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The (Unofficial) 2011 Richmond Folk Festival Guide

From Chicago blues to Tibetan chants, we're going exotic places yet again.

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Folk Don't Stop
From Chinese Opera to Glen Allen Gospel, Don't Forget These. ...

For sheer spectacle, it's going to be difficult to top Qi Shu Fang Peking Opera. Steeped in the traditions of stylized 18th- and 19th-century Peking opera, the New York-based troupe uses elaborate costumes — feathers, flowing robes and explosions of color — to present a faithful presentation of a venerated Chinese theater form that melds music, vocal histrionics, acrobatics and dance. Expect a visceral experience that's both stirring and otherworldly.

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Clarinet player Michael Winograd has been called the boy man of the reed and one of the musicians most responsible for keeping the Eastern European klezmer tradition alive and thriving. The 25-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native became interested in traditional Jewish music after immersing himself in improvisational jazz, and his vibrant take on the klezmer form retains some of that avant-garde edge. For his appearances at the festival, Winograd has assembled something of a klezmer supergroup — including Jewish dance instructor Steven Weintraub. Winograd's Nue Tanhoyz Kepele will spotlight work by the musicians and composers, such as David Tarras and Naftule Brandwein, who helped to re-introduce the infectious klezmer sound to Jewish Americans in the early part of the 20th century.

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It's been called the most romantic music on earth — the sleek and sensuous trío romántico sound of the 1940s and '50s, which still informs much of the music of Mexico. One of the genre's leading lights was Los Tres Reyes, a trio of harmonizing classical guitarists that presented plucked strings and soulfully wavering vibratos. Still grounded by founding members Gilberto and Raúl Puente, the group remains faithful to the original Los Tres Reyes sound. In other words, bring a loved one and be prepared to gently swoon.

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The Git Hoan Dancers of Kingston, Wash., are dedicated to preserving the traditions of the Thimshian tribe of northern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Git hoan (which means "people of the salmon") perform songs in intricate masks and headdresses and showcase ceremonial dances, some of them hundreds of years old, that tribes people would perform in the wintertime when there was less work.

Closer to home, the S.H. Thompson Memorial Choir long has been considered one of the Richmond region's most prominent and passionate gospel music choirs. Formed in 1954 at Glen Allen's St. Peter Baptist Church (which was founded in 1882), the 50-member ensemble, led by director Keonyna Harris, tackles both traditional African-American gospel hymns as well as contemporary selections. Its sounds surely will fast track visitors to the heavenly way.

— Don Harrison

Qi Shu Fang Peking Opera

Friday

7:45 p.m.
MWV Stage

Saturday

12:30 p.m.
Martin's/Union First Market Stage

5 p.m.
MWV Stage

Winograd's Nue Tamzhoyz Kapele

Saturday

Noon
Dominion Dance Pavilion

7:45 p.m.
Altria Stage

Sunday

2:15 p.m.
Dominion Dance Pavilion

Los Tres Reyes

Saturday

Noon
Altria Stage

3:30 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage

Sunday

12:15 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage

The Git Hoan Dancers

Saturday

2:45 p.m.
MWV Stage

Sunday

1:15 p.m.
Martin's/Union First Market Stage

4:30 p.m.
MWV Stage

S.H. Thompson Memorial Choir

Sunday

3:30 p.m.
Altria Stage.

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