Festival features folk music

September 05, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.VA. - Maureen Harrigan, organizer of the Country Roads Folk Festival at Almost Heaven Farm east of Martinsburg, calls the event a "little minifolkstock."

Singer Richie Havens forms a connection of sorts between Harrigan's laid-back little festival held Saturday at her farm off Opequon Lane and Woodstock, the mother of all rock festivals, held in July 1969 on a farm in upstate New York.

Havens opened Woodstock, the hippie generation's salute to independence. Thirty-four years later, Havens closed last year's Country Roads Folk Festival.

Harrigan said the annual event is growing.

"The first year, we had about 600 people, about 1,000 the second year," she said. "I'm hoping for about 1,500 people by the end of the day."


Harrigan said folk music brings together the generations.

Topper and Katja Sherwood of Martinsburg and their two boys, Max, 8, and Tillman, 4, attended the festival for the second time.

"It's a carefree day," Katja Sherwood said. "There's swimming in the (Opequon) creek, hayrides and a kids' concert in the barn."

Her husband called it "a great undiscovered event."

This year's headline performer was singer-songwriter John McCutcheon. The multitalented McCutcheon, nominated for a Grammy, plays, among other instruments, guitar, banjo, hammer dulcimer, autoharp and piano. He played all of them in an afternoon concert for children in the barn.

The barn held one of four stages for the daylong performances. Others were the field stage, garden stage and a small stage for workshops.

There also were pickup jams. Walking by the Ye Olde Cider Boothe, one could hear strains of "Ashokan Farewell," singer-songwriter Jay Unger's composition that served as background music for Ken Burns' 1991 Civil War television epic.

"If you can get around enough, you can hear all kinds of music here today," Ayla Heefner said.

Saturday was the fifth festival at the farm for Heefner and Steve Kaldes of Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

"I like to hear music of all venues, not just folk," Heefner said. "I also like the atmosphere here with all the different people who come together."

The crowds around the various stages were a mix of young and old hippies, modern young families, couples who look like they've been together for years and a smattering of singles of various ages. Their common denominator was folk music.

Mary Cliff, emcee of "Traditions," a 32-year-old folk-music show that is broadcast Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on WETA in Washington, D.C., and WETH in Hagerstown, said folk music is hard to define.

She called it a culturally based collection of ballads, protest and topical songs.

Among the performers Saturday were Christine Lavin, a singer-songwriter; the Nields Sisters and their brand of contemporary folk music; veteran singer-songwriters Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, a husband-and-wife duo; The WomenFolk; Coyote Run, a Celtic group; Erica Wheeler, singer of contemporary and alternative country music; Zoe Speaks, a storyteller; and the Mammals, a 21st century old-time string band.

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