News / Arts & Entertainment

    Diversity Keeps Fans Returning to Philadelphia Folk Festivals

    The 2013 Philadelphia Folk Festival at the Old Poole Farm in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. (K. Cole/VOA)
    The 2013 Philadelphia Folk Festival at the Old Poole Farm in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. (K. Cole/VOA)
    Katherine Cole
    When The Stray Birds kicked off their first song at the 52nd annual Philadelphia Folk Festival in mid-August, they were unknown to many of those sitting in the sun at the Old Poole Farm in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.  But by the time the group finished their last performance at the festival, the young, bluegrass-picking, classically-trained trio from Lancaster, Pennsylvania had a long line of fans waiting to buy CDs and get them signed.

    That’s what’s so special about a festival like this one near Philadelphia: you come in to see headliners such as The Mavericks, or the legendary Todd Rundgren and leave loving The Stray Birds.

    Diverse Program Keeps Fans Returning to Philadelphia Folk Festivals
    Diverse Program Keeps Fans Returning to Philadelphia Folk Festivalsi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The very first Philadelphia Folk Festival was held in 1962 and is now the oldest continuously operating folk festival in the United States. Put on then, as it is now, by the Philadelphia Folk Song Society and a staff of 30 volunteers, the first event ran two days with a lineup that included Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, The Greenbrier Boys and Pete Seeger.
     
    Today, more than 2,000 volunteers are needed to make sure the four-day festival runs smoothly.
       
    Philly is also quite a large music festival -- before the gates opened this year, organizers were expecting about 30,000 attendees. Since the festival is spread out over 36 hectares of farmland, it never seemed crowded.

    Lisabeth Weber, a musician herself, has been to 30 of the 52 Philadelphia Folk Festivals. She's performed there twice, and attended the other times simply as a music fan. Weber says the diverse programming on all the stages - eight of them this year - keeps her coming back.

    “What’s nice is, a lot of times the workshops are artists who know each other, but they don’t always get to see each other through the year because they’re constantly touring," she said. "But at a festival, they get to catch up. And sometimes, they know each other’s songs. So, at a festival, they’ll jump on harmony or they’ll play along or sit in on leads. It’s kind of one of those things where the spontaneity of it is part of the beauty of it. Because you never know what’s going to happen.”
        
    Festival fan Tim, a onetime professional cook, has a full kitchen at his campsite. (VOA/K. Cole)Festival fan Tim, a onetime professional cook, has a full kitchen at his campsite. (VOA/K. Cole)
    x
    Festival fan Tim, a onetime professional cook, has a full kitchen at his campsite. (VOA/K. Cole)
    Festival fan Tim, a onetime professional cook, has a full kitchen at his campsite. (VOA/K. Cole)
    Part of the fun of attending the festival is hanging out in the campground. Organizers estimate that 7,000 campers set up temporary home on the hillside for the weekend. Tim from Philadelphia, a onetime professional cook who shares a campsite with another former chef, had a full kitchen at his location.

    “We have a propane grill and we have a stove with three 30,000 BTU burners," he said. "This is our paella pan, it is five-foot in diameter and we have some propane cookers to cook that on. And over there, we have a pig roasting box, called a La Caja China. It’s Puerto Rican style, the pig is inside and the charcoal goes on top and it’s like a big radiant oven. You can cook a whole pig in about four or five hours.”

    Shannon Lambert-Ryan is the lead singer for the Celtic roots band Runa. She was thrilled to be playing The Philadelphia Folk Festival this year. And not just because she met her husband and bandmate Fionan de Barra at the festival a few years ago.  It turns out she practically grew up on Old Poole Farm, as her parents were volunteers at the Festival every summer.

    “They have a picture of me from when I was about two, naked in a guitar case at the festival. So it’s kind of come full circle," she said. "It’s incredibly special, just the fact that my Mom started volunteering here when she was 17 and coming with her Dad, and my grandparents are here this evening. It’s quite a different experience to perform here, especially on the main stage. It’s going to be a really neat 'first' to have tonight.”    

    British songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson first played the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1970 as a member of Fairport Convention. Since then, he’s played another four or five times as a solo artist or with his band. This year, Thompson was back with his Electric Trio and they closed out the Friday night show. No word on who’ll be headlining the 53rd edition of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, but I can tell you they’ll begin planning it in just a few weeks.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures