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 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 1999

Here’s John Mazza’s wrap-up report for the 1999 NOMAD Festival, which was November 5-7, 1999, at the Newtown High School, Newtown, CT.

In 1999, NOMAD again expanded its variety of offerings in both dance and music. For both dancers and music-lovers, it seemed there were just too many interesting and enjoyable things going on all at the same time. Ah, life — always full of hard choices.

On Friday night, Bill Olson, ably assisted by Pam Weeks and Jim Joseph, got things off to a roaring start at the Grand Festival Opening Contradance.

Dance: We increased the international offerings again this year. The two-hour Saturday night International Folk Dance Party featuring A Different Village was festive, almost too well attended, and probably not long enough. English Country Dancers were in their own heaven dancing to Fried DeMetz Herman, Beverly Francis, Gary Roodman and others too numerous to name. The Ted’s Triplets Contra Dance session with Ed Potter was a blast. Stacy Phillips’ talented young fiddle group, the Bethwood Fiddlers, performed and must be seen (and heard) to be believed. Jim Christensen brought Cajun back to NOMAD with with the upbeat rhythms of the Mudpuppies Cajun Dance Band.

Music: A highlight was the two-hour Shanty Blast on Saturday night. New York Packet, the Johnson Girls, Connecticut’s own Shipping News, Lynn Noel, and David Diamond treated us to a rollicking program of shanties, singalongs, and other songs about life on the water. Then, there was the infamous Broken Token workshop. Mike Agranoff performed what surely must be the definitive version of the much parodied story about Johnny’s reunion with his true love (who despite her passionate love somehow fails to recognize him after seven long years). Mike introduced a whole platoon of characters — all played by himself. He identified which characters were singing by donning hats (some borrowed from the audience or workshp participants) associated with the characters. The sight of Mike wearing Caroline Paton’s purple and aqua chapeau… well, you had to be there. On a more serious note, the Spiritual Freedom and Traditional African Songs by Nzinga’s Daughters were awe-inspiring.

There is not enough space here to name all of the hundreds of talented and enthusiastic musicians, dance leaders, and singers who made NOMAD ’99 such an exhilirating experience. We’re gearing up to do it again. November 10 is not that far off!