Tuesday, April 19, 2005


The weekend before last was consumed by the NEFFA festival (New England Folk Festival). This wonderful event takes place each year at Natick High School. Most of the town doesn't know it's happening, since the high school is somewhat secluded. We discovered NEFFA when the Broadmoor Chamber Singers sang at the event a bunch of years ago. Since then I've tried to go each year. It hasn't always been easy, because the weekends of April seem to be the busiest of the year for us.

This year NEFFA was earlier than usual. It's usually the weekend following Patriot's Day since that week is school vacation week, and having the event at the end of that means the organizers have plenty of time to set up.

The weekend includes music - both entertainment and participatory, dance, a folk bazaar and craft area, and arts & crafts area for the children. A variety of food is available from Scottish meat pies, to Indian curry, to Turkish kabobs. Lots of the people who attend participate each year. I have friends from a couple areas of my life - Wellesley, GLOW, Broadmoor, Whitehead - who I can count on seeing at NEFFA.

Friday night turned out to be Northeast Kingdom night for me. One of the first events I attended was a performance by the Pumpkin Hill Singers from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. They performed primarily original pieces. One of these, "One Thousand Good Reasons to Sing", really struck me. The story the lyricist related was that it was written shortly after September 11th, when he had 1000 Christmas trees to load by himself. The song became the mantra he used to keep his spirits up. My favorite line in the song says "If we can't change the world and our choices seem few, we always can alter our own point of view". The group's leader was kind enough to send me a copy of the song - thanks Susanne. After the Open Sea Music Sing - which makes me wish I knew more shanties. The night ended with a round sing led by the Vermont Women's Round Sing which is based in St Johnsbury. Because most rounds are easy to learn, round sings are great fun. And singing rounds at NEFFA is always a great experience because so many of the people attending sing beautifully.

Saturday included more listening and more singing - rounds, shanties, etc. Highlights of the day were the performance by Constellation, the women's octet which my friend Liz sings in, and the Vocal Couple Dances which my friend Ken sang with Lynn, a NEFFA regular. I also worked in an early evening walk - I was really tired of sitting and really need to move, so I skipped a session and walked from the high school past the beach, the athletic fields, and the town dump to route 27 and back. I felt much better after that.

Sunday started with Shape Note hymns. Shape note is an alternative notation method that utilizes shapes to indicate the pitch. The songs are sung first using do-re-mi, etc. I find this very difficult but love the sound of these rousing hymns. Other highlights were more round singing, and a session of Acadian music.