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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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Page 5 of 10


Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac
Cape Breton Blues and Greens

Nova Scotia means "New Scotland," and rock-bound, glacier-carved Cape Breton Island may be its most Scottish part. It was a prime destination for the deported clan losers of Bonnie Prince Charlie's 18th-century rebellion. 

Their traditions were uniquely preserved in insular exile. "From the moment he woke until he went to sleep, my grandfather whistled the [tunes] that I play," violinist Wendy MacIsaac says. "I'd absorbed the songs before I ever played them." 

MacIsaac started performing as a dancer at 5 years old and took up the violin at 12, playing at community step dances that often lasted three to four hours with no breaks. "You learn how to play at a good tempo," she says. "The dance makes the music more percussive, a lot of strong downbeat bows." Her training in the instrument mixed discipline — how to read music, to hold the instrument, the preferred fingerings — with wide tolerance for individual technique.

Her partner, singer Mary Jane Lamond, is a prominent voice in the preservation and presentation of Celtic culture. After a more typically modern childhood in Ontario and Quebec, Lamond returned to her Cape Breton roots when she fell in love with the Gaelic language, gaining her degree and launching a career singing in that language. (Her breakthrough hit, "Sleepy Maggie," was recorded with Wendy's cousin, fiddler Ashley MacIsaac.) For more than 16 years Wendy MacIsaac was a key part of Lamond's band; now it's more of a collaboration of equals. — Peter McElhinney

Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac


7 p.m.
Altria Stage


1:30 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage


1:15 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage

4:35 p.m.
Altria Stage


Larry Chance And the Earls
Living in Harmony

American doo-wop music, first performed on city street corners in the 1940s, always has been about love. Larry Chance was one of the form's original practitioners and hit makers. He's performed vocal group harmonies for more than 50 years and is still going strong, even after a bout with throat cancer. His group, the Earls, released its latest album of originals this year.

Chance, 70, was raised in a musical area of South Philadelphia, where he was school friends with the likes of Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon and Danny Rapp.

"I knew Chubby as Ernest Evans — he sat in front of me in homeroom," Chance says. "Then I moved to the Bronx. Because of my background in two different cities, I came up with a new kind of doo-wop sound with intricate background things going on: shing-a-ling-a-jing jings, badda-badda bop bops. I took the best of both worlds."

Back then, Larry Chance and the Earls were found at places such as the Riviera Lounge in Yonkers, Club Maxim in the Bronx, and the famous Peppermint Lounge. In 1962 they had a huge national hit with their single "Remember Then."

"The only message was love — I lost a love, I found a love, looking for a love — it was about fun," Chance says, noting that the performers were the first to really choreograph their music. "You tapped your toes, you snapped your fingers. It's still fun."

While the heyday of the music ran from 1954 until the mid-'60s British Invasion, Chance says he sees its influence in modern boy groups, such as Boyz II Men and 'N Sync.

In concert, the Earls use a lot of audience interaction in addition to comedy; Chance spent 10 years performing voices on the Don Imus radio show — characters such as Geraldo "Santana" Banana and Rainbow Johnson. "We try to be an entertainment package so people leave and say, 'That was fun.'" Chance says. "And we haven't been to Richmond in probably 25 years, so I'm definitely looking forward to it." — Brent Baldwin

Larry Chance and the Earls


4:15 p.m.
Altria Stage

6:30 p.m.
Community Foundation Stage

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