Changes were everywhere at the 2007 Ottawa Folk Festival. Following the departure of long-time Festival Director Gene Swimmer, Tamara Kater came on board as Executive Director, bringing a fresh approach and new ideas to the festival. The layout of the festival changed with the main gate and box office repositioned and the artisans and vendors moved closer to each other. Enhanced bus service made it easier to get to the festival without taking the car, while more visible signage helped folks find their way around. Greater community involvement brought in more local organizations to set up tables, and more green initiatives were introduced. Other changes made it easier to dance and to enjoy the volunteer experience.
Woody Guthrie was celebrated at the festival in many ways. An interactive, multi-media presentation was givenby Woody’s daughter Nora Guthrie on Saturday afternoon. An interview about Woody Guthrie’s life and influence featuring Kris Kristofferson, Nora Guthrie and Jimmy LaFave was conducted by journalist Mike Regenstreif on Saturday afternoon. It was followed by a 90-minute main stage tribute to Woody Guthrie entitled“Ribbon of Highway” featuring Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson, Ray Bonneville and Joel Rafael. A spectacular display was set up in the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre that included photos from theWoody Guthrie Archives, along with samples of Woody’s handwritten lyrics and visual art. A concert featuringWoody’s children’s songs was held on Sunday. Finally, an award-winning film entitled “Man in the Sand”,about Woody Guthrie’s life and influence was held at the National Library and Archives on Monday, August 20.
Other festival highlights included performances by Kris Kristofferson and Buffy Sainte-Marie, as well asPenny Lang receiving the Helen Verger Award. Chopper McKinnon and Karen Flanagan McCarthyhosted the main stage throughout the festival.
Thursday, August 16
This year the festival returned to Thursday night programming at Britannia Park. Arthur McGregor performed his ragtime-style acoustic guitar rendition of the national anthem on the CUPE Main Stage, as he has done each year since the first festival. The Meredith Luce Band, calypso band Kobo Town, the innovative Amos the Transparent and banjo songster Old Man Luedecke followed. The evening ended with the danceable music ofOttawa’s own jazz-fusion group, Souljazz Orchestra.
Friday, August 17
The entertainment on the CUPE Main Stage opened with an Ottawa bluesman and his musical pals: Tony D & Friends. A spellbinding performance from Kiran Ahluwalia followed. The Canadian singer specializes in ghazals and Punjabi folk songs, and her soaring vocals were one of the highlights of the festival. Oh Susanna, a Canadian vocalist steeped in roots and Appalachian-style traditional music appeared next and was followed by the wonderfully named bluegrass band The Foggy Hogtown Boys. The greatly anticipated performance by the legendary Kris Kristofferson ended an exceptional evening of entertainment. The American singer-songwriter extraordinaire wowed the larger than average crowd with a set that included a combination of old and new material. Luckily, Kristofferson also appeared in workshops during the rest of the weekend.
Performances also took place in the Bowie Electrical Hall (in the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre) including the traditional ensemble the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the rootsy Doug & Jess Band, Juliana, and Mansa Sissoko, a kora player from Mali.
Saturday, August 18
In the Bowie Electrical Hall, the excitement began with a Festival Drumming Workshop for kids aged 8 to 15 with Kathy Armstrong followed by a session with The Boys and Girls Club Drummers. The Results of Cross-Cultural Music Experiment #1 session featured the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jah Youssouf andLewis Melville, and was hosted by Petr Cancura. An interview hosted by Mike Regenstreif chroniclingWoody Guthrie’s influences featured a panel of Kris Kristofferson, Nora Guthrie and Jimmy LaFave.
I Know an Old Lady was the unusual title of a tribute to Alan Mills hosted by CBC arts guru Alan Neal that featured Bram Morrison and Lorne Brown.
The Penguin Eggs Garden was named for the Canadian folk magazine Penguin Eggs. The entertainment on this stage opened with the African Morning session with Mansa Sissoko. The session This Land Is Your Land: The Story of Woody Guthrie was a multimedia presentation hosted by his daughter Nora Guthrie. The Music of Rev. Gary Davis was celebrated by Andy Cohen. From the Heart was a session showcasing the talents ofMary Murphy with Paul Keim, Jimmy LaFave and Lewis Melville.
Over at the Ten Thousand Villages Beach Stage, the Once Upon a Time session hosted by Anne-Marie Brugger included story songsters Heather Dale & Ben Deschamps, Michelle Desbarats and Nathan. TheLiving Traditions session featured Andy Cohen, Arthur McGregor and host Bram Morrison. You Must be Joking was a jovial session hosted by Terry Eagan with The Arrogant Worms, and Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman. Roch Parisien of Galaxie, CBC’s Continuous Music Network, hosted the Rising Stars session featuring David Gaudet, Lindsay Jane and Rose Cousins.
Doc, a regular on the CKCU-FM folk music show Canadian Spaces, hosted Doc’s Pick featuring the talents ofKate Weekes, Oh Susanna and Ray Bonneville. Doc is Peter Conway of McCrank’s Cycles, a local businessthat is a longtime sponsor of Canadian Spaces.
The fun in the CKCU Kidzone started out with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and continued with Stories for Kids with Lorne Brown, a Musical Instrument Petting Zoo and an Instrument Making for Kids session. Curtis Jonnie (Shingoose) was followed by a wire sculpture workshop for kids with Heather Boyd ofFilament and a craft workshop for kids with Helen & Ingrid Sherling of Nicbela. The kids were also treated to a session showcasing Easy Flamenco Rhythms with Juliana, and a mini-concert with Penny Lang.
At the Ottawa Folklore Centre Point Stage, the All about the Groove session hosted by Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman included Pepe Danza and Ray Bonneville. The Music of South America session featuredTurpial. Juliana hosted the Rhythm and Shoes session with poet Stuart Ross and musician Pepe Danza. The evocative Painting Pictures session was led by master storyteller Buffy Sainte-Marie and included Christian Masotti and Kaie Kellough. A tuneful Vocal Harmony session hosted by Mike McCormick showcased The Arrogant Worms, Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite, and The Good Lovelies.
The Loeb Glebe Hill Stage opened with the Up North, Down South session with Jimmy LaFave and Kate Weekes. The Back 40 Live session named for the CKCU-FM radio show featuring traditional country, western and bluegrass music was led by Ron Moores and featured Dirk Powell, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, and theDoug & Jess Band. Steve Pritchard hosted the Prestidigitation session featuring the nimble fingers of theFoggy Hogtown Boys, Lindsay Jane and Miles Howe. Cam Wells, co-host of the CKCU-FM folk music showCanadian Spaces, hosted The Sum of the Parts session with the Doug & Jess Band and The Gruff. The Spoken Word session showcased spoken word specialists Kaie Kellough, Michelle Desbarats, Sheila M Ross, Stuart Ross and host Sean Wilson.
The Rogers Tree Stage entertainment began appropriately with New Beginnings, a session hosted by Eliza Gilkyson that highlighted the talents of Lindsay Jane and Martha Scanlan. Tales from the Road was hosted
by Paul Symes, owner of the Black Sheep Inn and featured Oh Susanna, Old Man Luedecke and Rose Cousins. The Songs of Peace session attracted a huge crowd. It was hosted by Sonny Ochs, the sister of Phil Ochs and featured the stellar talents of Kris Kristofferson, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Penny Lang. Music from the Glen was a session named for the CKCU-FM Celtic music show and was hosted by Colin Henein. It included Andy Daub, Heather Dale & Ben Deschamps, and Mary Murphy with Paul Keim. The day wound down with the Mountain Music session hosted by Dirk Powell and presenting the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Martha Scanlan, Michael Jerome Browne and Old Man Luedecke.
In the CUPE EnviroTent, workshops were held on topics including Switching to Renewable Energy at Homewith Sean Twomey, Speaking Out: Public Speaking Tips with Pamma Durin, How Technology Affects the Environment with John Buschek, Green Energy for Everyone with Bullfrog Power, and the Life, Money and Illusion session with author Mike Nickerson.
The OFC Music Knoll featured the N’Goni Building Demonstration with Jah Youssouf and Basic Flamenco Rhythms with Juliana, followed by The Craziest Right Hand Banjo Picking Pattern Ever session with Max Cossette. This was followed by a Folk Jam with Tony D session that encouraged audience participation using provided instruments. A second N’Goni Building Demonstration was followed by an Open Mic session.
Other activities included Taoist Tai Chi workshops near the EnviroTent.
In the evening on the CUPE Main Stage, Hoots & Hellmouth opened the evening entertainment. Ray Bonneville delivered a wonderful set of his original singer-songwriter material for his third festival appearance.Penny Lang received the Helen Verger Award. The Canadian singer-songwriter was honoured for her exceptional career that spanned more than 40 years. Her longstanding connection with the festival began with performances at the inaugural festival on Victoria Island in 1994.
Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman performed a rhythmic and tuneful set before Buffy Sainte-Marie performed to an appreciative audience. The Carolina Chocolate Drops transported us to a bygone era with their rootsy music of the southern U.S. The evening ended with the first Canadian presentation of the magnificent Ribbon of Highway Tribute to Woody Guthrie. The 90-minute tribute to the words and music of Woody Guthrie featured Kris Kristofferson, Eliza Gilkyson, Ray Bonneville, Jimmy LaFave and Joel Rafael, with narratorBob Childers. The tribute celebrated a unique individual whose massive influence continues to be felt.
On the Bowie Electrical Stage in the air-conditioned comfort of the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, the audience was treated to performances from traditional folk stylists The Gruff, singer-songwriters Nathan, and Jason Lang (son of Penny) along with Michael Jerome Brown and Petr Cancura. This was followed by a set withThe Good Lovelies. The evening ended with a rootsy quadruple bill of David Gaudet, Meredith Luce, Old Man Luedecke and Rose Cousins.
Sunday, August 19
The final day of the festival kicked off in the Bowie Electrical Hall with a Festival Drumming Workshop for kids aged 8 to 15 led by Kathy Armstrong, followed by a performance from Bram Morrison. The sessionResults of Cross-Cultural Music Experiment #3 showcased Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite, Mansa Sissoko and host Petr Cancura. The Blues Sources session featured Ray Bonneville, Tony D and hostMichael Jerome Browne. The final session of the day was an energetic Klezmer Dance with Oy Division.
Over at the Penguin Eggs Garden, Curtis Jonnie (Shingoose) appeared in concert and was followed by theBanjorama Unplugged session hosted by Ann Downey featuring the Doug & Jess Band and Old Man Luedecke. Making It Up as We Go Along showcased Andy Cohen, Christian Masotti, Miles Howe andPetr Cancura.
At the Ten Thousand Villages Beach Stage, the session Results of Cross-Cultural Music Experiment #2showcased the talents of The Gruff, Mushfiq Ensemble, Pepe Danza and host Petr Cancura. TheAfrican/American session featured Dirk Powell, Jah Youssouf, Martha Scanlan and host Andy Cohen. TheMixed Blessings session hosted by Mike Regenstreif included David Gaudet, Eliza Gilkyson, and Mary Murphy. The Good Vibes session featured The Gruff and Hoots & Hellmouth. The day ended with Danse Africaine, a session with Elage.
In the CKCU Kidzone, things started with a bang at the Percussion Petting Zoo and continued with performances by Christian Masotti and Mushfiq Ensemble, as well as craft and drumming workshops and performances. Joel Rafael led a Woody Guthrie Songs session and the day ended with the joyous annualSunshine Parade where everyone was invited to join a musical, percussion-filled procession to the main stage area.
At the Ottawa Folklore Centre Point Stage, the day opened with the Rise and Shine Session with Eliza Gilkyson, Jason Lang and host Sheila M Ross. An improvisional dance session by the Grasshoppa Dance Exchange was followed by the A Capella session showcasing Mary Murphy, Nathan and host Diana Braithwaite. Curtis Jonnie (Shingoose), Michelle Desbarats and host Lindsay Jane appeared in This Land Is Our Land session. Old Man Luedecke hosted the session titled I Quit My Job with The Good Loveliesand Kate Weekes. The final session, Matters of the Heart, featured Lindsay Jane, Nathan and host Stuart Ross.
The Loeb Glebe Hill Stage opened for the day with Looking Back, showcasing Michael Jerome Browne, Martha Scanlan, Oh Susanna and host Louis Meyers. Jennie Stratton hosted the Music as a Bridge session with Elage, Joel Rafael, and Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman. The Human Nature session featured Heather Dale & Ben Deschamps, Rose Cousins and Kaie Kellough, and was hosted by Karen Flanagan McCarthy. The Grasshoppa Dance Exchange showcased improvisional dance. Chopper McKinnon hosted the Canadian Spaces session with Chris Whiteley, Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman, and Rose Cousins. A very special event followed. The Ottawa Folklore Centre distributed 300 free pennywhistles to the audience and Andy Daubgave everyone a free introductory lesson on this traditional instrument. How folkie can you get?
The fun on the Rogers Tree Stage began with Celtic Jam with Alf Warnock. Tom Werbo hosted theSpontaneous Combustion session featuring The Arrogant Worms and Hoots & Hellmouth. Grasshoppa Dance Exchange contributed improvisational dance. The Music from the Andes session featured Turpial.Ann Downey was the host of the Deep Roots session featuring Dirk Powell and Oh Susanna. The final session of the day was Super Blues Jam hosted by Tony D and showcasing the talents of Andy Cohen, Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite, Jah Youssouf, Penny Lang and Ray Bonneville.
The CUPE EnviroTent featured discussions as well as sessions including Against Uranium Mining with John Kittle, and Non-Toxic Personal Care Products with Patti Murphy & Tamey McIntosh.
On the OFC Music Knoll, Petr Cancura was featured in the session titled Improvising Over Chord Changes. Arthur McGregor led the Rise Up Singing session followed by a Harmonica for Beginners session hosted by Catriona Sturton. Ellen MacIsaac introduced Irish music to the crowd at the session Introduction to Sean Nos. After improvisational dance with Grasshoppa Dance Exchange, an Open Mic session ended the day.
Other activities included the Second Annual Musical Festival Brunch hosted by Cam Wells and featuring theDoug & Jess Band, Mary Murphy and surprise guests. The festival goers also had a chance to try out Taoist Tai Chi near the EnviroTent.
The CUPE Main Stage evening entertainment opened with the Mushfiq Ensemble performing Afghani and North Indian folk music in many languages. Andy Rush and the Terry Penner Festival Choir gave aparticularly moving performance that included a wonderful version of “This Land Is Your Land” and otherWoody Guthrie tunes. Up and coming P.E.I. singer-songwriter Rose Cousins was followed by favourite festival funny guys The Arrogant Worms, who performed their famous alligator song to the delight of the audience members who got into the act with the usual wild hand motions. Performances by Dirk Powell & Martha Scanlan and American songstress Eliza Gilkyson were followed with a highly danceable set from Cheza, anOttawa band that blends African styles with rock and folk influences. The final segment brought the evening’sperformers back to the main stage for a dramatic finale.
The music in the Bowie Electrical Hall opened with Heather Dale & Ben Deschamps. It was followed withPepe Danza and Friends, Jah Youssouf, and Chris Whiteley & Diana Braithwaite. The festival wrapped up with the female trio of Ann Downey, Kate Weekes and Lindsay Jane.