In Wales, where keepers of the land’s musical and historical traditions have commanded the highest respect since time immemorial, all the greatest bards and harpers used to meet and compete once a year at a high-stakes hootenanny called the Eisteddfod. This practice went on for many centuries, and the winners were rewarded with the patronage of kings and lords. In Elizabethan times England began suppressing such potentially dangerous efflorescences of Celtic culture in its vassal states, but the Romantics revived them again in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Modern Wales conducts an Eisteddfod that’s a bit tamer than in the old days; it’s more of a national music festival than an auditory Olympics. But at least they still have one. The only Eisteddfod you’re likely to hear about on these shores is the one organized each year at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson by the Folk Music Society of New York and the New York Pinewoods Folk Music Club. It’s coming back again next weekend, November 4 through 6.
Typically, our regional Eisteddfod Festival of Traditional Music highlights folk and roots music of America – including blues, Appalachian, gospel, sea chanteys and Sacred Harp – as well as the British Isles, but the 2011 event has more of an international flavor than usual. The lineup is being touted as “traditional music and song from Brittany, England, the Georgian Republic, Hawaii, Macedonia, Scotland, Serbia, Turkey, Wales and of course America.” Some more contemporary acoustic and singer/songwriter stuff will also be included, along with participatory workshops and informal jams, a contra dance and workshops on clogging and Breton dances, plus a special free workshop on “Traditional and Historical Songs of New York State” sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities. To download a complete schedule, visit www.minstrelrecords.com/fmsny/eisteddfod/eisteddfod-2011-schedule.pdf.
No names that are really famous outside the folkie realm are on this year’s roster, but the cognoscenti will be delighted by the return of Folk Legacy Records founder Caroline Paton, original Young Tradition member Heather Wood and John Roberts, familiar to many through his long partnership with Tony Barrand and as a cornerstone of Nowell Sing We Clear. Also scheduled to perform are Joy Bennett, Ralph Boddington, Claire Boucher, Matt Brown, Martha Burns, Andy Cohen (who will be honored with this year’s Eisteddfod Award), Dennis & Judy Cook, Christine Cooper, Jerry Epstein, Jean Farnworth, Alan Friend, Howard Glasser, Dave Harvey, Chris Koldewey, Carl Linich, Bob Malenky, Evy Mayer, Rob Paton, Anne Price, Dave Ruch, Steve Suffet, Zeliha Temren, Olga Zaric and John Ziv. More info on the performers is available at www.minstrelrecords.com/fmsny/eisteddfod/performers-11.html.
The festivities begin with dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4 and hardly let up at all until the last concert ends at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 6. Ticket prices range wildly from $25 on up, depending on how long you plan to attend, whether you’ll be having meals and/or staying overnight at the Resort. You can find all the details online at www.minstrelrecords.com/fmsny/eisteddfod/#schedule.