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 2004

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2004 NOMAD Festival, which was held November 6-7, 2004, at the Wilbur Cross High School, New Haven, CT.

Attendees at NOMAD 2004 found us once again in new digs. Our new – and we hope permanent – home is Wilbur Cross High School, across town from Career High School where we presented NOMAD 2003.

Wilbur Cross has just about everything we could possibly have hoped for. It is a modern, bright, spacious building with two gyms for our dance events, a couple of small concert venues, a good-sized auditorium and more than sufficient classroom space for workshops. In all, we have 10 areas for our dance and music events, and more are available if we should need them. The cafeteria is just enormous – so large in fact, that one could easily dine and socialize at one end and be completely unaware of a concert or jam session taking place at the other. The folk bazaar vendors fit easily into the huge, bright open area just inside the main entrance, and a few opted for a section of the cafeteria. Best of all, everything is on one level; no stairs or elevators to contend with.

All of this sits scarcely a mile from Interstate 91, the major north-south corridor that connects New Haven with central Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. On one side of us is a people-friendly residential neighborhood of large, picturesque old houses and small local shops and eating places. It’s just a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown. On the other side is East Rock, a spectacular traprock ridge, the summit of which towers some 350 feet over Wilbur Cross High School and the surrounding neighborhood. The summit is accessible by autombile or, for the more stout-hearted, by foot. The summit offers a panoramic view of New Haven, the surrounding area of Connecticut and, on a good day, clear across the water to Long Island. The rock is the centerpiece of a 425-acre park that features miles of hiking trails, playgrounds, facilities for various sporting activities, boating, picnicking and kite-flying. (Kite-flying is a favorite activity at the summit; the wind conditions there are ideal.) East Rock’s Rose Garden is a favorite locale for wedding photos (not in November though). The park is a favorite not only of local residents, but also an attraction for tourists spending their vacations in this part of Connecticut.

So much for the physical accommodations. We think the festival itself lived up to our regular attendees’ expectations – a widely diversified program of dance and music, with lots of sessions to appeal to just about every interest. As usual, it would be impossible to list everything here so we’ll just highlight a few things. Cajun dance returned to NOMAD this year, hosted by Jesse Lege and Bayou Brew. We saw some Kurdish dancing led by Carole Silverman, Serbian Line Dances led by Jonathan Young, a Croatian Dance Party with Pajdashi, Zwiefache with the NOMAD Festival Brass Band and Women’s Belly Dancing with Ksenia, to name a very few. Jeff Walker and the Walker Family Band had us doing a whole range of dance styles to bagpipe music. In the Family Area, Susan De Guardiola and Irene Urban demonstrated French Circle Dances in a session titled “Having a Bransle” (Yes, that’s a pun). Then, of course, there were the hours and hours of English, Contra, International, Square and Scottish sessions, with dance leaders from near and far.

In our concert areas, we were pleased to welcome Scott Alarik from Boston and John Roberts from Schenectady. Aside from his performing, Scott is well known for his many writings on the subject of folk music. His columns have appeared in both folk-oriented and mainstream publications. John is known for his long-time association with Tony Barrand and the Nowell Sing We Clear productions that have delighted audiences during the winter holiday season for many years. Scott presented a program of Folk Songs Old and New, which included a considerable amount of knowledgeable commentary, and John gave us a concert of Songs of the Sea, reflecting his recent work with Ye Mariners All. A couple of the newer or more unusual musical additions this year were a Kora concert, “Music of the Gambia” by Bajaly Suso and a Family Concert of Japanese Folk Songs by Takako Nagumo. Among our favorite local musical groups were Shoregrass, giving us a concert of Old-Time Bluegrass music, the Walkingwood Mandolin Quartet, “The Only Mandolin Quartet You’ll Hear Today,” and a brand-new sea-chantey group, The S.S. Chanteens presenting “Chanteys from the Teenage Sole (Just for the Halibut)” (Dang puns again!)

For a look at the complete program, just return to the main page and click on the links to the Event Grids. The 2004 grids will remain there until early Fall, when we post the schedule for 2005. We are fortunate to have assembled a group of regular food vendors who return each year to provide fare that is tasty, plentiful and reasonably priced. Returning this year was Judie’s European Bakery offering soups, sandwiches, pastries and scrumptious fresh-baked breads. Roomba provided burritos for carnivores and vegetarians. The Hamden Plains UMC prepared delicious lasagna, salads, soups and a selection of lighter fare. For the more adventurous, Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant offered a variety of interesting meals, both meat and meatless, ranging from the super spicy to the relatively tame. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, who have been with us from the beginning, returned to provide Scottish baked specialties. Coffee, tea and cold drinks were also plentiful.

Since NOMAD 2004 was in November, the Folk Bazaar was a great place to do some holiday shopping for items not likely found in your neighborhood store or big-box emporium. Alas, we can’t name all of the vendors. There were about 20 of them, offering books, Folk CDs, instruments, handmade jewelry, clothing, toys and a variety of other handcrafts. Of course, we also had our ever-expanding Performer Sales Booth, where NOMADs could purchase CDs, books and other related items offered for sale by our performers.

That’s about all we can tell you about NOMAD 2004. We’re really thrilled with our new home and enthusiastic about our plans for the future. Please check the web site periodically over the summer. We’ll give you updated info as NOMAD 2005 takes shape.

If you have some skill or talent that you think might be useful to NOMAD, either as a performer, volunteer or organizer, please get in touch with us. Contact information can be found in the “Contacting NOMAD” section of he main page.

We hope to see you next Fall.

Wrap-Up Report, NOMAD 2001

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2001 NOMAD Festival, which was held October 26-28, 2001, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.

We began the festival on Friday night with our traditional contra dance party featuring Eric Hollman calling, with music by our favorite local band, The Fiddleheads. We added a Friday night music session this year as well – a “Taste of NOMAD” sampler, with 12-minute mini-concerts by over a dozen of the weekend’s performers. It went extremely smoothly and was enjoyed by all who attended. We’re hoping to make that event a tradition also.

We were pleased to have use of the auditorium this year. In recent years, conflicts with the school’s Drama Department have made that facility unavailable to us, and we have really missed it. Moving the festival date up to October removed the conflict and gave us one very important area back. It’s impossible to dance on a stage full of sets and props. We were delighted to invite back the Monique Legare International Dance Company, who gave us a superb set of dances from Armenia, French Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary, complete with some really fast costume changes. Zolotyj Promin, a group of young Ukrainian dancers from the Hartford area, provided a spectacular demonstration of the vigorous, athletic dances so characteristic of Ukraine. Our NOMAD regulars, the Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers and Reel Nutmeg performed their suites of Scottish and English Country Dances. It’s a delight to see these groups return each year with new programs designed just for NOMAD. Nefesh returned to give us an upbeat performance of Klezmer music in their own inimitable style. A surprisingly large crowd of onlookers braved the chilly October winds to view NOMAD’s only outdoor event, the ritual dance performances presented by eight Morris and Sword teams from New York and New England.

The music and participatory dance programs are just too numerous to list here. Our two-hour shanty blast returned, followed by a two-hour old-timey and bluegrass party. Roger Sprung’s open jam had the walls of the music room just bursting with an overflow crowd. The Songs for a Sunday morning song swap, long a NOMAD favorite, was ably emceed by Kathy Westra. It was joined this year by a Saturday morning song swap, led by Liz Lewis. For the dancers, NOMAD offered its customary, wide range of dances from just about everywhere. Contra, Square, English, Scottish, Klezmer, Italian, Bulgarian, Israeli, Scandinavian, Macedonian, Zwiefache, Balkan, Clogging, Morris and a variety of other International kept everyone’s feet moving.

The Family Area kept the children entertained throughout the weekend. Story-telling, family concerts, singalongs and funny songs are the usual favorites at these sessions. Practicing Umoja gave an interesting presentation of the Afro-Caribbean Experience, and Danny Pollock delighted the children on Sunday with his Israeli Dance workshop.

We think we have finally licked the sound problems that have bedeviled us in the main gym for several years. Our several food vendors seem to have offered just the right mix of selections to satisfy everyone. The Scottish Dancers’ Sunday morning breakfast was wonderful, as usual. A bowl of their steaming oatmeal is a great way to start a crisp Fall day. The craft/folk bazaar area just gets better and better each year. Congratulations to long-time NOMAD vendors Folk-Legacy Records, celebrating 40 years in business this October, and thanks to Folk-Legacy’s Sandy, Caroline, Rob and David Paton for all they have done for NOMAD.

But NOMAD just wouldn’t be NOMAD without a last-minute crisis or two. NOMAD 2001 was no exception. On Thursday, the day before the festival, we were told by the Board of Education that our main parking area – directly in front of the main entrance to the High School – would be unavailable to us for most of Saturday. It seems that one of the local school soccer teams made it to the finals. There were two soccer games that day and, since the soccer field is directly behind the main parking lot, that’s where the parking for the games would be. Like most festivals that are located in educational institutions with large, paved, well marked parking lots, NOMAD has never anticipated the need for a parking crew, and therefore we don’t have one. We were given the use of a large field behind the school for parking, but had no one available to coordinate things. After a bit of chaos, we were able to get the cars parked in a more-or-less orderly fashion. Thanks to all festival attendees who were able to grin and bear it.

One other disappointment was that we were expecting a large troupe of dancers, singers and musicians from Bulgaria, a group named Shoumen, to contribute two one-hour sessions. Again we learned, just a couple of days before the festival, that they had encountered problems with their visas and were unable to make the trip to the U.S.

The CONNtras session with Steve Holland and Christine Hale and, on the music side, the humor workshop titled “What’s so Funny?” helped close out NOMAD 2001 on a high note, a nice counterpoint to our rather inauspicious beginning in the parking lots. Thanks to Mike Agranoff, Evy Mayer, Debra Cowan, Payton Turpin and Jean Schwartz for keeping us laughing.

A big thank you to all volunteer performers and staff and to all who attended, for making this year’s NOMAD such a wonderful time for everyone. Planning has already begun for NOMAD 2002. We hope all who were at NOMAD 2001 will return and be joined by many others. We expect that everything will run smoothly, and the only thing keeping us on our toes will be the dancing.

Wrap-Up Report, NOMAD 2000

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2000 NOMAD Festival, which was November 10-12, 2000, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.

The festival got off to a roaring start on Friday night, as it has for the past few years, with a well attended contra dance party. Steve Holland and Debbie Munson called some excellent dances, and the band, Hot Under the Caller, provided their usual mix of innovative and extremely danceable music.

Dance: The participatory dance sessions provided just too many choices. The old festival dilemma of inability to be in two or three places at once showed up again this year. On the English program we were treated to sessions by Fried deMetz Herman, Peggy Vermilya, Mary Jones, Robin Hayden, Marj Potter and others. Bill Olson called a truly great Saturday night session, and it was contra throughout the weekend with such talented callers as Sue Elberger, David Smukler, Ridge Kennedy, Ed Potter and others. International and other dance forms ran the gamut from Polish (Regina Laskowski) to Italian (Paolina Kavanagh) to French (Jonathan Young) to Israeli/Klezmer (Nefesh) and many, many others. The Scottish Country Dancers were kept stepping by Brian Haeckler, Priscilla Adams and Barbara Austen. Jim Christensen returned with his Cajun dance workshop and party. Eric Hollman did the same for Swing. Special recognition is due to all those wonderful musicians who provide the melodies and rhythms we all enjoy: The Fiddleheads, Rambling Pitchfork, Cal Howard, Leah Barkan & Garden Variety, Illegal Contraband, International Folk Sounds, Zdravets, A Different Village, Izgori, The Wingnuts, the Jackson Pike Skifflers, Zornitsa, and many others have become perennial favorites at NOMAD.

Music: Although scheduling conflicts with the Newtown High School’s Drama Department again precluded our use of the auditorium, we made good use of the Lecture Hall and Music Room to provide an incredibly diverse program of folk music from just about everywhere. Sea songs and shanties were again a major part of the offerings. The two-hour Saturday night Shanty Blast was repeated this year, and it was bigger and better than last year. Shipping News, our own local sea-shanty group, debuted their brand-new, hot-off-the presses CD, “Wives Tales and Songs of the Sea,” with a concert session of the same name. Other NOMAD performers who performed material from their recent CD releases were Jerry Bryant, Judy Cook, the Johnson Girls and Mike Kachuba.

Performances: The Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers and Reel Nutmeg (English) gave their usual superb performances. The Duffy Academy of Irish Dance gave us a vigorous display of Irish Step Dancing, and the Chinese Ribbon Dancers gave a brief, but extremely colorful and eye-catching display of their art.

We’re hoping that all of the performers, dance leaders and musicians mentioned, as well as the others too numerous to name, will return in 2001 to provide the same active, fun-filled weekend that we enjoyed in 2000.