Entertainment

Bellingham Folk Festival has something for everyone

Laurel Bliss and Cliff Perry are among the participants in the Bellingham Folk Festival, Jan. 22-24.
Laurel Bliss and Cliff Perry are among the participants in the Bellingham Folk Festival, Jan. 22-24. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herlad

Cayley Schmid, the creator and organizer of the Bellingham Folk Festival that takes place Friday through Sunday, Jan. 22-24 at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, says she’s not doing any teaching or performing this time.

“Phew!,” she says.

“Last year was the first event, but I came away wanting to organize it again and again!,” the longtime fiddler says.

“Playing music together has always been important for community building and personal expression, she says.

“It’s such an incredible way to connect with folks and for different generations to bond and learn from each other.”

Even if you aren’t a musician, Schmid says, there is a lot to enjoy at the Folk Festival — dances, concerts and workshops that don’t involve an instrument or any prior musical knowledge.

Laurel Bliss, who collects and sings older, traditional songs in the bluegrass, old-time country, Cajun and country music genres, will teach a Carter-Family repertoire song class; a Maybelle-Carter-style lead guitar class; and hosts a hootenanny.

“I embrace any opportunity to teach and share my love of traditional music,” Bliss says.

In a world where so much of our communication is not face-to-face and our consumption of music is pretty impersonal, this “living-room” music tradition is a great way to bring people together in a very real way.

Coty Hogue, musician

Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, a Seattle duo that interprets American roots music from the early 1900s on vocals, fiddle, mandolin, bones, banjo, guitar and harmonica, will be playing songs from their forthcoming album, “The North Wind & the Sun.”

They say they “fall more in love with the town of Bellingham and its amazing musical community” each time they play there.

“Many of the best parts of American music have always taken place in living rooms,” says Hunter. “Jam sessions, lessons, square dances, and more recently, house concerts. Our mission, as we travel throughout the country each year, is to spread awareness about traditions tied to living room music: music that is informal, relaxed, intimate and played for everyone’s pleasure instead of the musicians’ ego.”

Bellingham’s Coty Hogue will teach a bluegrass repertoire class and a beginning clawhammer banjo class. Her trio will also be playing at the Saturday night concert.

Hogue says “In a world where so much of our communication is not face-to-face and our consumption of music is pretty impersonal, this “living-room” music tradition is a great way to bring people together in a very real way.”

“You don’t even have to be the one playing the music; if you enjoy music, or dancing, you will benefit by being there. It is inherently a community oriented thing and therefore helps build real, in-person community.”

Longtime Bellingham folksinger Linda Allen says she’ll offer a workshop on using songs for organizing change, to “shine a light on a social condition, bring people together, or help us laugh or cry.”

“I have a great passion for using music as a tool for educating people in a community about their own historical roots,” Allen says.

“I love helping others understand how music can change hearts and minds, now and in our past. And I want to encourage others to write about what moves them.”

Bellingham’s Richard Scholtz, who’s been playing, performing, recording and teaching music for more than 40 years, says he is most interested in the ways in which music gets incorporated in the ordinary flow of life.

“Folk music is much more about participation than it is about audience and performer,” he says.

He’s leading a workshop on songs that have choruses: the fun of singing together and how to encourage a group to join with you to add their voices to the song.

Ted O’Connell plays in two Bellingham bands, The Scarlet Locomotive and the Prozac Mountain Boys.

“For my workshop on songwriting,” he says, “I plan to burst into the room bouncing a huge exercise ball, which I’ll use to demonstrate the many opposing forces that exist in writing songs, that is, “theory” vs. “intuition,” “the unconscious” vs. the “rational.”

A big part of workshop will be helping songwriters of all levels write better lyrics, he says.

“I’m a fiction writer and a creative writing teacher, so I feel pretty comfortable discussing language. I want this to be a workshop for the person who feels she is strong musically but less confident with language, as well as the dude who is a poet and just learning the guitar.”

“Expanding the circle of folks who play music at home for entertainment and the shear joy of being creative is becoming more important as the years go by. The community-building aspect of gatherings such as the Folk Festival are huge. Exposure to a variety of musical styles and musicians of all ages sets an example of accessibility that encourages growth in all of us,” says Laurel Bliss.

Folk Festival

When: Friday-Sunday, Jan. 22-24

Where: Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, 1207 Ellsworth St.

Cost: Varies; workshop, weekend, day and concert passes available

Details: thebellinghamfolkfestival.com

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