Folk festival returns with music, tradition

By Rebecca Wu

Festivities for the 43rd annual U of C Folk Festival kick off on Friday with three concerts featuring performances ranging from traditional bluegrass music to West Side Chicago blues.

The three-day event will also celebrate the traditions of roots music through free jam sessions and workshops in topics like reed-making, Appalachian ballads, fiddle-playing, and Scandinavian dancing.

“We hope to promote, preserve, and propagate traditional music of all sorts of regions and countries,” said Andy Pennington, president of the Folklore Society, which is sponsoring the festival.

The festival aims to showcase the different regional styles of traditional music within North America. To achieve this end, the Folklore Society has invited authentic representatives of each region.”The Folk Festival is one of the few times that a genuine Southeastern string band might come to Chicago in the year,” Pennington said. “Other bands might play around the city, but only for events specific to their own culture, such as a Bulgarian dance or radio show. The Festival aims to bring them all into the limelight for our University audience.”

Many of this year’s performers, such as the Bluegrass Mountaineers of Ohio, Gary Johnston of Southwest Missouri, and Southern Pride, an old-time string band from the Galax, Virginia area, are not well known in the Windy City.

“We hope that having these very talented performers in town for the festival will help their music find a new and wider audience,” Pennington explained.

Although attendance has been high in previous years, the Festival expects to see an even larger crowd this year. “Turnout has been increasing, possibly due to the recent resurgence of interest in traditional music,” Pennington said.

Fourth-year in the College Christopher Chiu enjoyed last year’s festival immensely. “The concert I attended last year was awesome. There was a Creole band. They were great, with the accordion and fiddlers,” Chiu said.

Holding the Festival on a long weekend has both advantages and disadvantages. For many students, not having class on Monday allows them to enjoy the festival. For others like Chiu, however, the date conflicts with vacation plans.”You automatically assume to go somewhere since it is a long weekend,” he said. “If it wasn’t a long weekend, I would have gone to every single thing.”

In addition to out of town performers, Loose Roots, the University’s Korean drumming troupe, will host a workshop to teach the basic beats in Korean drumming, a folk art used for centuries by peasants for community and political purposes as well as farming celebrations.

Concerts are Friday through Sunday at Mandel Hall and are $7 with a UCID. Workshops and jam sessions are planned for Saturday and Sunday in Ida Noyes and are free.