Dance, music and people focus of new folk festival

 In Events

Folk groups from Europe and North America will be teaching workshops and performing at the Big Branch Festival in Honeywood from September 7-9.

“I think especially today, as everything gets so digital, it’s nice to have these kind of events that are really down to earth and really about connecting with the people around you,” said Emilyn Stam, the event coordinator.

Stam, 29, is from the Ottawa Valley, and has strong ties to the folk community in Toronto.

“It’s kind of the heart of my whole existence,” said Stam, who is also a performer at the event.

Hosted by Balfolk Toronto, this is the festival’s first year running.

Stam herself was one of the people who had the idea to start this festival. Being part of the folk community in Toronto, she was looking to plan a big folk event that could take place in a setting in the country rather than the city, as folk music is not typically urban. 

Programs will begin around 5 p.m. on the Friday and will end around 3 p.m. on the Sunday.

Workshops will include dance, music, and singing. The dancing will include both solo and partner styles, and will cover topics such as interaction and improvisation. Stam said people should still join, even if they have never danced before, as beginner workshops will be run on the Friday and Saturday. 

Stam is encouraging people to bring their own instruments if they wish, as there will be music workshops that include instruments such as the fiddle, accordion, mandolin, flute, and guitar.

Singing workshops will teach songs for dancing, and people will get the opportunity to both sing and dance. 

“The singing can help you dance because you’re more focused on the singing and then the steps just kind of come because they fit nicely with it,” said Stam. “One thing that’s really appealing about this kind of event is that there’s not a big divide between the performer and the listener. Everyone participates. It feels like a conversation.”

Aside from the workshops and performances, people will also have the opportunity to jam with each other, walk in the forests, and swim in the pond.

Attending the festival will be five groups which include the following: Lausa, musicians from Gascogne, France; Duo Rivaud-Lacouchie, musicians from Limousin, France; Duo Le Bour-Bodros, musicians from Bretagne, France; Filippo Gambetta and Stam, musicians from Italy and Canada; and Louise Marius, a dance instructor from the Netherlands.

Lausa and Duo Rivaud-Lacouchie have come to North America just for this festival. 

Full weekend passes are available to all, but there is a special deal for local people for just the evenings. It will cost people from Creemore and area $40 to attend for an evening, and $50 for an evening plus dinner.

Tickets must all be bought beforehand, and people can register for either the full weekend or just the evenings on the website at thebigbranchfestival.com.

Stam said people should bring a tent if they wish, or else shared cabins will be available. Everyone should also bring bedding, warm clothes for the evenings, an instrument if they have one, and their dancing shoes.

Meals are included in the weekend pass, and all meals there will be vegetarian. The campsite is also a nut-free facility. 

The festival will be held at Unicamp of Ontario Incorporated, 638159 Prince of Wales Rd. West, Honeywood, Ont.

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