The 17th annual Ottawa Folk Festival was held at Britannia Park for the final year at that location in 2010 with a new Festival Director at its helm. Dylan Griffith, from the Dawson City Music Festival, led the event, which ran from August 13-15. The streamlined program had no Thursday night concerts or off-site concerts as was the case in many previous years, and operated Friday night and during the day and evening on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival’s sustainable practices were further enhanced in 2010. Reusable dishes, solar heating to heat thedishwashing water, and not selling bottled water on the site were just a few of the ways the Ottawa Folk Festival worked toward holding a future zero-waste event. The EnviroTent ran sessions on Saturday and Sunday, which included discussions about urban gardening, veggie cars and solar energy. The popular cob-building demonstration returned.
Some of the site layout changes, however, were controversial. For the second year, the food vendors and artisans were located in the parking lot where many found the traffic to their booths was reduced. This site change alsodidn’t allow city buses to drive directly to the main gate. OC Transpo buses were rerouted to a nearby backstreet.
Programming in 2010 focused on community involvement, sustainability and an eclectic mix of acts that included several festival favourites, such as the Jim Cuddy Band, and emerging artists or cross-over acts, like The Weakerthans and The Hidden Cameras. There were many non-traditional choices, including Arrested Development, as well as world music offerings The Mighty Popo, Delhi 2 Dublin and Namgar. The Canadian Aboriginal community was well represented by Inuit singer-songwriter Tanya Tagaq, who has a unique style of solo throat singing. With several local choirs performing on the main stage, the festival continued to
foster inclusivity and active public participation. American musical legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, a contemporary of Woody Guthrie who influenced Bob Dylan, gave evocative performances throughout the festival with fascinating stories and anecdotes to match.
The sessions and demonstrations were some of the ways our children were involved at the festival. Todd Crowley returned to the Kidzone with his musical petting zoo, and the Catholic Immigration Centre hosted pick-up soccer games outside the Dance Tent. The annual children’s parade (the Sunshine Parade) did not take place because of a rainstorm, but the Kidzone had storytelling sessions, a drum circle, and yoga to keep kids occupied.
Ottawa artist Arthur II coordinated and led Participaint, which was a great way for both children and adults to create a beautiful large-scale mural during the festival. There were many opportunities to get involved in the music making, dancing and artistic projects, including an instrument lock-up available to festival goers, the Terry Penner Festival Choir, the ukulele-building session, and Librivox, which is an opportunity for performers, volunteers and audience members to read and record classic Canadian poems. In the food tent and at the trolley station, organized jam sessions continued throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, and continued long after the scheduled sessions had ended.
The Helen Verger Award, named in honour of the co-founder of Rasputin’s Folk Café, was presented toHarvey Glatt, a major contributor to the Ottawa music scene. Harvey opened the first of 15 Treble Clef music stores in 1957. He went on to finance the legendary folk music venue Le Hibou and helped numerous folk musicians with their careers. In 1977, Harvey founded CHEZ-FM, a station notable for its commitment to Canadian artists. Harvey and his wife, Louise Glatt, continue to contribute to the Ottawa musical community with major donations to the National Arts Centre, as well as establishing the One Fret Less Award, given in 2010 to Clarksdale Moan. Delhi 2 Dublin received the Supernova Award, and The Musettes were presented with the Galaxie Rising Stars Award.
The Community Tent was an opportunity for organizations to raise awareness among festival goers regarding various environmental and social initiatives. The following organizations participated: City of Ottawa Heritage Museums, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, OXFAM, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, CarpRidge Ecowellness Centre, Spirit of Rasputin’s, USC Canada, Bikes for Beats, Ottawa Centre NDP, Ecology Ottawa, and the Guatemalan Stove Project.
Friday, August 13
On the CUPE Main Stage, Albert Dumont, an Algonquin Aboriginal elder, hosted the opening ceremony. After Ottawa Folklore Centre owner Arthur McGregor played his customary acoustic ragtime version of“O Canada”, Folka Voca, the Ottawa Folklore Centre’s community choir led by Lee Hayes performed. Thegroup of about 40 singers shared their love of folk music with a large crowd. The choir was followed by Jon Brooks, who delivered his brand of well-crafted protest songs reminiscent of Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan.
The Ottawa band The Acorn took to the stage next with its rural, rootsy sounds. Rock Plaza Central, a Toronto band that encompasses folk, rock and alt-country sounds performed before Arrested Developmenttook to the stage. This much-lauded American group was formed in the 1990s as an alternative to gangsta rap and is a positive force to be reckoned with. The band wowed the opening night crowed with a powerful, high- energy performance packed with spellbinding lyrics.
In the Galaxie Dance Tent there was plenty of lively dancing, toe tapping and swaying to the accompaniment of groups with evocative names including Bruce Peninsula, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, and Hoots & Hellmouth.Bruce Peninsula showcased traditional world music, while the Foggy Hogtown Boys are a bluegrass band.Hoots & Hellmouth, on the other hand, fuse diverse influences including gospel, bluegrass and punk.
Saturday, August 14
The first session in the Bowie Hall Stage was Strung Out, featuring Gareth Pearson, Christine Bougie, Kenny Pauze, Dan Whiteley and Kris Drevar. The Musettes appeared in concert followed by Poutine and a Pint with Galant, tu perds ton temps and LAU. The Woe Is Me session showcased Horse Feathers, Clarksdale Moan and Jenny Whiteley.
The entertainment on the Hill Stage began with a session titled It’s Indie Lovely with Horse Feathers, The Acorn, Bahamas and Aidan Knight. The Folk the 80s! session featured Bahamas, Krista Muir, Craig Cardiff, Peter Katz, Aidan Knight and Gareth Pearson. Jill Zmud appeared in concert, and the day ended with the Voices Carry session showcasing Arrested Development, Galant, Tu perds ton temps and Bruce Peninsula.
On the Point Stage, the sassy I Spit on Your Rave session featured LAU, Godknowswhat and Hoots & Hellmouth. Jon Brooks, Peter Katz, Lynn Miles, Frank Turner and Joel Gibb participated in the Political Affairs session. Clarksdale Moan appeared in concert. The eclectic A Place Called Home session attracted a large crowd that turned out for sets by The Acorn, Namgar, Tanya Tagaq, Kim Beggs and Calexico.
Audience members participated in the Wake-Up! Yoga session at the PSAC Moon Stage. The amusingly named Wake Me Up Before You Blow Blow session simply featured “horns and more”. When Chopper McKinnon, host of the longstanding CKCU-FM folk music radio show Canadian Spaces could not attend theCanadian Spaces session due to illness, Mike Regenstrief, host of the Montreal radio show Folk Roots/Folk Branches stepped in to lead the session. A large crowd of “Space Cadets”, fans of Canadian Spaces, turned out to hear Lynn Miles, Chris McLean, Jon Brooks and Meredith Luce perform. Jim Bryson, Frank Turner, Carolyn Mark, Coco Love Alcorn and Chris McLean appeared in the Labour Pains session.
In the Ottawa Folklore Centre Tent, Rick McGrath hosted the Jam Etiquette session, while Arthur McGregor led the Jaw Harp session. Mary Gick hosted the Clawhammer Banjo session. The Tin Whistlesession was led by Ross Davison. A Ukelele Crash Course was hosted by Mark McHale. The last session of the day was the Spirit of Rasputin’s Open Stage.
Participants could eat and drink while taking in the performances at the Food Court Tent, including a Trad Singing Jam, a Celtic Jam, a Singable Songs Sing-A-Long session, and the Old Time Appalachian Jam. Over at the Trolley Station, people gathered for a Drumming Jam, Spirit of Rasputin’s Open Jam, aBluegrass Jam and a Ukelele Jam.
In the Kidzone, children participated in the Origami for Beginners session with Maya Papayasan. TheStorytelling & Bird Feeder Making session was hosted by Dina of Barefoot Books; Yoga for Parents & Kids was hosted by Sheila Craig. There was a Percussion Instrument Making session as well as a Drum Circle session with Leo Brookes. More sessions were also held with Prof. Webfoot & Creatures from the River as well as Extreme Origami with Maya Papayasan.
On the CUPE Main Stage, the evening entertainment began with Tone Cluster, a tuneful choir withmembership drawn mainly from Ottawa’s gay, lesbian and transgender community. The five females comprisingthe francophone band Galant, tu perds ton temps performed traditional Québecois and Acadian tunes with great panache. The rootsy mood continued with LAU, a trio that features material rooted in Scottish folk traditions. Carolyn Mark & the New Best Friends left us laughing with satirical songs and imaginative patter, while Ottawa favourites Jim Bryson and The Weakerthans charmed the crowd with quirky yet brilliant selections. The evening ended with a lively performance from the eclectic seven-member Arizona band Calexico, which combines diverse musical influences including country, folk, Latin and jazz.
The Galaxie Dance Tent had the crowd hopping with an especially eclectic range of music. Namgar, a traditional Mongolian female musician and vocalist from Russia, gave a fascinating performance of music that is rarely witnessed in Canada. She and her band played traditional instruments such as the yatag, a zither-type instrument. English singer-songwriter Frank Turner turned in a solo performance tinged with punk influences. Inuit performer Tanya Tagaq provided an evocative and emotional performance that showcased her unique style of vocalization fusing contemporary styles with solo throat singing. Tanya was ably accompanied by fiddler Jesse Zubot and percussionist Jean Martin. The fun wound down with The Hidden Cameras, a nine-member band that combines complex and diverse musical influences.
Sunday, August 15
On Sunday morning, a torrential downpour and high winds left the festival organizers no choice but to shut down all of its outdoor stages for safety reasons. Daytime concerts on Sunday were cancelled or moved inside. TheCUPE Main Stage did not reopen. Since the Ron Kolbus Centre had only one stage, there was no way to accommodate all of the programming. This resulted in many unscheduled collaborations between artists and plenty of unanticipated but interesting musical pairings. In fine festival tradition, the performers and audience rallied to the occasion and cheerfully went with the flow, making the best of a less than ideal situation.
Mike Regenstrief hosted A Conversation with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in which Jack related fascinating stories drawn from his more than 50-year career in folk music.
Musicians slated to perform on Sunday included Amy Millan, Carolyn Mark, Chris Eaton, Chris McLean, Coco Love Alcorn, Craig Cardiff, Dan Whiteley, Delhi 2 Dublin, Frank Turner, Galant, tu perds ton temps, Gareth Pearson, Jenny Whiteley, Joseph Edgar, Jill Zmud, LAU, Ladies of the Canyon, Ramblin’Jack Elliott, Jim Bryson, Jim Cuddy, Kim Beggs, Peter Katz, Robyn Dell’Unto, Terry Gillespie, The Musettes, The Mighty Popo, The Terry Penner Festival Choir and The Old Sod Band.
Sessions scheduled to take place included Hand Drumming with Dave Bossmin, a Ukelele Crash Course withMark McHale, Nose Flute with Arthur McGregor, and Beginner Harmonica with Marc Seguin. Jam sessions were also scheduled for shape note singing, storyteller story swaps, a ukulele orchestra and old-time Appalachian music.
By the evening the Dance Tent reopened, and many acts that were scheduled for the CUPE Main Stage, including the Terry Penner Festival Choir performed. Standout performances included one by the legendaryRamblin’ Jack Elliott, who delivered original material developed over more than half a century. This“musician’s musician” inspired both Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie, the son of his good friend Woody Guthrie. Thehigh-energy, eclectic Delhi 2 Dublin got the crowd on its feet and dancing enthusiastically, setting the pace for the festival’s electrifying final set by The Jim Cuddy Band, with featured performers Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland.
The trolley station at the main gate also served as an impromptu jam site, where artists, volunteers and festival goers who had brought their instruments, or had just learned a few ukulele chords, joined in.
Unknown to all, 2010 was the last year that the Ottawa Folk Festival would take place at much-loved Britannia Park, the festival’s home for most of its history. The natural beauty of the park and beach afforded unforgettable scenes such as double rainbows, and gorgeous sunsets often followed by shooting stars, greatly enhancing the festival experience. The Ottawa River, whether sparkling like a million diamonds, calm or white-capped, was an amazing backdrop for the festival. The opportunity to stroll by the riverside between performances was wonderful, and greatly appreciated by festival goers.
This was not the first change of venue for the Ottawa Folk Festival. The first festival in 1994 was scheduled to take place at Vincent Massey Park and shifted six weeks before the event to Victoria Island. The festival began at Britannia Park in 1995. Although the festival would come under new management and relocate toHogs Back Park in 2011, the location proved not as important as the spirit of the music and good will that permeates the Ottawa Folk Festival.
The Ottawa Folk Festival thanks the following sponsors, partners and suppliers: OFC Music (The Ottawa Folklore Centre), Canadian Heritage, City of Ottawa, National Library of Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, Ontario Arts Council, The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Government of Canada, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Galaxie, Big Rock Brewery, Steve’s Music Store, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Pattison, Canadian Union of Public Employees, wall sound-lighting, Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck, Metro, Yellow Tail, Birddog Design, McCrank’s Cycles, Siren Bakery, HOPE Volleyball, SummerFest, Arbour,Carmello’s, The Table, Dollco Printing, Event Water Solutions, Bowie Electrical Services, McKeen Metro,Diffusart.biz, Bridgehead, ECOGEN Energy Inc., Bagel Bagel, Ebam Enterprises Ltd., B. goods, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Life Without Plastic, The Council of Canadians, and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. Sincere thanks as well to all who donated to the Sustainability Fund to ensure the festival and its many community activities continue in the future.