I must admit I’m a diehard folk music lover. Wikipedia describes folk music as “music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers.” Luckily, I entered adulthood at the same time that the twentieth century folk music revival blossomed. I was in my glory. My collection of long play vinyl was fairly impressive and several albums just plain wore out from incessant playing.
Living in Winnipeg in the nineteen seventies gave me the opportunity to enjoy the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Later, in the nineteen eighties when I was in art school, I participated in the Handmade Village at the festival. I made a little money selling my craft and made some amazing trades with other craftspeople. Of course the best part was that as a participant, I could attend the musical performances in Bird’s Hill Park where the event has been held every year since.
Imagine my joy when, six years ago, Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat formed the Princeton Traditional Music Festival! With the help of what seems like half the population of Princeton, Jon and Rika pull off a free weekend event that is suitable for everyone. With performances happening at both the Town Square and the lawn in front of the Princeton Museum, you can choose your favorite group by consulting the program. This year there were a couple of other, smaller venues as well, scattered throughout downtown. The whole event started off Friday evening with a family dance complete with live music and an instructor. The dances were, as always, folk dances and more fun than a basket of puppies.
On both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, we brought our canvas folding chairs to the Town Square and settled in. There were rousing songs about young men’s adventures on land and sea, gut-wrenchingly sad songs of lost love and death and some hilarious songs of life in Newfoundland. We probably got more exercise laughing, toe-tapping and clapping than we imagined. Then, from behind us, in front and beside, Orkestar Slivovica, a very large brass ensemble began playing and making their way to the stage. They were accompanied by a voluptuous belly dancer, Aviva! Well! Here’s the kicker: it was we women who began oozing toward the stage, probably looking for a few pointers, I’m thinking. The men, to their credit, remained in place for the most part. It was a riveting performance all the way around!
Later, at a local restaurant, our teenage server mentioned her surprise that Princeton could successfully host such an event. She was particularly amazed that so many folks attended. I explained that what she was seeing and hearing was a vivid record of the culture of my youth. The significance of the revival of folk music in the sixties and seventies was not to be denied. I told her of the protest songs and the historical events of that time and how they affected people who were the same age then that she is now.
For our young ones, we need to keep singing the songs of everyday events that happen through time to ordinary people. It brings comfort to see the long line of history and that, in the end, the human spirit endures through it all.