Folk Music Festivals and More

The arrival of spring means the impending start of the folk music festivals season.

| March/April 1981

  • folk music festivals - Marc Bristol
    Down-home musician Marc Bristol performing at one of the season's folk music festivals.

  • folk music festivals - Marc Bristol

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?

That's what this column is about. Homegrown music... and sometimes homemade musical instruments to play it on.

Folk Music Festivals

Here's good news for all you fans of folk music festivals: The festival season is about to get underway again! Starting to the spring and extending through the early fall months, such celebrations provide super opportunities for musicians to get together. And as you probably know if you've ever attended one of these "shindigs," the action on stage isn't necessarily what makes a festival great. The spontaneous jam sessions that spring up in parking lots and picnic areas (where you can get a chance to try out a few licks) often turn out to be the most enjoyable features of the events. 

One of the best places to find out when the various music festivals are scheduled to be held is the Calendar of Events produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. If you were reading this column a couple of years back, you may remember me reporting that the Council had decided to discontinue their annual listing because of the time and money required to put out the calendar. At that time, I encouraged everyone to write and ask the group to resume publication of the valuable schedule, and—thanks to your effort—it's now being offered once again!

The new NCTA calendar is the largest and most complete catalog of Its type, and the 1981 edition will contain listings of over 1,500 traditional events—such as ethnic festivals, craft fairs, bluegrass "hootenannies", fiddlers' conventions, and folklife festivals—in the U.S. and Canada. You might expect the large book to cost somewhere in the $15-$20 range, but it sells for—surprise!—only $4.00 postpaid. The new calendar should be available soon after this issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS hits the stands.

Another publication that will be of interest to folk music enthusiasts and festival-goers is Come For To Sing. (Subscriptions cost $6.00 a year, for four issues. Although the magazine is subtitled "Folk Music in Chicago and the Midwest," it contains information for homegrown pickers everywhere. The upcoming events column does report only on happenings in the Chicago area, but the magazine also contains reports on major folk festivals around the country, book and record reviews, and articles about performers. In addition, the annual winter edition of Come For To Sing features a supplement on folk music resources that covers folk, blues, and ethnic clubs around Chicago, Midwest record stores and mail order firms which handle traditional music, and news of folk music schools, etc.

Windy City Discoveries

Speaking of Chicago, I'd like to share several discoveries I made while visiting the "windy city" last summer. First of all, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Landow, a founder of the Chicago Area Bluegrass Music and Pickin' Society. The group meets regularly (usually at a local festival, in season) and also puts out a monthly newsletter, called 'Grass Clippings, which lists musical events in that area. If you're interested in the Chicago bluegrass scene, you can join the Society (and subscribe to their newsletter) for $6.00 a year.

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