Saturday, February 2, 2008

FSGW mini-fest

Today we went to the Folklore Society of Washington mid-winter festival in Takoma Park. It was close enough to walk to and great fun all around. We opened the day watching J's friends Margaux and Matthew's family playing and finished with Sacred Harp. The Sacred Harp singing was pretty great, and much too short for my taste. By the time we set up there was only about 45 min left for singing. Pretty good turnout though, for such a small event. I led 274 on the top, Golden Harp.

I also went to 2 sessions of Bulgarian singing, a banjo/fiddle tunes workshop, a klezmer fiddle workshop, and a session on African-American work songs. I enjoyed most of it, but the work songs session put me off pretty badly. It was hosted by a couple of WASP-y types, one of whose family had previously employed slave labourers. It seemed like an effort to placate his sense of guilt over his family's activities and smacked of oppressive colonialist attitudes. Although the music was presented with respect and information on historical context, the fact that it was presented by a white couple to a room full of white listeners singing along really seemed wrong to me.

The comparison that I made is that it would be akin to someone whose family was part of the Nazi SS during the holocaust getting up and singing Jewish traditional songs to alleviate familial guilt. Though perhaps that would be more offensive because it is 2 or 3 generations closer to us. At any rate, i would have felt much better about the experience if they had actually invited someone who is an actual culture-bearer of the music (if such a person exists) to participate in the singing.

On the positive side, J and I really enjoyed the Bulgarian presentations and are thinking of visiting one of their rehearsals on Monday nights. That music is great fun and very, very beautiful.

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