Sunday, Sept. 4 at 12 p.m.—RANDOLPH—One of Vermont’s most beloved festivals, the New World Festival, will bring its unique combination of Celtic and French-Canadian music and dance for all ages to Randolph on Sunday, Sept. 4 at noon.
It’s the 24th straight year for the New World Festival, which takes over the center of the Central Vermont town from noon to 11 p.m. It’s been designated a Time-Honored Top Ten Fall Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce in recognition of having received this award more than 10 times.
And this year, according to musical director Kevin Dunwoody, more than a little Cajun-inflected music will be sneaking in. According to Dunwoody, Chandler’s new Executive Director Katie Trautz has “fallen in love with it,” and New Orleans music has historic connections with Celtic music.
Some 50 musicians and dance specialists from the U.S. and Canada will perform in five venues along Main Street. The street itself, lined by vendors, will be covered with colored chalk drawings by festival-going kids (12 and under are free). The largest venue is Chandler Music Hall, widely known as one of the finest performance facilities in New England.
Audiences flock to the festival from all over Vermont, and even Boston and New York, because of its intimate, joyful atmosphere and unique musical focus.
It was begun with the recognition that northern New England, Québec, and Canada’s Maritime Provinces, even though they speak different languages, share a lively cultural heritage from the Old World—Ireland, Scotland, and France. Performers and audiences alike have been thrilled with the magic that happens when these traditions come together.
The musicians at the festival come in a dizzying variety of ages and styles. There’s the legendary Paddy Keenan, who began playing the pipes at the age of 10, following in the path of his father and grandfather. Also a legend is Scottish-born Norman Kennedy, once a performer at the Newport Folk Festival, known as a weaver and superb storyteller and singer.
By contrast, one of Dunwoody’s favorites this year is Vishtèn, a trio of young cousins that are making their second, much anticipated appearance at the festival. All sing, dance and play multiple instruments, blending Irish, French Canadian and Scottish tunes. “They have it all,” he enthused.
A former Festival favorite, the Scottish band Cantrip, returns, as well as a passel of talented Vermonters who have all appeared at Chandler or the New World Festival in other configurations—accordionist Jeremiah McLane (with 12 CDs to his name), fiddler Sarah Blair, guitarist Owen Marshall, and banjo/bass player Corey DiMario, who has played with Bela Fleck and was a founder of the string band sensation Crooked Still.
The fabulous dance band Yankee Chank returns, specializing in Cajun French two-steps and waltzes, with some Zydeco thrown in.
Dunwoody also speaks highly of another of the youngest bands, Méara Meara, a trio that has already appeared with The Chieftains. One of the group, who is only 13, has already won top awards at a festival in Sligo, Ireland.
Especially popular at the Festival are the jam sessions, in which musicians get together informally to play with others who share their specialty. There have always been Scottish, Irish, and Quebecois sessions, for instance, and this year Dunwoody hopes to add, for the first time, a Cajun session and a session for the variety of pipers who are attending.
During the daytime, one whole area is set aside for children and families. Besides chalk drawing and face-painting and other craft activities, the venue includes a Young Musicians Showcase and a big dose of the talents of Randolph’s supremely talented “No Strings Marionettes,” who are guaranteed to delight audiences with their antics.
This festival is not just for listening, either. The biggest outdoor venue is the dance tent, where all afternoon and evening, various kinds of dances, from called contras to do-your-own-thing are accompanied by the Festival’s bands, bringing the action to a close at 11 p.m. with a happy hoe-down.
Next door to the dance tent is a food tent including tasty offerings from local restaurants, churches and non-profit organizations. Vermont beer is on the menu, as well.
Ticket prices are $40; students age 13-18 are $12; children 12 and under free. Entry after 6 p.m. is for $25 for adults. They can be ordered at the Festival website or purchased through the Chandler box office at 802-728-6464.
The New World Festival is handicapped-accessible and the Chandler Music Hall is equipped for the hearing-impaired. Chandler is located at 71-73 Main St., Randolph.
Photo courtesy of Chandler Center for the Arts
In its 24th year, the New World Festival has been designated a Time-Honored Top Ten Fall Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.