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 2003

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 2003 NOMAD Festival, which was held November 15-16, 2003, at the Hill Regional Career High School, New Haven, CT.

NOMAD ’03 found us in completely new surroundings – a new school in a new and very different environment. We went from mostly rural Newtown to the middle of the bustling university city of New Haven. But, as the local New Haven daily newspaper pointed out, we simply moved from one end of Route 34 to the other.

We found our new digs at Hill Regional Career High School quite comfortable. The school has sufficient rooms of just the kind we need for our variety of participatory dance, dance performances, concerts and music workshops. The large lobby provided sufficient space for our Folk Bazaar and the huge cafeteria provided lots of space for jamming, group singing and socializing, not to mention dining. Our local food vendors included Lalibela’s Ethiopian Restaurant, Judie’s European Bakery and Hamden Plains United Methodist Church. The school’s location in easily accessible downtown New Haven had a positive effect on our attendance.

The move was not without the last-minute glitches that seem to have become routine in NOMAD planning though. We discovered at the last minute (about a week before the festival) that the second floor would be unavailable to us since the rooms there were needed for school activities. No problem – we simply moved our programs to identical rooms on the third floor. We also learned at the last minute that one half of the large parking lot across the street had been rented out and was unavailable to us. Same story as the school rooms – there still was plenty of parking available, but we needed to assemble a small parking crew to direct NOMAD participants to our side of the lot.

The program, as usual, was filled with dance and music from everywhere. Among the newer and notable additions to the dance participation program were Leora Berns’ “Dances For A Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Cliff Rainey’s workshop “Salsa/Merengue Rhythm Revealed” and Terry & Jim’s Mazurka Workshop. We presented a couple of Minuet workshops – Tanya & Sam Rotenberg’s Minuet Step Workshop for beginners and NOMAD founder Fran Hendrickson’s intermediate session – “Figures from Honors to Honors.” The rest of the program was NOMAD’s usual dazzling variety of English, Scottish, Contra, Square and International sessions. The dancing filled four dance venues continuously for the entire weekend with a roster of talented dance callers and musicians too numerous to list individually. Saturday night ended with a three-hour Balkan Blast, and we were pleased to host a CD release party for internationally known English Country Dance expert Fried de Metz Herman.

The music side of the program was also blessed with participation by an internationally known scholar, namely Joe Hickerson. Joe is familiar to students of folk song as the (now retired) Director of the Archive of American Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. Joe, a 1953 graduate of Wilbur Cross High School right here in New Haven, presented a session titled “My 50+ Years of Folksongs from New Haven to the Library of Congress and Back.” Ballad scholar and singer Heather Wood presented a session titled “Ballads – Real History,” examining the historical accuracy – or lack of it – in some of the English and Scottish popular ballads. Speaking of history, we offered two sessions titled “Civil War Songs” one by Allen Hopkins and another by the Connecticut-based bluegrass band Shoregrass. Bruce Randall introduced us to West Gallery Music from 19th-century British churches. Lorraine Hammond conducted an interesting and helpful workshop titled “Singing for the Confidence-Impaired.” Other musical treats included concerts in a wide variety of styles and subjects – hobo songs, Celtic music, Balkan music, gospel, sea music, Scandinavian, blues, cowboy songs, women’s songs, love songs and more. Musical instrument workshops included banjo, bodhran, drum, fiddle, hammered dulcimer, harmonica and ukulele. The always popular Songs for a Sunday Morning song-swap continued in the spacious cafeteria at Hill Career High.

The dance performances in the auditorium featured the Greater Hartford Scottish Country Dancers, the Matachin Dancers with a program of Middle Eastern Dance, the Victorian Ballroom Dancers, the Gay Blades Sword Dancers and the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Yale.

We were pleased to welcome two other groups from Yale – the Yale Women’s Slavic Chorus and the Yale Klezmer Band. We are hopeful that we will have increased participation from Yale cultural groups in the future, now that we have become a New Haven-based event.

Our Family Area offered a nice variety of dance, music and stories for kids and their parents, including a Woody Guthrie Jam Session, Gaelic songs and drumming on the music side and Israeli, Contra, Scottish and Colonial dancing for the more active participants.

We owe a special “thank you” to Walter Wagoner of WPKN – non-profit community radio in Bridgeport. Walter recorded the concerts in our Chorus Room and broadcast significant excerpts of them on WPKN.

The Event Grids will remain on the web site until it’s time to replace them with this year’s grids. Please visit them to see the many NOMAD offerings that simply couldn’t be listed individually here.

Remember that NOMAD is an all-volunteer festival and we always have too few volunteers. If you have some special skill that you feel would be helpful, please contact us. We need help on both the organizing committee and the operational staff. Contact information and links are in the “Contacting NOMAD” section of the main page. Links to the Event Grids will also be found there.

Preliminary information about NOMAD 2004 will be available in late Spring. Please watch for it.