The Old Songs Festival 2013, part 2


Saturday morning at the Old Songs Festival in Altamont, NY, the first program we attended was called “Creativity on Acoustic Guitar.” When looking over the daytime events before the festival, not much jumped out at me as something I didn’t want to miss, but as happened last time, once I’d heard some of the great musicians on stage Friday evening, that changed! We all wanted to hear more of Paul Downes (above)…


…and Matt Munisteri, and were treated to great work from Gordon Bok and Beppe Gambetta as well.


My friends Tim and Tom study the program…


…while Ellen and Gabe chat.


After that we each went our separate ways to different programs. There are so many, it’s hard to choose. I listened to some music from Genticorum at their “Inside Quebecois Music” program, then joined Ellen at a Woody Guthrie tribute.


There was a little rain now and then Saturday, but not enough to keep the crowds away from the Main Stage, where all the seating is outdoors in a natural ampitheater. We’d sit down there Saturday evening, having claimed a good spot for our chairs early.


Hanneke Cassel and her trio played the Main Stage in the afternoon, Ellen and I love her work, which is built on traditional Celtic fiddle tunes, but new music with a modern edge.


There are lots of food vendors for lunch and dinner. This was one of my favorites. Love the Dulmas Wrap!


After lunch Ellen wanted to go to the “Songs of Freedom” panel, and as I wasn’t sure what to do I joined her. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from this one, but it turned out to be the BEST daytime event I attended. The music was inspiring, soulful, relevant and wonderfully performed. It brought a tear to my eye several times. Most numbers were singalongs, and the room was ringing!


I think my favorite number was by Sally Rogers, Howie Bursin, and the writer of it, Claudia Schmidt. I’ve been a fan of Claudia since seeing her twice in the 1980s, and of her collaborations with Rogers since then, so I knew I’d enjoy seeing them, but Claudia in particular blew me away with this song, “Promising Sky.” She’s still got it!


After dinner it was time for the evening concert on the Main Stage, beginning with The Johnson Girls, an a capella group doing sea shanties, and quite well.


Gordon Bok is, like Archie Fisher from England, a legendary folk artist from our country (Maine), with a recording and writing career that spans four decades. It was good to hear him.


Chris Norman and David Greenberg played traditional instruments with a modern approach.


Footworks are entertaining dancers in the clogging style, but with lots of humor.


The Claire Lynch Band was next, a traditional bluegrass band. Claire has had a long career with a large gap in the middle during which she raised a family. She’s had a few minor hits, and sung backup with many well-known country artists.


Oisin Mac Diarmada and Séamus Begley played traditional Irish dance tunes, interspersed with amusing stories and jokes from Begley.


Bursin, Rogers and Schmidt were next with more great performances, some of songs I know well from her CDs. The festival is very egalitarian in that, there are no headliners. Everyone gets their 20 minutes or so on the Main Stage, then it’s on to the next act. I like that.


Beppe Gambetta closed out the Saturday concert with his take on traditional American folk songs filtered through his Italian sensibilities. A good flat-picker!


Sunday morning we were back for more. The “Flute Frolic” turned out to be another surprisingly great and varied program. Each flute player did individual numbers, and all of them played together as well, and told stories about their work and their flutes.


Flute player Hilary Abigana was joined by her Fourth Wall bandmates Greg Jukes and C. Neil Parsons for a terrific tango.


There’s more to do than just sit and listen to music. There are vendors of many kinds, and this Musical Petting Zoo, a fun idea. Dozens of instruments of all kinds that anyone can try out.


Tom had a go with this banjo, and sounded pretty good! We all tried lots of things, and can now boast that we played at The Old Songs Festival (quietly leaving out the part, “but not on stage”).

Tom, Ellen and I enjoyed one more great program from Claudia Schmidt and friends, and then it was time for the long drive home. Tim and Gabe stayed for the Sunday afternoon concert, which was interrupted by heavy rain, so moved indoors, but they reported it was great, too.

We all had a wonderful time at The Old Songs Festival, and hope to do it again in the future.


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