2010 Richmond Folk Festival

Boukman Eksperyans at Richmond Folk Festival 2010
photo by Eli Christman (CC BY 2.0)

The Richmond Folk Festival got its start five years ago when the National Folk Festival was hosted here from 2005-2007. The first year I could attend was 2008, but it happens that the RFF coincides with my undergraduate homecoming weekend, and it was a reunion year for my class, so I opted to do that instead. The following year I went to homecoming again, but this year I decided that it was time to check out the festival instead.

The festival starts on Friday evening and runs through Sunday evening. There are seven stages scattered throughout the riverfront area, including two on Browns Island. The terrain is helpful for blocking sound between the stages so that concurrent performances aren’t interrupting each other. The performances are scheduled in a slightly staggered manner, and many of the artists have repeat performances on a different stage and time/day, so in that regard the festival organizers are making sure that everyone has a chance to see the performances they want to see, which is pretty handy considering that more than 190,000 people attended this year.

I was particularly thrilled to hear and meet some of the Sacred Harp singers from Sand Mountain, Alabama. They performed on one of the stages on Saturday, and thanks to some friends, I had a seat in the second row. Then on Sunday, as I was walking through the festival, I stumbled upon them holding a somewhat impromptu (not scheduled but sanctioned by festival organizers) open sing, and was able to join them for the last four songs.

The most entertaining performance award goes to Capoeira Luanda. They showed amazing strength, flexibility, and focus in their demonstration of this African-influenced Brazilian dance/game/martial art. Here’s a video that someone shot during the Saturday evening performance I saw:

The two other stand-out performances I saw were Benedicte Maurseth and Andes Manta. I have heard recordings of the Hardangfele, or Hardanger fiddle, but it wasn’t until Maurseth explained the construction that I understood why it sounds like two people playing when it’s only one. The fiddle has a set of strings under the ones that are touched by the bow which resonate when the string above them vibrates. She played some trance tunes that were so hauntingly beautiful that I felt a little lost when the music ended. Andes Manta are group of brothers who perform traditional Andean music, including flutes, panpipes, and several stringed instruments. I could have listened to them for hours.

One of the aspects of the folk fest performances that I particularly enjoyed was the educational component. I walked away from most performances with a greater understanding of the context, culture, and technical aspects of the music. Getting some education with my entertainment is a nice bonus.

Unfortunately, because I volunteered about 8 hours of my time at an information booth, I missed quite a bit of the festival (minus what I could hear from one of the nearby stages). While I enjoyed helping out, I think next time I will try to pick a volunteer shift that doesn’t overlap with quite so much of the performance times.

The folk fest is admissions-free, but they do suggest a $5 donation per person per day. There are people carrying bright orange five-gallon buckets all over the event, asking for donations from the people attending, but on average, they collected less than $0.40 per person this year. Thankfully, they are able to get sponsorships to cover the rest of the costs of the festival, but there’s some concern that the festival may have to scale back or start charging an entry fee if they don’t get more donations in the future.

So, if you’re in the Richmond area next October and you are looking for something relatively inexpensive and fun to do, please be sure to check out the folk festival!

CIL 2010: post-conference thoughts

I should present more.

I should present more.

That’s what I have concluded at the end of this conference. There were a few sessions I was jazzed to see, and some others that surprised me, but for the most part, I found myself too often realizing that if I had done a bit of research on my own, I would have known about as much about a session topic as the presenters. Those tended to be the sessions in which I stuck around for the intro and then left, or looked at the slides in advance and decided to go to something else.

While I may be learning about a lot of new tech and ideas outside of the ITI conferences, there is nothing to replace the “lobbycon” aspect of theses events. The connections I have made with other folks who are as equally excited about pushing libraries forward is well worth the price of admission, in my humble opinion. ITI conferences are my equivalent of going to ALA, and very few folks I know talk about going to ALA for the presentations.

I may joke about the “beer track” at conferences, but the reality is that as much as I may advocate for virtual attendance and online communities, they can’t replace the connections (serendipity, perhaps?) of real-time, face-to-face interactions.

March reading

I started reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founders of 37 Signals). I’m enjoying both and am forcing myself to carve out time for them, but I still wasn’t able to finish them in the month. I did, however complete two books.

Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail: An Illustrated Guide to the Cradle of Freedom by Frye Gaillard, with a forward by Juan Williams, was not a book I would have chosen myself (it was sent to me for review), but turned out to be an interesting read. It’s in part a travel guide, but mostly is a history lesson about events related to the civil rights movement in Alabama, mainly in the 20th century.

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael S. Kimmel is the One Book, One Campus selection at MPOW this year. I refrained from reading further ahead than the chapters we were discussing, so I finished the book at the same time our lunchtime discussions ended. It’s an interesting perspective on “guy” culture and how much that dominates the rest of American/Western culture. I don’t agree with all of Kimmel’s arguments, but they gave me food for thought. I highly recommend this book to anyone in a university setting (male or female).

ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.

The Blog Salon was definitely the highlight of the social events at ALA. I met a few new interesting folk, as well as got to chat with a few folks I had met previously.

I had an illuminating conversation with an advocate for games in libraries who gave me a different perspective of gamer society, particularly how casual games fit in. My skills with the console and arcade games of the 80s and early 90s were rudimentary at best, and I haven’t tried anything since then. He let me play a basic game on his portable game device that was fairly simple to pick up and learn without instructions. Sure, the first person shooters and “twitch” games, as he called them, are quite popular, but “casual” games have been booming as well.

Come to think of it, thanks to Blogcritics, I’ve had a chance to play with and review a few casual games over the past year, and by his definition, that makes me a gamer. Weird. Anyway, it has me thinking of how we could use games as a way of making the library a friendlier place for our students, and what kinds of games would work with some of the general education curriculum.

Continue reading “ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.”

conferencing

“I am a traveler / I sail the open free / Oh I am a traveler / All roads they carry me”

I am about to embark on a month of conferencing and vacation, and the preparations are about to wear me out. Most of this is my own doing.

I am a consummate procrastinator, which means that in addition to the regular getting ready to go and daily work things I need to do, I’m also frantically trying to finish up some projects that have to be done by the end of the quarter, which is June 8th. However, I will be gone from May 24 – June 5, which leaves me exactly nine working days to complete my tasks that I had planned to spend about a month on. Argh.

On the up side, I’ll be able to visit family, as well as serials librarian geek-out at NASIG.

After I return from NASIG, I have a couple of weeks of regular work before I leave again for ALA, followed by a week of visiting friends, as well as a Where’s George geek-out with folks in DC.

Then, three days after I return from DC, I’m back on the road again to Illinois for the National Women’s Music Festival. I wasn’t planning to attend, but in a moment of weakness I snagged tickets for direct flights to and from Chicago on Southwest. After July 8, I plan to stay within my county for several weeks.