Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2003
Lyrical melodies and messages abound at the ever-popular Folk Music Festival
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
For the second consecutive year I attended Edmonton's Folk Music Festival. I enjoyed it very much.
As I came in to pay the entrance fee, I was asked by one of the 2,000 volunteers if I might be a senior - not that I look the part mind you - but I had to admit that I was. In that case, I was told, there's no charge and before I knew it I had a four-day pass fitted around my waist, gift of the organization. That warms up the heart!
I like the spirit of the festival: there's a beautiful gentleness and lots of joy about it all. Folk music has a way of touching the heart, of moving the soul. There's a melancholy about it that rocks you gently as various artists share through music and poetry the highs and lows of their journey in life. The music, the singing, is not only entertaining, it's also moving. For me the whole thing was a real spiritual experience.
These are not your classic concert artists who play the masterpieces of centuries past. They are concert artists with a homey touch. The ubiquitous guitar is the main musical instrument supported by the fiddle, the bass, the organ and piano, with the drums providing the beat. Great musical abilities are demonstrated all around.
The melodies and messages that are shared with us through songs are very personal. They speak of life and its many trials, of drifting and falling, of struggling and surviving.
I feel that being part of this event, is nothing less than a spiritual uplift. It's not unlike a pilgrimage where people gather in great numbers, meet and parley, but are also led inside their own heart by the artists who take us by the hand and lead us into their lives with all their ups and downs, inviting us in very private places at times. The experience can be deeply moving.
In ages past, troubadours entertained and moved people and warmed their hearts with their music and acts. There is a connection, I feel, between these troubadours and today's folk artists. I'd say that these folk artists are today's troubadours.
I stumbled into a venue where a man and women were singing accompanied by their guitars. There was a slow melancholic beat to the music. Then the words grabbed my ears and moved my heart:
"I hated high school,I prayed it would end
Mama said, 'Baby, it's the best school
"I stole Mama's car on a Sunday and left home for good,
Charles was a dancer, he loved the ballet
Drag queens in limousines,
"Charly and I flipped hamburgers to pay the rent
one day before work we got drunk and danced in the rain
"Drag queens in limousines,
these are my friends."
"These are my friends."
A moving echo of what Jesus said and did by befriending sinners and prostitutes, money-changers and common fishermen.
After the concert, I bought writer and singer Mary Gauthier's CDs and she autographed them. I identified myself and I told her how I loved her songs and how touching they are to me.
Mary made a positive reference to the Sisters of St. Joseph and how grateful she is to them for having taught her for 12 years in Louisiana and how they gave her tremendous support at important times in her life. This same order of sisters has also done excellent work in the Edmonton area and beyond.
My participation in the Edmonton Folk Festival brought joy and meaning to my life and made me realize that even in the so-called secular world God is present, God is enriching our lives by bringing us closer together in respect and love and by bonding people of various background as friends, as brothers and sisters.
I also wish to congratulate all who were involved in putting together this massive undertaking a most honourable tradition that enriches our city greatly and that contributes in building up the family of God.
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