I was inspired twenty years ago by the last Fox Hollow Festival and my first Mystic Seaport Music Festival to create an event on Swan's Island here in Maine. I admired the schooners that sailed out of Camden, Rockport and Rockland and invited them to come to a mid-week party. I remember how awe-inspiring it was when a dozen schooners sailed into Mackerel Cove, turned into the wind, dropped anchor at the same time, and sent brave scouts up to my barn to see what was going on. In the barn they saw The Praise Ensemble side by side with The Boners and a lot of rock and roll shanties going on besides.
Over the years we have experienced immense diversity: an original ballet on shipboard (by James Sewell Ballet) flamenco guitar (Ron Radford), great individual artists and some very large groups (The Quasimodal Choir, Innana, The Forces of Darkness and Light). We've had a hot, young duo perform here the day before they sang on The Tonight Show (Jonathan McEuen and Jamie Hanna), the award-winning accapella groups of Moira Smiley (VOCO, Vida) and been around long enough to see The Boners become The Backboners.
We've presented the world's funniest man of words (Andy Woolf) and the most stalwart champions of shanties (Geoff Kaufman and Daisy Nell). The most admired songwriters continue to grace our stage (David Dodson, Dean Stevens, Eric Kilburn, Denny Williams, Bill Burnett, Dillon Bustin, Bob Lucas, Austin Lucas, Suzy Williams, Lisa Redfern). Rich Jenkins takes a vacation from his piano under Maxfield Parrish in New York to bring his entire, very talented family to Maine. Buckley Smith, a visual artist with a rare gift for capturing the spirit of the sea, became a set designer in front of our eyes and continues to amaze and astound us with a huge, stage-sized mural completed during the festival. Jennifer Armstrong brings the tradition of her father, George Armstrong, from the Chicago Folk Festival, by playing a quality of highland pipes rarely heard. And her daughters, Suzannah and GeorgiaRose make the Bosnians weep with how wonderfully they sing traditional songs. Annegret Baier proves that Germany (and now Portland, Maine) provides North America with the real thing in West African drumming. Kahlil Sabbagh shows how timeless and appropriate it is to include Frank Zappa on a stage of folk singers. My favorite song of all time from our stage was listening to Teresa Tudury sing her River of Life closing the festival that year.
This year we welcome the return of Ann Randolph, a gifted writer and performer, doing part of her new one-woman show about the death of her mother . . . there won't be a dry eye in the house, both from laughter and tears. (I just saw a taste of it in Los Angeles. It's theater of a high order.)
Hope you can make it here this summer! And if you can't make it to Swan's Island or Vinalhaven, we will come to you on the mainland with two performance engagements in Rockland, the second being very informal! Check out the broadening possibilities to hear the Sweet Charioteers.
Be bully in the alley,