Home Feature Dispatches from the Mariposa Folk Festival daytime stages day three (Sunday)

Dispatches from the Mariposa Folk Festival daytime stages day three (Sunday)

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K.T. Tunstall. Photo by Howard Druckman.

One thing I want to say about Mariposa and its location in Orillia, ON at Tudhope Park is that there is a permanent sign as you enter the grounds that says “Tudhope Park – Home of the Mariposa Folk Festival.” What a terrific thing it is to see a festival and a town partner in such a mutually beneficial and proud way. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t happen elsewhere. It’s just good to see it when it does.

Folk music historians will know that Mariposa started in Orillia in 1961 before being staged elsewhere and then returned in 1961. It has clearly now become something of a crown jewel for the municipality, and that is just great.
So, on to the Sunday day-time programming. After taking in as many personal favourites on Saturday as I could, I promised myself I’d seek out music that wouldn’t necessarily be a first choice. And with the first workshop of the day I sort of did that, though since I have known and enjoyed Jill Barber’s work as a jazz vocalist, I knew I wasn’t taking any chances. With her at that 11:00 a.m. stage were Sister Ray and STORRY. Great song-writing, beautiful voices all around, and the chemistry among the three was quite special as they were noticeably impressed by what the others were doing. STORRY, said to be rooted in R&B Soul in her bio, was a great find for me at this folk festival – maybe the find of the weekend. Certainly a great voice, but also with a depth and power that is exceptional. Again, I probably would not have run across her in my usual listening patterns. Glad I found her at Mariposa.

The next performance I saw, which did not require me to move to another stage, which is always nice, was David Francey. You may find it hard to believe that this would be new music for anyone, and it certainly is not for me, but somehow I have never seen him live and in person. That is strange given how much I have always loved the tradition in which one might place him along with perhaps the likes of Ewan MacColl, Archie Fisher, Owen McBride and others. Great to see him perform for the first time, especially with the wonderful stories that go with his live show. He was backed up beautifully on fiddle and guitar. As an aside, I noticed a very long line-up to get into the Mariposa Pub Stage for a 12:15 show featuring Steve Polz, Danny Michel, Carsie Blanton, and KT Tunstall. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a line-up to get into a day-time workshop, though people seemed pretty excited and I’m sure it was a good show.

Here’s another aside that a stage announcer, a Mariposa volunteer, mentioned while introducing a workshop. It was the fact that Estelle Klein, legendary artistic director of the Mariposa Folk Festival from 1964 to 1980, actually invented the workshop stage format in which several performers get up on stage and perform sequentially and sometimes together. These workshops were intended to bring together artists who might not normally perform together and often put them in close proximity to the audience. This format has of course been used in many
places over the years. If I knew that, I forgot it.

At 1:45 p.m., I noticed that there was going to be a workshop called Shelter from the Storm featuring The McDades, a Celtic-based group; OKAN, an Afro-Cuban band; and Doghouse Orchestra, described as playing in country, funk, and jazz styles. All of a sudden thinking here of Estelle Klein and artists who might not play together. And they did play together in what was one of the wildest free-for-all jam sessions I have seen in some time. One of the three groups would take the lead in a style they played most of the time, and the other groups wasted no time jumping right in. That’s what talented musicians do. It was crazy good.

By about 2:30 p.m., I decided to have a bite to eat and walk around a bit knowing that I was going to miss a workshop call Raised in Canada’s Atlantic Playground. It featured Quote the Raven, Jeremy Dutcher and The Trews Acoustic. I didn’t realize what a bad decision I had made until I could hear off in the distance the entire audience from that workshop singing together and beautifully Ron Hynes’ classic “Sonny’s Dream.” I wanted to run over but accepted the fact that I had simply missed what must have been a moment of pure magic at this year’s Mariposa. Ugh.

I had seen a bit of Carsie Blanton at a workshop the day before and promised myself I would hear more of her. I caught her 2:30 p.m. performance with full band in tow at the Barnfield Stage. Her bio says she has been inspired by such artists as Nina Simone and Randy Newman, which works for me. It also says she writes anthems for a world worth saving. Another one to watch.

The last thing I did on Sunday afternoon, almost on a lark, was check out The Handsome Devils, a country and western band out of Hamilton, which is the term they use to describe themselves. They were invited to Mariposa, I understand, through a talent contest put on by the festival. I enjoyed them thoroughly, though it is a style little heard from on country radio stations these days, much to the disappointment of those who like the old stuff. Let’s just say Merle Haggard would have been pleased.

So much I did not get to, but I enjoyed what I found. Good job festival programmers! I look forward to next year.

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