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Chandler’s 20th Annual New World Festival — A Milestone and a Mix of Old and New

Chandler’s New World Festival, a beloved annual music and dance tradition since 1993, celebrates its 20th anniversary year on Sunday September 2 with a mix of old favorites from the festival’s first year and new bands who are appearing at the festival for the first time.

This 12-hour event on Labor Day Sunday, celebrates the region’s Celtic and French Canadian musical traditions brought to northern New England by English, Scottish, Irish and French-Canadian immigrants. It has earned a reputation as one of the finest traditional music events in Vermont and once again, has been designated as a Top Ten Fall Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Nearly 75 of the best regional and international musicians play concerts on six all-weather stages, offer workshops, participate in dance bands, and share tunes and traditions at this family-friendly festival.

The Clayfoot Strutters, Wind That Shakes the Barley, Claude Méthé and Dana Whittle, Roberts & Barrand, Sarah Blair, and John and Deb Drury are musicians featured on the 1993 roster returning to the festival this year. De Temps Antan, the Nuala Kennedy Trio, Elixir, and The Fretless are on the line-up for the first time.

The New World Festival has been a great showcase for French Canadian music and dance and has been a driving force in the growing popularity of this exuberant musical heritage. Since 2003, the members of De Temps Antan – Éric Beaudry, André Brunet and Pierre-Luc Dupuis – have been exploring and performing time-honored melodies from the stomping grounds of Quebec’s musical past. Using fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar, bouzouki and a number of other instruments, these three virtuosos blend boundless energy with the unmistakable joie de vivre found only in traditional Québécois music.
The band brought HOP audience members to their feet in a rousing performance at Dartmouth College last January, and Upper Valley residents eagerly await their return.

Rapetipetam, an exceptional fusion of Québécois music and dance, returns under the expert leadership of dance master Pierre Chartrand. Musicians and dancers share the stage, intermixing musical notes and steps in perfect harmony. Step dancing is done to the tunes of rhythms that are sometimes well known, while others are more contemporary.

Three trad-folk veterans – Claude Méthé, Dana Whittle and Denise Levac – are familiar to New World Festival patrons in the form of family band Dentdelion. With their children away much of the time playing with other young musicians, their parents have decided to embark upon a new musical venture, Mil. Their teenage offspring, Béatrice Méthé and Colin Savoie-Levac, are joined by two other accomplished young musicians in their own ensemble that makes its debut at this year’s festival.

Music Director Kevin Dunwoody is excited about the festival debut of the dance band, Elixir. The high-energy dance band and caller combination blends superb calling, driving fiddle and guitar playing, and the rich texture and rhythmic excitement of a full horn section. Elegant melodies evolve into raucous Dixieland horn riffs; transcendent harmonies, playful improvisations, and rock, swing and reggae-inspired rhythms weave in and out of traditional and original Irish, French Canadian and New England tunes.

The Nuala Kennedy Trio headlines the Celtic portion of the festival. Nuala Kennedy’s singing and flute playing springs from the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland, and from the fathomless realms of her own imagination. A consummate performer with a buoyant personality, her music has been described as “unique,” “evocative,” and “soul-satisfying.” Chandler Music Hall and Bethany Church provide the perfect setting for her ethereal voice.

National Heritage Fellow Norman Kennedy will share songs and stories learned while growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Dominique Dodge offers Celtic harp and singing. The perennially popular band, Cantrip, returns for another round of performances sure to bring the house down.

The Fretless is a young and innovative band that melds the worlds of Celtic, folk and chamber music into an amazing and unique sound they like to call rad trad. They may look like a string quartet, but with innovative arrangements and roots deeply based in Celtic and Canadian fiddle styles, The Fretless is creating their own unique path in the music world.

From 7 – 10 PM, the festival’s sixth stage in Chandler’s upper gallery will be transformed into a pub with acoustic performances of old Vermont songs by Pete Sutherland, Keith Murphy and Tony Barrand; and performances by Wind That Shakes the Barley and Roberts & Barrand. Beer and wine will be for sale.

Contradancing and freestyle dancing close out the dance tent at the festival’s end. Reduced prices are offered after 6 PM.

Affordable student and children’s ticket prices ($11/$5, free for under age 2) and an array of creative activities in the children’s tent, including storytelling by Jennings & Ponder and performances by the No Strings Marionette Company, make the festival family-friendly. An array of food and drink offerings from local organizations and caterers will satisfy diverse appetites.
The New World Festival has sponsorship support from its founding sponsor, Randolph National Bank, and these other area businesses and organizations: Gifford Medical Center, The Holland Fund, Delegation du Québec, Vermont Public Radio, New England Land Company, Depot Restaurant, Montague Golf Club, Green Mountain Stock Farm, Morgan’s Pub & Grill at the Three Stallion Inn, and The Three Stallion Inn. The Festival’s media sponsors are Vermont Public Radio, Seven Days, and The Point.

Discounted advance tickets are available through August 31 online or by calling the Chandler Box Office at 802-728-6464 between 3 and 6 PM weekdays. Tickets are also available at the gate on the day of the festival. For more information, regarding admission and featured performers, please visit the festival’s website at All performance sites are wheelchair accessible.

For photos for press use, visit this gallery.