Home Feature Dispatches from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival day three (Sunday)

Dispatches from the Vancouver Folk Music Festival day three (Sunday)

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On a stage packed with brilliant performers, before a packed audience spread for meters and meters in all directions across a shaded field, Krystal Dos Santos stood before the microphone perfectly still and silent.

For a Full. Minute.

No one stirred. Not a sound from anyone.

Gently she dissolved the spell she had cast by telling us all that she was just taking a moment to listen to the rustling of the leaves and be, at least for a minute, completely present and in the moment.

And then she broke into song.

“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. A soaring, joyous and painful rendition that may well be the best version I’ve ever heard.

If this was what church was like every Sunday, I’d be a religious man.

I had just gotten to the south stage early on the third day of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. The mesmerizing Jim Byrnes was hosting the Let the Spirit Move You workshop. After the applause quieted away for Krystal, Jim invited The Sojourners to take the stage.

They deftly took the magical energy Ms. Dos Santos conjured and spun it into Curtis Mayfield’s “Back to the World.”

William Prince followed that up with “Send the Light,” and we were all firmly in church, giving praise and worship. Maya de Virtry offered up “Is It Not Time” and then we were back the to the Sojourners with “Eyes on the Prize.”

By the time Krystle Dos Santos took to the mic again with “Wade in the Water” we were all well and truly baptized in the spirit.

After the show I caught up with Marcus Mosley of the Sojourners, who introduced me to his collaborator, Will Sanders. I asked them how they came by the festival circuit, because I had seen them perform in a variety of venues; theatres, concert halls and of course churches.

“It’s actually where we got our start,” Marcus told me. Years and years ago, “2007? 2008?” they had gotten the call from Jim Byrnes to be on his House of Refuge album. After that session, Jim, along with Steve Dawson, said that they would love to take them on the road, on tour, and suggested that they should have a CD to sell. So they did “a really rough mix CD” called Hold On.

Will broke in at that point to say that the festival circuit fans are “the most die-hard, committed fans. Particularly the Sunday Morning” crowd.

They told me how performing in the Sunday gospel workshops has taken them to festivals all across North America and gotten them to work with artists like The Persuasions, Ruthie Foster and Mavis Staples, among others.

“Marcus and I have a background in gospel,” Will said. “Marcus was raised in sanctified, what do you call it, Pentecostal Holy Rollers, and I was a Southern Baptist.”

Marcus interrupted, “His family actually had a church.“

“Yeah, the church I was raised in was founded by my great-great-grandfather,” Will confirmed.

But there is actually two sides to it, Marcus tells me, there is the church side of it, and there’s the fact that they both grew up in the Civil Rights era.

“Dr. King started that movement within the church,” he said. “So that kind of music lends itself to that kind of energy. Changing the world with compassion and humanity. It doesn’t have to be religious, but it can bring people spiritual encouragement and healing.”

“Well, it certainly works on me,” I told them, “and Marcus, you know I’m a deeply agnostic man.”

We spoke a little more about loss and healing, how that last couple of years have been hard, particularly for Will who recently lost some close family members. “But it was when my cat died that I really broke down. But of course, as I had to tell my wife, it wasn’t really about the cat. I just needed to have that really deep cry. “

I had to let them go at about that point, as we were both heading out in different directions. But I marvelled as we made our ways apart again that such deep emotions could be translated into such powerful joy that they had brought to the stage.

After that I decided that maybe it was time for me to put away my notebook and pen, and just find a quiet shady spot to just sit and listen to music.

“The east stage,” I thought. The east stage was showcasing Susan O’Neill from yesterday’s Storyteller workshop for an hour, then Maya de Vitry, who had just helped blow the lid off the south stage along with the other gospel performers. After that I can make my mind up about the rest of the afternoon. Maybe stick around for some Flamenco and Las Cafeteras. Maybe head back to the south stage for the Kayhan Kalhor Trio. Eventually I’ll make my way to the main stage and hear Joe Henry, Twin Flames again, Albert Lee…

It’s sure to be a good final for the 2023 Folk Music Festival. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it.

Oh and the Chilango Mango? It’s a fresh peeled mango on a stick butterflied out into bite size pieces, and sprinkled with a spicy rub. It’s quite delicious…

Signing out.

Anthony Stonechild.

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