a raw confidence to them that made me a big fan.
Twila: The best laid plans…you know the story. I had planned on going to Sunday’s ‘Let’s Talk About It In The Morning’ -I did research on the performers and everything. But I was waylaid by Stage 5’s ‘Hymns and Laments’ and was I ever thankful that I was drawn to this workshop full of Canadian favourites James Keelaghan, Rose Cousins, Ruth Moody and, John Mann. The integration of performances and the respect & admiration that was on the stage radiated out into the audience. The spirit of cooperation was easily heard as Cousins and Moody blended their voices beautifully. I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the place after Keelaghan sang McConnville’s or perhaps maybe the most memorable moment was the laughter and heads bobbing along in agreement when Mann sang his instructions for his wife on the event of his death “It’s not a sign, it’s just the wind…‘.
The Heroes session was my favorite with 100 Mile House, Elephant Revival, Gregory Alan Isakov, and John Mann. It was the perfect session with music that balanced the surroundings. The rain had just finished falling around 6 PM on the hill and people were drying off in the cool air at the start of the workshop. There was a beautiful moment when the sun began to peek through the clouds as 100 Mile House were singing Better, Still. Elephant Revival is always excellent in workshop sessions because of the number of instruments you can call upon for a solo. Plus, you know Bonnie can always improv a washboard percussion in any piece.
Blue Rodeo led the Hill in a sing-a-long of Ian Tyson’s ‘Four Strong Winds‘ to close out the 35th annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and the end of our Folk on the Road circuit. Bittersweet for sure, and I’ll be singing along to Four Strong Winds looped on repeat for the next week or so. Here are some pics from last day… ‘Our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on. I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way.’