Now entering its second quarter century, Chandler’s New World Festival will present a diverse array of the finest regional and international performers from the Celtic and French Canadian music and dance traditions on Labor Day Sunday, September 2. A stellar line-up headlined by Le Vent du Nord and Irish singer and guitarist John Doyle marks the 26th anniversary of one of Vermont’s most beloved annual cultural heritage events.
The New World Festival began with the recognition that northern New England, Québec, and Canada’s Maritime Provinces share a lively cultural heritage from the Old World, specifically Ireland, Scotland, and France. Performers and audiences alike have been thrilled with the magic that happens when these traditions come together.
In the midst of Randolph’s historic village center, more than 50 of the best regional and international musicians play concerts on six all-weather stages, participate in dance bands, and share tunes and traditions at this family-friendly festival. Audiences flock to the Festival from all over Vermont, and even Boston, southern Canada, and New York, because of its intimate, joyful atmosphere and its musical focus, unique among a field of notable summer festivals in the state.
Several groups make their festival debut this year. Le Vent du Nord is a driving force in progressive folk, capturing the joy and energy of a Saturday night kitchen party, infusing old Québec with a breath of fresh, cosmopolitan air.
Natalie Haas is one of the most sought-after cellists in Celtic music today, most known for her tours with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser that have wowed audiences worldwide. She makes her festival debut with her husband Yann Falquet, one of the most creative acoustic guitarists in today’s Québécois music scene and known to New World Festival fans as a member of the French Canadian power trio Genticorum.
The Outside Track, winner of “Best Group” in both the Live Ireland awards and the Tradition in Review awards, is one of the top Celtic Acts in the world and they make their New World Festival debut this year. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton, its five members are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on this as a foundation, blending fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, whistle, step-dance and vocals with breathtaking vitality.
Musique à bouches features five male voices, renowned for their a cappella arrangements accompanied by rhythmical foot tapping.
Other popular New World Festival artists make return appearances. Name many of the most notable recordings and/or performers in Irish music and it’s a fair bet that Irish singer and guitarist John Doyle had something to do with them, including Liz Carroll, Eileen Ivers, Karan Casey, Solas, Michael Black and Mary Black. John has been a featured regular for many years in the hugely popular BBC Scotland “Transatlantic Sessions” regularly broadcast in Ireland and at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival, performing with Americana greats Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien, Sara Watkins, Kathy Mattea, and many others.
Connla wowed New World Festival fans in their first appearance last summer. This exciting young band from Northern Ireland boasts strong traditional roots as well as influences from across the globe. Their sensitive and innovative arrangements of traditional and modern folk songs and tunes have earned them praise across the folk community.
The young band Night Tree is rooted in original works spanning the Celtic world. The sextet creates original music that borrows from the Swedish, Jewish and American folk traditions. Drawing from an unusually diverse mix of musical backgrounds, Night Tree has discovered a sound both colorfully and resonantly different while delving into the realm of harmonies and rhythm that range from edgy to inviting, both unheard of and timeless.
After a brief hiatus, the Scottish trio Cantrip returns. Dan Houghton (bagpipes, flute, whistles, guitar, bouzouki, vocals), Jon Bews (fiddle and vocals), and Eric McDonald (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals) have a devoted New World Festival following that appreciates the band’s driving energy, expertise and musicianship.
Other musicians returning in new combinations to the festival this year include Owen Marshall and his band Copley Street. Boston-based Uilleann piper Joey Abarta, fiddler Nathan Gourley, sean-nós dancer Jackie O’Riley, and Vermont native Owen Marshall on bouzouki, combine forces in this traditional Irish music quartet.
Vermont native Eric Wright, cellist of The Fretless fame, joins Cape Breton fiddler Mairi Rankin in an inspired pairing. New World Festival fans will remember The Fretless, a contemporary traditional fusion group that has toured Canada, the US, and Europe extensively. When not on tour with the Fretless, Eric is the Celtic/Old Time cello, guitar, and banjo teacher at many music camps. Mairi Rankin is one of the hugely influential Rankin Family, legends on the Canadian music scene. She plays fiddle, sings and also step-dances up a storm. She has toured nationally and internationally as a solo artist, a sideman and is a member of the Cape Breton Celtic super group Beolach and The Outside Track.
In addition to stages in historic Chandler Music Hall and Bethany Church, popular venues include the Dance, Family, and Sessions Tents. The biggest outdoor venue is the Dance tent, where all afternoon and evening, various kinds of dances, from called contras to freestyle are accompanied by the Festival’s bands. Next door is a food tent including tasty offerings from local restaurants, churches and non-profit organizations.
Especially popular is the Sessions Tent, where musicians get together informally to play with others who share their specialty. The Family tent is dedicated to activities for children and families. In addition to chalk drawing and face-painting and other craft activities, the venue includes an interactive performance by Randolph’s supremely talented “No Strings Marionettes,” and Mr. Chris and his Music for Sprouts.
Returning again this year are afternoon workshops presented in partnership with The Summit School. Sarah Isberg will teach intermediate and advanced fiddle players Swedish dance tunes with a focus on bowing techniques and harmonies. Joanne Garton will lead a Scottish Fiddle workshop, and Dana and Sue Robinson will offer an old-time fiddle and banjo workshop. Admission is free to Festival patrons.
The New World Festival has been designated a Time-Honored Top Ten Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce in recognition of having received this award more than ten times. The New World Festival is sponsored by Chandler Center for the Arts and managed by an all-volunteer committee.
For tickets and more information about these artists and others who will be performing on the Festival’s six stages, visit www.NewWorldFestival.com or call the Chandler Box office at 802-728-6464. Discounted adult tickets are available through Friday August 24. Prices for students 13-18 are greatly discounted, and those 12 and under are free.
The New World Festival has generous sponsorship support from Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, the Lamson Howell Foundation, the Turrell Fund, GW Plastics, Inner Traditions, the Holland Fund, and Bethel Mills.