Wrap-Up Report, NOMAD 2006

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2006 NOMAD Festival, November 3-5, 2006, at the Hill Regional Career High School, New Haven, CT.

We are still experimenting to find the best way to use the pleasant, modern facilities at Wilbur Cross High School. One experiment that succeeded beyond our expectations was use of the beautiful front foyer as a performance space.  We did have a few sound bleed problems which we are working to overcome, but performers and audiences enjoyed the space. We think the music and activity helped create a festive atmosphere for people entering the building, and everyone enjoyed the sunlight and the autumn colors visible through the wall of windows. We were especially pleased with a visit from our old friends, the Kartuli Ensemble, who entertained an appreciative SRO audience with choral music from the Republic of Georgia. Other good friends who made use of this wonderful new space were Robert Messore displaying his virtuosity on guitar, the Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers, and banjo virtuoso Roger Sprung.

More people are discovering the delights of the V wing. The V wing rooms are located at the opposite end of the cafeteria from the gyms and are the venues for intimate concerts, family activities, and in-depth discussions of musical traditions.  It is definitely worth the short walk. In 2006 the V Wing provided venues for such diverse presentations as the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet, Songs and Stories of the Underground Railroad with Nzinga’s Daughters, West Gallery Music and Shape-Note Singing with Bruce Randall, Songs of Cowboys, Outlaws and Scoundrels with Woodchucks’ Revenge, a Chantey Blast hosted by Mystic Seaport chanteyman Geoff Kauffman, a Ballad Blast for lovers of song-stories, Irish fiddle and flute music with Damien and Sally Connolly, and many more acts too numerous to list.

We had two new food vendors this year.  La Carreta Mexican specialties and Elm City Kettle Corn tempted our taste buds with their delicious fare. Our mainstay vendors, the Hamden Plains Church catering group coordinated by Anthony Moore, are just amazing.  Their variety of tasty and satisfying dishes warmed the hearts as well as the stomachs of many hungry NOMAD attendees.  Our good friends the Scottish Country Dancers provided coffee and dessert.  They have been part of NOMAD almost from the beginning, and their Sunday morning oatmeal (porridge) is an annual treat that many of us look forward to.

The vendors in the crafts bazaar were very happy with their new location in the cafeteria.  They were right in the middle of things, and they helped make the cafeteria the heart of the festival as it was in our early years at Newtown.  We hope this positive energy will help attract more vendors to the upcoming festival.  Several of our vendors, including Eastern European Emporium, Alamo Styles, Folk Legacy Records, and Celtic World have been with us from those early years.  They are part of the family!

As usual, the two gymnasiums attracted large crowds of enthusiastic dancers all weekend long. There were events in both gyms for every hour of the festival this year, from 8 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Sunday. We presented a full program of Contra Dancing, interspersed with English Country, Scottish, Zwiefache, and Squares. With all that vigorous dancing we do a good job of keeping ourselves warm in the main gym, but thanks to a computerized central heating system we sometimes get just a mite too warm. We will contact the school engineers in advance of the 2007 festival to try to have the temperature lowered for our event.

The auditorium stage provided space for a wide variety of participatory international dancing. The styles we enjoyed this year included Scandinavian Turning Dances, Russian Cossack Dances, Colonial Cotillions, Balkan Dances, Breton Dances, Italian Dances, and many more.

For next year we hope to produce a festival just as jam-packed with activities.

As a dance and music festival NOMAD depends heavily on knowledgeable sound volunteers to keep the music playing.  If you or someone you know has experience with sound system operation for dances or concerts, please get in touch with us.  NOMAD can’t happen without a sound crew.

In fact, we need volunteers for all aspects of the festival.  NOMAD is an all-volunteer festival.  We need people to serve on the organizing committee and others to help during the festival.  Please consider becoming a volunteer.
Volunteers receive discounts on festival admission and lots of love!  Please contact us at 860-355-9029 or by email to learn how you can help with future festivals!

We hope to see you in November 2007.

Wrap-Up Report, NOMAD 2005

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2005 NOMAD Festival, which was held November 4-6, 2005, at the Hill Regional Career High School, New Haven, CT.

We dedicated NOMAD 2005 to Chip Hendrickson, who passed away in February. Chip was Connecticut’s own Dancing Master. He was a researcher and educator in the fields of Colonial and Native American Dance. He was a good friend of NOMAD and he provided valuable support and assistance to his wife, NOMAD’s founder Fran Hendrickson. In Chip’s honor, we offered sessions in Colonial dances led by Patricia Campbell, Chip’s Contras led by Eric Hollman and Chip’s Squares led by Allen Brozek and Dave Hass. As we expected, all were very well attended.

We continue to be delighted with our new home at Wilbur Cross High School. As we reported previously, it’s a bright, modern facility located between a comfortable suburban neighborhood and a very popular state park. For a better idea of just how pleasant our venue is, please refer to our Directions page for a photograph, and to last year’s wrap-up for a more detailed description.

As in past years, NOMAD 2005 quickly became a place to meet old friends and welcome new ones. On the dance side of the schedule, our core program of Contras, Squares, Scottish, English, and International was complemented by such offerings as Multi-Ethnic Israeli with Danny Pollock, Historical Dance and a Ragtime Dance performance by Terry & Jim, a Croatian Dance Party with Pajdashi, an exceptionally impressive performance of Lithuanian Folk Dances by Vetra, and many other interesting and often unusual sessions.

Our musical offerings also were too numerous and diverse to list. We will mention just a few here. Deb Cowan delighted the children with her Silly Songs and Funney Folk (yes, that’s how it’s spelled). Shoregrass gave us a good sampling of their new CD in a Songs of the Civil War workshop. John Roberts and Pamela Goddard kept the ballad fans enthralled with their Double Ballads session (Pamela also has a new CD “As Time Draws Near” that is getting rave reviews from folk radio hosts all across the country). Other musical delights were the West Gallery Music session led by Bruce Randall and Voyageur and Habitante – Women’s Voices in New France with Diane Taraz and Lynne Noel.

Sandy and Caroline Paton have been making their contributions to NOMAD for so long that we are in danger of taking them for granted. Many, many thanks to Sandy and Caroline for their Folksong Harvest session, for all of their contributions to NOMAD over the years, and for all they have done to promote traditional music with their Folk-Legacy record label. We look forward to seeing them back at NOMAD in 2006.

We expect many of the 2005 group to return in 2006. Since we don’t have room here to  tell you about each of them individually, we are directing you to our Performers List. As we assemble the lineup for the 2006 we will list all of the performers, with links to their web pages when available. We are truly gratified that all of these good folks perform each year without remuneration, satisfied just to share their knowledge and talents with their appreciative friends at NOMAD.

We hope to see you at NOMAD 2006. Please visit our website periodically. We will post updates on NOMAD 2006 as information becomes available.

Wrap-Up Report, NOMAD 2002

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2002 NOMAD Festival, which was held October 25-27, 2002, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.

NOMAD ’02 got off to an impressive start on Friday night. Both the music and dance events were simply spectacular.

Highlighting the evening was a three-hour tribute to Alan Lomax, the world’s pre-eminent folksong collector, who passed away in July at age 87. We were fortunate to have the participation of a number of scholars and singers who actually worked with Lomax during his long career. NOMAD regulars Sandy and Caroline Paton, founders of Folk-Legacy Records, told of meeting Lomax in London in 1957 through the efforts of Shirley Collins and, through Alan Lomax, meeting master Irish piper Seamus Ennis. Jeff and Gerret Warner, new to NOMAD this year, told of Lomax’s influence on their parents Frank and Anne Warner, who went on to collect and publish quite a number of traditional songs from the American South. Jack Langstaff, best known as founder of the popular Christmas Revels programs, made his first appearance at NOMAD. He told of his own early meetings with Lomax and he led the entire group and audience in a truly inspiring singalong of “Walking on the Green Grass.” Our surprise guest, introduced by Jack, was Robin Roberts Howard. She told about travelling around Ireland with Lomax, meeting and recording such folk sources as Seamus Ennis, Mickey Doherty and Elizabeth Cronin. She also recounted stories of her stay with Lomax in New York, meeting Woody Guthrie and helping Lomax with his memorial tribute to Lead Belly at Town Hall. Jerry Epstein, also a NOMAD regular, moderated the proceedings and provided a few anecdotes of his own. Each of the participants sang a number of songs, giving the audience a good sampling of the kind of material collected by Alan Lomax.

Perhaps the most interesting participant in the session was Alan Lomax himself – by way of audio and video recordings. Jack provided a simply wonderful audio tape of Lomax giving a talk to the third annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada in 1987. He described the groundbreaking work of his father, John A. Lomax, in his ultimately successful struggle to get cowboy poetry recognized as serious literature worthy of scholarly study and publication. Robin provided a home video from the mid-90’s of the last time Lomax was recorded before illness curtailed his activities.

Our Welcoming Contra Dance was called by Bill Olson and Christine Hale. They provided an incredibly varied mix of lively and interesting dances. It is always a pleasure to watch talented callers inspire a gym full of enthusiastic dancers. Bill has made the long trek from Maine quite a few years now, and his contributions to NOMAD are appreciated by all. Duffy’s Insurance from New York State provided solid musical accompaniment.

For the rest of the weekend, NOMAD continued its tradition of offering the best in performances, participatory dance, concerts and singalongs. The Saturday performances in the auditorium included Appalachian Clogging by Fiddlekicks, Irish Step Dancing by the Gray School of Irish Dance and a Middle Eastern Bellydance performance by the Matachin Dancers. Once again The Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers treated us to a demonstration of the best in Scottish dance. The Monique Legare International Dance Company presented their usual dazzling performances of dance forms from various eastern European countries and Puerto Rico in an array of colorful costumes.

NOMAD again offered enough participation sessions for non-stop dancing throughout the weekend. Our core English, Contra, Square, International and Scottish sessions included such talented callers as Mary Jones, Gary Roodman, Robin Hayden, Donna Hunt, Eric Hollman, Ted Crane, Steve Holland, Ridge Kennedy, Leora Berns, Danny Pollock, Brian Haeckler and many more. Music was provided by The Flying Romanos, Garden Variety, Pleasures of the Town, Hot Under the Caller, The Fiddleheads, Zornitsa, Zdravets, Zima, International Folk Sounds, Cal Howard and a host of others. To all of that we added Bransles with Susan DeGuardiola and Gaile Ivaska, Russian with Murray and Randi Spiegel, Cajun with the Back Porch Rockers, Bulgarian with Divi Zeni, Clogging with Stamp of Approval, Italian with Paolina Kavanagh, Zwiefachers with Sam and Sandy Rotenberg, Harp Waltzes with Ellen Tepper and many, many others. There just isn’t room here to list all of the talented dance leaders and musicians who make the participatory dance program at NOMAD so impressive. Workshops in most of the dance forms were offered to all experience levels, from Beginner to Experienced.

The music program was equally diverse. Performers from the Alan Lomax tribute returned to present their own special programs. Jeff & Gerret Warner presented a program of songs from their parents’ collection. Jerry Epstein and Jack Langstaff gave an interesting and informative presentation of Ritual Songs. NOMAD stalwarts Sandy and Caroline Paton presented selections from their huge repertoire of Songs and Ballads. On top of all that, we had one more delightful surprise. The Bisserov Sisters, an internationally famous troupe of singers and musicians from Bulgaria, happened to be touring the U.S. and made a last-minute decision to stop by at NOMAD. They gave a simply stunning performance of Bulgarian songs, instrumental music and ritual displays to an SRO crowd in the Chorus Room. A big “thank you” to Henry Goldberg for relinquishing his time slot so this performance could go on. Another big “thank you” to Karl Finger for bringing this marvelous group to the U. S. and persuading them to check out NOMAD. The rest of the music programs are too numerous to list here. Sea Songs, Cowboy Songs, Rounds, Shape-Note Singing, a Harp & Kantele concert, workshops in fiddle, banjo, guitar, dulcimers and other instruments were just a few of the dozens of sessions to interest listeners, singers and musicians.

The offerings in NOMAD’s Family Area were no less diverse than the adult sessions. Dance activities included Contra, International, Israeli, Colonial, Klezmer and Scottish. Stories, Ballads, Drumming and Old-Time String Band Music filled out the program.

The Event Grids for NOMAD ’02 will remain on the web site until it’s time to replace them with NOMAD ’03. To get a look at the entire program, just return to the main page and click on the links to the several sections of the grid.

We were able to expand the Folk Bazaar this year. Over 20 booths filled the high school’s spacious front lobby, offering books, recordings, musical instruments, clothing, jewelry, toys and gift items.

As always, the cafeteria was a popular place. The high school’s Culinary Arts Program, the Housatonic Valley Waldorf School and the Scottish Country Dancers provided a considerable variety of meals and snacks. Fruit smoothies from Dancing Smoothies were just the thing to cool down after a few sessions of vigorous dancing. Once again the Scots provided their wonderful Sunday breakfast. The tradition of Saturday and Sunday morning song swaps continued this year, with Liz Lewis leading the session on Saturday and Kathy Westra on Sunday. For the rest of the weekend, a program of jam sessions and singalongs provided a backdrop to the dining and socializing.

NOMAD continues its tradition of being a 100% volunteer festival. Thanks are due to all the volunteer performers and staff who make this remarkable weekend possible.

Please do check out the Event Grids to view our complete program. If you haven’t experienced NOMAD yet, we hope you will be persuaded to give it a try in 2003.