5 workshops you won’t want to miss at the Mariposa Folk Festival
As a publicist who’s worked for various folk and roots music festivals over the years – as well as curating my own SPEAK Music Be Kind Festival for the past few – I know from first-hand experience how challenging it can be to come up with themes for workshop stages. It’s at the workshops where festivals can really come alive, as new and unique combinations of performers can sparkle together and create magic moments.
The annual Mariposa Folk Festival is coming up this weekend in Orillia. Here are just a few of the fascinating looking workshops I can’t wait to check out.
At The Barnfield Stage
Tricontinental Convergence (11:00 a.m. Saturday)
Representing three continents, Lloyd Spiegel from Australia, The Trials of Cato from the U.K., and Canada’s own Bros. Landreth meet for the first time in a geographical free-for-all. Lloyd is a classic blues-rocker with a gritty voice who knows his way around a shuffle. Bros. Landreth combine elements of blues, folk, roots, rock, and jazz, like Ry Cooder or Bonnie Raitt might. And The Trials of Cato take traditional Irish (and other) folk songs and apply three-part harmony and all manner of well-played acoustic string instruments. All three acts feature masterful pickers, so the sparks could really fly if each combines their forces with the others.
Raised in Canada’s Atlantic Playground (1:40 p.m. Sunday)
You’d be hard-pressed to find three more widely-ranging acts anywhere, but that testifies to the musical diversity of the Maritimes, from whence all of them come. Quote the Raven is an acoustic duo of one guitar and two warm voices, one male and one female, who make delicate music about relationships. Jeremy Dutcher – a Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) member of the Tobique First Nation – won the Polaris Music Prize in 2018 by applying his operatic tenor to reworkings of archival recordings of traditional Maliseet songs. And The Trews are a veteran, hard-touring rock ‘n’ roll band, playing in an acoustic format for this workshop. Whatever else it is, this one will be the most eclectic showcase of the weekend.
At The Pub Stage
Saltwater/Freshwater (11:00 a.m. Sunday)
This is a clever title. When the East Coast trio Les Fireflies meets the Central Ontario duo Showman & Coole, the acts might each take turns, or it could end up in a full-blown kitchen party. Les Fireflies, comprised of three accomplished professional female musicians based in New Brunswick, offer an authentic cultural snapshot of their Acadian Heritage. With energy and enthusiasm, they apply three fiddles, three vocals, and a few other instruments to traditional Acadian songs and their own originals. Fiddler John Showman and banjo player Chris Coole are among the most in-demand, first-call bluegrass/old-time musicians in Southern Ontario, and they play the classics of their genre with great skill and understated grace. All of the musicians in these acts are wicked players and strong harmony singers, so the potential of their combination onstage is huge.
Phone Keys Wallet Glasses (12:15 p.m. Sunday)
The title of the workshop comes from the checklist of items not to forget as we leave the house, which subtly introduces the theme of “getting old.” Both Steve Poltz and Danny Michel have played Mariposa several times over the years. Steve is a classic folkie with an engaging onstage manner and excellent songwriting chops; Danny is a thoughtful lyricist, memorable melodist, cracking guitar player, and charming live performer. Carsie Blanton has accomplished the feat of making hard-headed, open-hearted protest songs that are also joyful, catchy, and filled with soul. You likely know Scottish musician KT Tunstall from her worldwide hit songs “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See.” For the past seven years, she’s focused on a trilogy of albums: KIN, a record about soul; WAX, about the body; and the new NUT, about the mind. It’s anybody’s guess what this unlikely combination of musicians might do together, but it’s sure to be entertaining.
While they’re not showcases, there are several performances this year memorializing the late, great Gordon Lightfoot. Born and raised in Mariposa’s hometown of Orillia, Lightfoot almost always made an unannounced appearance at each edition of the festival. Last year, I was lucky enough to witness his final appearance on the Main Stage, as he mesmerized an adoring crowd with his tender-hearted rendition of “If You Could Read My Mind.” This year, The Way We Feel – A Lightfoot Celebration will, fittingly, open the festival on Friday at 5:10 p.m. on the Main Stage. It’ll feature a variety of performers who presented this once-annual celebration at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room every January for 14 years of multi-night, sold-out shows. The Gordon Lightfoot Band, comprised of musicians who played with him for decades, will perform Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. And there’ll be a Lightfoot Sing-Along for anybody who wants to do so, at 5:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at the Village Stage.
For a more thorough look at all the workshops, access the festival schedule and search by venue.