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.