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CDSS Folk Music Week gone?

Suffet 13 Sep 10 - 02:56 PM
RTim 13 Sep 10 - 03:32 PM
Desert Dancer 14 Sep 10 - 12:28 AM
Desert Dancer 14 Sep 10 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,allen hopkins 14 Sep 10 - 11:55 PM
Suffet 15 Sep 10 - 08:23 AM
Brian Peters 15 Sep 10 - 12:02 PM
DebC 15 Sep 10 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,Jerry Epstein 15 Sep 10 - 11:36 PM
Suffet 16 Sep 10 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Brian Cartwright 16 Sep 10 - 01:06 PM
GUEST,allen hopkins 17 Sep 10 - 10:56 AM
GUEST,Joy Bennett 17 Sep 10 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,Clarice Kjerulff 20 Sep 10 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Brian Cartwright 12 Dec 10 - 07:30 PM
Desert Dancer 12 Dec 10 - 07:38 PM
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Subject: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Suffet
Date: 13 Sep 10 - 02:56 PM


Marilyn and I just received an e-mail from CDSS with their preliminary 2011 schedule, and Folk Music Week is nowhere to be found. It has been replaced by something called Harmony of Song and Dance, which will take place at Pinewoods Camp in Massachusetts from July 23 to 30 under the direction of Peter and Mary Alice Amidon. Here is a description from the CDSS website:

The tentative program includes traditional and contemporary songs, harmony singing by ear, choral singing from written music, instrumental music, contra and square dancing for all, a morris dance intensive, and a music teachers intensive. Peter and Mary Alice Amidon will be program directors. More information will be on our website as it becomes available, and registration will begin in January. Join us for this week of singing, dancing and music-making!

Say it ain't so! But I'm afraid it is. In the immortal words of Woody Guthrie, "So long, it's been good to know you!"

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: RTim
Date: 13 Sep 10 - 03:32 PM

The trouble was - not enough people came to the old FMW - so something had to change.
I hope some of the old week will remain in the program, and that some of the "Old Guard" will still attend.
We wait and see!

Tim Radford

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 14 Sep 10 - 12:28 AM

The first two years I went (of 4 wonderful adventures) I was attracted because of the great program assembled by Peter and Mary Alice, which had not only great music, but great dancing. Those years had good attendance, and I don't think it's been matched in the 10 years since.

I sure hope the "Old Guard" will not give up on it, but welcome in a new mix of folks to get the attendance up to snuff.

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 14 Sep 10 - 10:42 PM

Also, I imagine there is a growing cohort of dancers whose knees and/or spouses are ready for a camp with a higher proportion of alternatives to dancing available.

~ B in T

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,allen hopkins
Date: 14 Sep 10 - 11:55 PM

Here's a message I sent to some of my FMW friends; I apologize if it's too verbose:

I gather from the "CDSS E-News" I received today that Pinewoods Folk Music Week is no more, replaced by "Harmony of Song & Dance" week which the Amidons will be running. From the thumbnail description, sounds like more dance teaching, emphasis on music education as well.

I haven't attended Folk Music Week for the past few years, after regular attendance of about a quarter century. Variety of reasons, but chief among them was the decline of the informal song-sharing and music-making –– "jamming," if you will –– that characterized FMW in the '80's and '90's, where the incorrigibles among us would stay up to the wee hours playing and singing together in the Camp House or the office. To me, as special as the classes and the presentations always were, the most enjoyable experience of the week was sitting with friends and new acquaintances, playing and singing together. I expressed my feelings on the subject in the recent on-line survey for CDSS, suggesting a re-emphasis on this aspect of the program. I gather a different direction was chosen.

I had the good fortune to be a junior FMW staff member for several years –– my special thanx to Jerry (Epstein) and Dick (Swain), as well as Andy Cohen –– and some of my most enduring friendships and brightest memories were found at Pinewoods. Time, changing preferences and the availability of alternatives eroded the base of FMW over the past decade or so, and I can surely understand that CDSS needed to schedule a program that would attract as many campers as possible.

So I hope those who find the new week's emphasis attractive will support it, or the other established CDSS weeks at Pinewoods. I have a framed picture postcard over my desk, taken by Susan Szasz in the '80's, showing a bunch of FMW campers sitting around the Grenocide porch where Cathy Fink was leading one of her "pickin' parlor" jams. Toby (Fagenson) is there, and Abe (Gershowitz), and others to whose faces I can no longer attach names. I am deeply thankful for the summer weeks I spent at Pinewoods, for all I learned there, and for the wonderful people I met and the wonderful music I shared.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Suffet
Date: 15 Sep 10 - 08:23 AM


Even though I came to FMW late in the game -- my first year was 2002 and my last was 2007 -- I understand exactly what Allen Hopkins describes. Even over that short period of time, the amount of informal music making declined precipitously, especially after hours. The camp office, for example, which had once been packed with people jamming nearly to dawn, was comparatively empty by 2007. Perhaps half a dozen people would show up after the evening dance, and in an hour or so they would be gone.

I agree with the factors that Allen cites for the decline of FMW -- time, changing preferences and the availability of alternatives -- but I suspect their are others as well. Some are obvious, such as the cost of attendance, which can become a serious issue for people with fixed or declining incomes. I know at least one woman who told me she was happy that CDSS let people attend for part of FMW this year, because that was all she could afford. However, I am sure there are other people who could not afford even that.

Let me just state that my wife Marilyn went to FMW this year and I would have liked to do the same, but I was unable to do so for reasons of health. I would count health and medical issues under "time" in Allen's list of factors.

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 15 Sep 10 - 12:02 PM

Like Desert Dancer, I'm confident that Peter and Mary Alice Amidon will put together a fine programme, nevertheless I would be very sad if traditional song were downgraded to merely one category amongst many, as the brief description suggests. What used to be unique about Folk Music Week was that it was the one week of the CDSS calendar focussed primarily on song as opposed to dance. Not to the exclusion of dance, of course: when I was on staff in 2001 during Sara Grey's stint as Programme Director, a well-attended camp included - as well as traditional songs and ballads from England, Ireland and North America, and terrific Balkan harmony - Quebecois and Balkan dance classes, and evening contradances that were busy every night, thanks to that year's charismatic caller, Mary Virginia Brooks.

The problem for any annual event with a faithful regular audience that's advancing in years, is to attract new people without alienating the older ones. FMW has made some attempts to do this (some would say that class leaders from the younger generation might have been brought in earlier), but without squaring the circle. I know that Dave and Anni worked their socks off this and last year to make a success of the week, but were hampered by the kind of financial constraints that lead to a combination of a limited artistic budget and high sign-up prices.

Folk Music Week has a proud tradition of featuring some of the very best traditional singers from both sides of the Atlantic. Here's what Jeff Davis said about his early experiences of FMW, in an interview I conducted with him for 'The Living Tradition' last year: "I went along at the age of seventeen; I met Jean Ritchie, I met Gale Huntington, and I met Larry Older, so right there I was hearing Kentucky ballads, whaling songs, lumberjack songs. That same week I heard lots of English tunes, and watched Morris and sword dancing. I was hooked and, over the years, Pinewoods introduced me to Louis Killen, Norman Kennedy, Margaret Barry and Michael Gorman, Joe Heaney, Bessie Jones, old-time fiddler Benton Flippen… well, the list could go on for quite a while. If I'd never been anywhere else but there, I would have had quite a musical education." When I was on staff in 2008, I remember a young scholarship student telling me how thrilled she'd been to be at camp with a legend like Lou Killen, the previous year.

Anglo-American traditional songs and ballads have a devoted, if limited, following in the Eastern USA. My experience at schools such as Augusta and Swanannoa tells me that there can be a natural affinity between traditional song as a class topic, and harmony singing, or old-time country, or traditional dance music. However, keeping traditional song centre stage should be CDSS's priority in revamping FMW. At a time when our own EFDSS has shaken off its old 'DEAFASS' (Dance Earnestly and Forget About Song) image and involved itself with cutting edge performances of traditional song, it would be ironic if the North American sibling organization were to take a step in the opposite direction.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: DebC
Date: 15 Sep 10 - 01:05 PM

Well stated, Brian.

Debra Cowan

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,Jerry Epstein
Date: 15 Sep 10 - 11:36 PM

There is very active discussion going on on the future of traditional folk music as represented in the Pinewoods Camp programs of the past.

As these discussions proceed, I will happily keep any of you that wish to be included in the loop.

My email is

Jerry Epstein

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Suffet
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 09:08 AM

If there are enough people who really want to revive Folk Music Week as it had been, then it is up to them to provide the financial support, either through paying the necessary registration fees, making and soliciting donations, securing grants, or some combination thereof.

Bottom line: If they are unwilling or unable to do so, it ain't gonna happen!

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,Brian Cartwright
Date: 16 Sep 10 - 01:06 PM

Thanks to Brian Peters for describing what has been special about Folk Music Week. I have only been to FMW in '09 and '10 and the experience was very enriching. Sitting in small workshops with seasoned performers like Len Graham or Dave and Anni where campers are encouraged to share the songs they know is a very powerful way for traditions to be carried.

Personally I welcome the idea of including some training in choral singing, harmony etc. Chorus songs at Pinewoods can be fun or can drag and get boring. But in small groups people can learn to hear each other and I see lots of campers enjoy that a lot.

It's become obvious that the FMW regulars and the CDSS organization don't talk to each other and don't understand each other's needs. Going forward I'm watching to see how CDSS promotes this week and how they involve the campers who have been FMW regulars, who are are very mixed and quirky group but have a lot to offer.

I look at the little blurb about the new week and wonder: are they saying non-dancers stay home? Hope not! Part of the reason FMW lost attendance is that CDSS didn't seem to know how to get the word out, and didn't have momentum from one year or one director to the next.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,allen hopkins
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 10:56 AM

Interesting post from Brian C. Over my 23 years at FMW, I sometimes got the feeling that Pinewoods was being booked by the "Country DANCE (and song) Society," somewhat more comfortable and committed to dance-related programming. But CDSS did make a sincere effort to ask FMW campers our opinions as to how they could keep FMW going, in the face of declining attendance. When I first started going to FMW, there was a waiting list; by the '00's, the camp was never filled.

Clearly, one solution is "more dance," hoping to draw from the still-popular dance weeks at Pinewoods. To a committed singer/jammer like myself, not a great appeal. The FMW clientele "grayed" noticeably in the period 1980-2005, and each twenty-something that showed up was treated like a rare jewel. In my area (Rochester NY) there are many younger musicians strongly interested in "folk" (broadly defined) music. Their main emphases are on instrument-oriented music, such as bluegrass, old-time and Celtic sessions, and in original songs. It's a bit unusual to find younger musicians who emphasize traditional song styles.

My suggestions to CDSS were to add components to FMW that would attract "pickers" and songwriters. Unfortunately this could only be done by marginally scaling back the strong emphasis on traditional song styles. That change would reduce FMW's appeal to its traditional clientele.

Perhaps the changes the Amidons are expected to make, will broaden the appeal by adding more dancers, music educators, and choral-singing enthusiasts. When the staff list comes out, we can see what provision is made for continuing emphasis on traditional song styles and repertoire, and what (if any) space is allotted to instrumental music and/or songwriting. From what I know of the Amidons' former FMW's, I'm not sure that's the way they'd want to take the program.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,Joy Bennett
Date: 17 Sep 10 - 11:56 AM

Tim - the "Old FM week" has not happened since before the Amidons, though Alistair came close.
Allen/Brian P - well said-- though I think that even the traddies appreciate good pickers and songwriters and would likely not be turned off to a balanced program.   (Again, as below, an integrated program, I believe, is key)

Although campers were asked for opinions, those opinions have been clearly disregarded over the past years. I spent many years painstakingly filling out the evaluation forms, and even emailing additional thoughts after some of the weeks. And I know my suggestions were expressed by others as well. Asking for opinions or suggestions is one thing, listening, hearing, understanding, and acting on them, another.

As much as I enjoyed the Peter & Mary Alice program, the majority of the music was religious. After their first year, and input from many of the campers, I was hoping that would be different, but it wasn't -- and as much as the first year they ran the program was a high-attendance year, we lost many of the folks who typically stayed up and jammed all night -- the instrumentalists, because there was really nothing for them, except an afterthought. Prior years had an integrated program of instrumental and song workshops including a mixed workshop or two (oh my - the pickers and the singers together!) and late night jams were just that-- not formalized circles going from one to the next in a circle where it took 2 or more hours to get around.

So many organizations are looking to attract "younger" folks -- I ask, 20 something, 30 something or what? Most 20 somethings for the most part, do not have the disposable income to drop almost $1k on a week at pinewoods and 30 somethings are building careers and families. Yes, all of these organizations need an influx of new blood, but without alienating the old blood that is still around and participating and contributing. Let's not forget that many of the older folks make significant contributions of time, and money, even when they cannot be there in person. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Perhaps turning that one week in the summer over to another group (or groups) to run to put together a full week might be a viable option.

Everything changes -- if it is solely about money, then so be it. There is nothing more to say except "Do what you want". If it is about the preservation (not mummification) of traditional music, and keeping the core folks who do come to the week, CDSS might do well to really listen and hear what long time FM week campers have been saying. That goes for the FM Week advisors and Board members as well.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,Clarice Kjerulff
Date: 20 Sep 10 - 12:28 PM

I'm a "dancer who sings," or a "singer who dances," but this week does not sound all that appealing to me, compared to the appeal of Folk Music Week. When I think of "dancers who sing," I think of the kind of singing I have heard, and participated in, at Morris gatherings. Lots of drinking songs, old doo wop songs, funny renditions of popular songs. Fun, yes, absolutely, but what went on at a good FMW was way beyond the fun to be had at dance parties.

And while I think it's fine to have vocal instruction at camp, vocal instruction is something I can get elsewhere. It's nice to offer it, and it may be a good way to involve less experienced singers and to give them confidence, that alone would not entice me to spend close to $1,000 for a week.

There are two things that brought me to FMW again and again: The chance to spend time and make music with the many knowledgeable, gifted, and friendly people who came as campers, and the opportunity to sit at the feet of many amazing traditional singers. I count myself as blessed to have been able to hang out with, learn from, and become friends with such treasures as Bob Copper, Stan Hugill, Louie Killen, Sheila Kay Adams, Will Noble, etc., etc. Those were the things that FMW had over the years that no other venue offered.

I'd like to be wrong, but from the sound of it, they are taking what has been a truly great week and replacing it with something good.

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: GUEST,Brian Cartwright
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 07:30 PM

There's been more info from CDSS about what "Harmony of Song and Dance" will be like, and I'll be interested to see whether a lot of the Folk Music Week regulars will attend. There are some folks who want to switch over to the Pinewoods Campers Week, in hopes of getting enough enthusiasts of traditional song there.

Meanwhile, here's a YouTube montage of last July's Folk Music Week, to the sound of Dave Webber singing "Parting Song" in the last night's gathering. A way for those of us who were there to remember and convey to other folks what it was like.

montage: Dave Webber's "Parting Song" and photos of Folk Music Week 2010

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Subject: RE: CDSS Folk Music Week gone?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 07:38 PM

That's beautifully done, Brian.

~ Becky in Tucson

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