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NEFFA and Filk and Arbutus too - nhpeacenik
NEFFA and Filk and Arbutus too
If you hurry, you can still catch the last two days of NEFFA (a.k.a. The New England Folk Festival Association Folk Festival) in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Denise and I ducked out of our myriad commitments and sneaked down to the Friday night session last night and were part of workshops on
1. Filk Music
The Boston area has a thriving Filk community in M.A.S.S F.I.L.C. You can find out virtually anything you want to know about Filk music, including what it is, at their website. They will be hosting their Filk convention called ConCertino, on June 19-20 in Worcester . Those of you who listen to the public radio word game SaysYou may have heard a recent show in which the word whose meaning was being guessed was "filk". When the MC revealed the "true" definition, he said it was the mane of the wierd music that accompanies science-fiction movies, heavy on the theramin. Howls of angry disbeleif must have arisen from listener-households all over the country/world. I was apparently among the hundreds of listeners who wrote the show to correct their definition, and (though I haven't heard that show yet) they apologized to fans everywhere on the next episode. At NEFFA, they led us in a stirring rendition of Leslie Fish's "Hope Eyrie", "307 Ale" (by Tom Smith, who is performing in a non-filk mode on Saturday and Sunday at NEFFA [correction: apparently not the same Tom Smith... see comments below]),  The Lord-of-the-Rings-related song "Fellowship Going South",  "Small Kitty Cat" from the Mad Scientist's Songbook, "The Hacker Came Back", by Jacob Sommer (who was one of the song leaders), the incredibly-inspiring "Acts of Creation" by Catherine Faber from the "Scared Harp" (not sacred, scared) songbook, the Dihydromonoxide song, and a fanfic ditty by the late science-fiction author Poul Anderson.
 2. A cappella ballads  in which parents or family members object to a young person's choice of lover, usually with tragic results.
This was led by Sue West, who has an enormous repertoire of ballads she can sing from memory. This time she did a memorable rendition of the Child Ballad Clark Saunders. The highlight of the set for me was a song called "Arbutus" sung to the tune most of us know as "Willie of Winsbury". It is similar to Willie of Winsbury in that the king has been fighting in Spain and the daughter has fallen for Willie of Winsbury, but in this version, the king has promised his daughter's hand to the king of Spain, She has to disrobe to prove she is still a maiden (which she isn't), as in Willie of Winsbury, but in this version, her modesty is saved at the last moment by a magical transformation into a tree called Arbutus (otherwise know as the Madrone tree, in California). The story is transformed from a tragedy into liberating nature magic. We were promised that the lyrics would be posted at the Digital Tradition 
 3. Folk songs of New York State (led by Buffalo balladeer Dave Ruch).
 4. Hard Times and Blues (a wonderful band called Outrageous Fortune, with a distinctly string-bandy emphasis)

I also got my annual in-person visit with CAMSCO records (motto: If it's folk, we can get it for you) and picked up a Coope Boyes and Simpson CD that I had been meaning to get for a long time, found out that Carson Robison and the Radio Franks and other singers I remember from my mother's singing and from a few scratchy 78 rpm records, are now available at CAMSCO on CD. Next  time I've got the money,,, sigh! 

NEFFA is an extremely participatory festival, and while some of the events are billed as concerts, most are at least part sing-along or play-along.. Little knots of singers and musicians form in the hallways for little jam sessions. Perhaps the largest number of people at the festival come for the dancing, with all kinds of folk and related dances, but the singing, picking, fiddling contingents are large enough to easily fill a medium-sized town. Morris dancers are outside on the green most of the day, There is a shape-note sing and a West Gallery session on Sunday. This is not to be confused with big Summer festivals, where relatively-well-known musicians perform from high stages. Whether officially a performer or not, everybody is a full participant.

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5 comments or Leave a comment
madfilkentist From: madfilkentist Date: April 26th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the discussion of the MASSFILC presentation. But I very strongly doubt that the Tom Smith who is "performing in a non-filk mode" at NEFFA is the same as the author of "307 Ale." I'm certain I would have heard if filkertom had made a trip from Michigan to Massachusetts to perform. He's made a couple of posts on his LJ this weekend and hasn't mentioned anything about Massachusetts or NEFFA.

Your profile says you're in Greenville, NH. If you like, you're welcome to come over to my house in Nashua for the next meeting, or come to ConCertino in Worcester!
nhpeacenik From: nhpeacenik Date: April 26th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had met the other Tom Smith, who lives in the Boston area, at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough last month, and since he said he had had a long and diverse career as a folk musician and would be at NEFFA, I assumed he must the the same person. I guess I was wrong. I like both of their work. It would be fun to attend one of the events you are hosting. I commute from Greenville to Lowell (70 miles round trip) four days a week these days, but because the most tolerable route is through Townsend and Pepperell, I don't get into Nashua proper very much, and it's hard to head in that direction on weekends, because most of our social connections are in the Peterborough area.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: April 26th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the lovely review of the MASSFILC singalong!

Do you need the link to the Scared Harp website?
nhpeacenik From: nhpeacenik Date: April 26th, 2009 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd definitely appreciate the link, os gwelwch yn dda!
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: April 26th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
5 comments or Leave a comment