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.