The Art of Outdoing Ourselves
As a member of the Richmond Folk Festival programming committee, I'm often inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of the festival's overseers — the way they can stretch a buck, twist an arm, seduce a booking agent. As a Richmond resident, I'm delighted at how this event transforms and rejuvenates the city every October, and how people from so many different walks of life manage to work together to make it happen. One can only wonder at how far Richmond could go if we ran the rest of our communal business the way we run this festival.
Visitors should prepare their senses for a varied smorgasbord of tones and tales, sounds and sensibilities — innovative flat picking, dance rhythms from the Andes Mountains, the roots of salsa, Northern Neck Chantey singing, Persian trance music, Texas conjunto tejano, Chicago blues, Haitian dance music, the journey of the fiddle, Virginia rockabilly and so much more. Patrons leave the festival wondering how it can outdo itself. Somehow it always does. This year is no exception.
What's truly amazing is how this weekend tutorial on the folk tradition — which involves seven stages and 30 different world-class performers spread across the downtown waterfront — is still free. For that, we can thank the event's devoted sponsors, who haven't let a little thing like an economic downturn spoil Richmond's finest moment. This year's itinerary will spread even beyond the festival grounds, with selected performers appearing at nearby schools before the event, and institutions such as the Richmond Ballet opening up during the festivities to showcase the art of folk dancing.
It's the 2010 Richmond Folk Festival, y'all. Grab your tabla and a neyanban and let the manifest destiny begin. — Don Harrison